Fund Promotes Assistive Technology, Independence and Economic Opportunity

Are you a 50- or 60-something and thinking about starting a small business or earning income from self-employment?  Do you need help paying for hearing aids? Are you experiencing vision loss and frustrated because you can no longer independently pay your bills, read your mail, or even write a "to do" list for your significant other? Do you have a child or grandchild with a disability? 

If you answered yes, you should learn about the Washington Access Fund. The nonprofit Access Fund was established to promote access to technology, independent living and economic opportunity for individuals with disabilities throughout Washington. Our clients include many older adults with age-related vision, hearing, mobility and cognitive conditions.

Access Fund Programs

The Fund offers affordable financing for assistive technology needed for any purpose and for business equipment needed for employment and self-employment.

Financing options include:

  • Low interest (5%) loans for assistive technology. The Washington Access Fund can loan up to $10,000 for any type of assistive technology, including home and vehicle accessibility modifications. Assistive technology is broadly defined to include any device that maintains or enhances the functional capabilities of a person with a disability. Devices financed include hearing aids, vision aids (such as closed circuit TV magnifiers), computers, vehicle modifications such as lifts and ramps, home modifications and adaptive recreation equipment such as three-wheeled bikes for individuals with balance or mobility considerations. We have also financed an increasing number of "mainstream" devices such as iPads and tablet PCs that you might not think of as "assistive technology" but now have an amazing array of apps and features benefitting a wide range of disabilities. For many folks, just finding the right technology can be a huge challenge. To help with that process, we provide information and referrals to appropriate service providers and tips and advice on how to select and pay for your assistive technology. Last year, we also started to offer webinars on various assistive technology topics!
  • Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) Magnifier Rentals. The Fund offers long term, low-cost rentals of desktop CCTVs, which use a camera to project and magnify print materials and other items on to a computer screen so that they are accessible to individuals with vision loss. Most of our CCTV clients use them daily to read, write, manage their finances and medical conditions, cook (read recipes and labels), and carry out other activities of daily living. Most could not afford to purchase this equipment, which ranges in cost from $2500-$3500.
  • Low interest (5%) loans for business equipment. The Washington Access Fund can loan up to $10,000 for start-ups and $25,000 for established businesses for business equipment needed for employment or self-employment. These loans can cover vehicles, office equipment and accessibility modifications as well as tools of the trade. For those who need help putting together a business plan, we offer one-on-one mentoring and a seven-week Small Business Planning Course via live webinar three times a year.
  • Matched Savings (Individual Development) Accounts for assistive technology. Through this program, funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education, low-income individuals can save up to $4,000 for any type of assistive technology needed for any purpose or for business equipment needed for employment or self-employment. Participants also receive financial education and assistive technology or small business training as appropriate. If you don't need your technology right away or you are planning ahead, this is a great option!

Eligibility

Our services are available to individuals with disabilities of all ages, with disabilities of all types, and family members who want to purchase equipment to benefit an individual with a disability. Except for the matched savings accounts, there are no upper or lower income limits; however, we make a special effort to serve low-income individuals and families. Depending upon the program, between 70 percent and 90 percent of our clients are low-income.

—Frances Pennell, Washington Access Fund


Meet Chuck & Paula Borzick

Meet Chuck and Paul Borzick to learn how they have benefitted from the Washington Access Fund.

 


Having a reliable vehicle and trailer greatly benefitted Chuck and Paul Borzick's business.


Chuck Borzick joined our Closed Circuit TV ("CCTV") Rental Program in 2007. With multiple retina detachments, Chuck needed powerful magnification to read, write and manage both his household and business finances. Since then, Chuck has tried several CCTVs and loves the newer color flat screen model he is currently renting. The resolution is so good that he has been able to resume his favorite hobby—polishing minerals and gems.

Chuck and Paula have been through a lot in the last five years. In a down economy, their quilting business lost many of their larger customers. In 2009, after struggling several years to keep their business afloat, after selling their home, and after using all their savings (including retirement), they filed for bankruptcy. In their sixties, Chuck and Paula were faced with the prospect of rebuilding their finances with only their Social Security income.

With 35 years of experience as a warehouse, materials and purchasing manager, Chuck has great skills but, because of his vision loss, finding work that was a "good fit" was a challenge. In 2010, Chuck and Paula launched Clear-N-Clean, a new business that offers comprehensive restoration services on repossessed properties. The Borzicks quickly built a reputation for doing solid work and ended up subcontracting with several different companies.

With the new business growing, the Borzicks needed a vehicle capable of pulling a trailer. Given their recent bankruptcy, financing a vehicle seemed out of the question until they remembered the Access Fund's business equipment loan program. Given the extra income from their business, the loan was quickly approved and with it the Borzicks were able to purchase a 2004 Ford Explorer with low mileage. Having a reliable vehicle and trailer greatly benefitted the business.

Now, at 67, Chuck and Paula are ready for a new adventure! This fall, they decided to retire for good and move to Mexico for part of each year—a place where they have friends and can survive on Social Security. Asked if they regretted their experience with Clear-N-Clean, Chuck responded, "Absolutely not!" It was hard work but generated enough money to help them rebuild their savings and the cash needed to launch them on this new adventure.

Chuck and Paula left on January 21 in the midst of record snow and ice. Their top priority just before leaving was to pick up Chuck's new - and even better – very portable CCTV from Sight Connection… financed, of course, with a low interest loan from the Washington Access Fund. 


Learn More
For more information about the Access Fund, visit our website or Facebook page or call 206-328-5116. We'd love to talk!