Why is adaptive technology so expensive?

If you are visually impaired or know someone who is, then undoubtable you have experienced the shock and horror or how expensive adaptive technology can be. I remember looking at JAWS right after my car accident (that caused me to lose my sight) and thinking that $1200 for a one seat license was just astronomical. Especially when you consider that blind and visually impaired people are among the highest in terms of unemployment. With that in mind, why are technologies that make life easier for the blind and visually impaired so expensive?

Supply and Demand

A CCTV costs upwards of $3000, and at its most basic function allows visually impaired users to place anything (mail, book, recipe etc.) under the camera and enlarge it onto a screen allowing the user to read and work easier. The reasoning behind the high cost for these devices resides in the fact that manufacturers who make technologies or software for the blind and visually impaired communities are creating products for a small niche of society. A CCTV is an amazing thing for me, but a normal member of society without a visual impairment has no use for it, so the pool of potential customers looking to purchase these products is small. A general use product like a cellphone can have the costs for development, marketing and manufacturing amortized across millions or tens of millions of units. The manufacturers of CCTVs and assistive software don’t have that luxury, so they have to increase their prices due to smaller demand. When you purchase any product part of the cost is research and development that is needed for the future versions of the product. The higher cost of adaptive technology often causes visually impaired people to search for alternative technologies.

Alternatives

You might be thinking that your cellphone will enlarge stuff and it doesn’t cost $3000. You are correct, there are apps available for every cell phone which allow the user to magnify something, and because of the price of CCTVs, many visually impaired people (myself included) struggle through with lesser options like this which runs battery life down dramatically. I personally can’t afford the JAWS, screen reader for my computer, so I use a cheaper screen reader made by NextUp technologies called TextAloud.  The sad thing about alternative software options is that they are usually not updated as often or the company finds out that creating software for the visually impaired is not as lucrative as they thought. You might be wondering about some other options that could help you get the software and assistive hardware that you need, here are some great resources. 

Other options

State services

If you live in the United States, every state has either a Department of the blind, or a department offering vocational education and training services. A simple google search can get you on the path, and these state run services can often help pay for the adaptive technology or get it for you outright. Be aware that there is often a waiting list for these services, and if you mention that you need the technology for work or education, you can likely be pushed closer to the top of the list.

Grants

Grants are a great way to get the technology you need, but a web search will reveal that there are a ton of companies looking to help you get the funding you need for technology, but who can you trust? Some offer high to medium interest loans and other programs, my suggestion is to check out the American Council of the Blind resource page to get you started. They work with verified sources. While you are at it, sign up to be a member of the ACB, they are great people and can also help you get on the right track to getting the adaptive technology you need. They are also a great resource for community participation and offer a lot of great programs for those who are blind and visually impaired. 

Second Hand

Often as a loved one has aged, they will acquire adaptive technology, when they no longer need the equipment, loved ones will often sell these items on eBay for a reasonable price. A good friend of mine got a CCTV that was a couple years old for $300 – not bad. You often have to spend a lot of time searching, and keeping an eye on auctions which can be frustrating. 

Conclusion

If you are struggling with the high price of assistive technologies, keep hope, there are places that can help you to get what you need. Sometimes you just have to jump through more hoops than you want to. Companies that make CCTVs and other technologies often have programs or grants to help their users get the tools they need, it doesn’t hurt to send off a nicely worded email to their marketing department and inquire.

If all else fails and you are still hitting a roadblock when it comes to finding funds for assistive technology that you need, consider trying a GoFundMe. Be aware that this solution comes with a tax liability and you will be responsible for taxes on any money raised. Realize also that GoFundMe takes a percentage of the total raised for their fee, so many sure to set the amount you want to raise appropriately. I always recommend that you consider donating something to an organization that helps the visually impaired if you are going to go the GoFundMe route. I personally use Guide Dogs for the Blind as my go-to donation source.

What do you think? Did you find any of this information useful? I’d love to hear form you feel free to contact me via social media or the contact for here.

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Article Resources

American Council of the Blind Resources page: https://www.acb.org/content/funding-assistive-technology-resources

  American Council of the Blind Home: https://www.acb.org/

NextUp Technologies (TextAloud Reader): https://nextup.com/

 


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