Washington Access Fund Programs
The Access Fund offers the following programs and services:
Low interest loans for assistive technology and business equipment: The Access Fund offers loans of up to $10,000 at 5% for any type of assistive technology needed for any purpose. Assistive Technology is broadly defined to include any device that maintains or enhances the functional capabilities of a person with a disability. Examples include computers, hearing aids, Braille Notetakers, iPads with specialized speech communication apps, wheelchairs and adapted specialized recreation equipment – as well as home and vehicle accessibility modifications. We also offer low interest loans up to $10,000 for business equipment needed for employment or self-employment. Established businesses (two or more years in operation) can apply for loans up to $25,000. Examples of equipment financed include hearing aids needed for employment, computers and printers, fax machines, office modifications and equipment and tools of the trade (e.g., videocams, photography equipment, vehicles, sewing machines, landscaping equipment, commercial kitchen). Loans can also be used for related services including assessments, training and repair of assistive technologies. Most of our borrowers are low income or very low income – and, last year, about 90% said that they came to the Access Fund because they had no other way to pay for these technologies.
Matched Savings Accounts for Assistive Technology and Business Equipment: The Access Fund is one of the first in the United States to offer Matched Savings Accounts or Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) designed specifically for individuals with disabilities. Through our IDA programs, low income individuals with disabilities can save up to $4000 and receive an equal amount in match to pay for any type of assistive technology needed for any purpose (school, work, independent living, recreation, etc!) and business equipment needed for employment or self-employment. In addition to saving for at least six months, participants take financial education and/or technology and business training. To date, almost all of our savers have reached their savings goals (which can be from a few hundred dollars up to $4000) – and most multiple purchases with their savings. Savers also report that they have learned better financial habits (saving and budgeting) from their participation in the IDAS.
Long Term, low cost rentals of CCTV Magnifiers: We offer long term, low cost rentals of these large desktop magnifiers to individuals with significant vision loss. Most of our renters are very low income seniors who use the CCTVs on a daily basis to read, write, manage their finances and health and cook (read recipes and labels!). The median age is 82 – and almost 93% say that they rent their CCTVs from the Access Fund because it is the only way they can afford this technology ($2500-$3500/unit) – which is so vital to their independence.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
To date (as of March 1, 2013), the Access Fund has made more than 475 loans – lending out nearly $1.7 million dollars. The most popular items financed include hearing aids, computers, modified vehicles, vision and mobility equipment -- but our loans have been used for a wide variety of other devices as well – from three wheeled bikes, dentures to specialized fire alarms and other alert systems for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing – even service dog training. Most of these loans have gone to low income or very low income individuals. Although we serve a very low income population, we are proud of our 2% default rate – testimony to the importance of technologies in the lives of our clients.
We are one of the first organizations to offer IDAs that focus on the specific needs of individuals with disabilities. We currently have 45 savers in our IDA programs. With additional financing, we are hoping to see that number grow.
Our loans and IDAs also support a growing number of small businesses. Please visit the Business Directory on our website to learn more about these hard working micro-entrepreneurs.
Our most important successes are those of our clients. We hear a positive story – almost every day! Just to note a few!
"This is a great program that helps persons with disabilities start businesses and offers other life-changing resources."
"Because of the WAF and its staff, I will be able to look forward to independence and a positive future in a field . . I love! Thank you!"
"I am now taking a class in Greek. I can hear the instructor pronounce the words. Without the hearing aids I am sure I would not have taken the class."
"I'm totally happy. What I've been able to achieve is beyond what my expectations were . . . Just thankful -- without this program, there would be no possibility of making the progress that I've made
Challenges & Needs
Our greatest need at this time is for volunteers to help us grow our programs and financial support for operating expenses and loan capital.