Catch 22 in Assistive Technology Costs

Proloquo2Go: $250 – $300

Dragon Dictation: $72 – $600

Wheelchair: $130+

Assistive Technology (AT) is expensive. So expensive, in fact, that many AT specialists recognize cost as the main barrier in procuring devices and delivering services. But if AT is required for consideration in all IEP development then why is it so expensive?

Reason for High Cost

AT fits a niche. It is only for those with physical or mental disabilities. Also, not everyone with physical or mental disabilities need AT. This creates a very small market for the many different canes, wheelchairs, apps, and other tools.

No AT device, whether it be a wheelchair or an app, is created by a single person. Large companies have many hands on deck designing and testing products before they are released. Even small businesses have at least one or two people building the product before then contracting mass production or troubleshooting out to others. Research and development costs money, so does the materials and labor.

With such a narrow audience and high cost to produce, companies have to charge a hefty price for their products. Sure, you could skip Proloquo2Go for a cheaper product ($50 – $100), but those “cheaper” products can still be expensive for those who need it. Then, of course, you have free items (e.g., apps) but those are rarely every useful for long-term use.

Solution

I wish there were an easy solution; there isn’t one. You could argue that expense is covered by companies and state or university programs. You could also advocate for grants, both for companies and consumers. However, money is still involved and it does not grow on trees. Personally, I wait for the day when AAC apps, text-to-speech and speech-to-text (better than what we get now), and other AT devices are built-in to tablets and computers to meet requirements for accessibility. Until then, we are caught in a “catch-22” situation where companies cannot afford to bring down the price of products for a niche population yet that population can rarely afford the products.

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