Sara Sack was awarded a $10.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration and the State of Kansas. The grant, announced by Governor Kathleen Sebelius, will greatly expand the ability of the Kansas Assistive Technology Cooperative (KATCO), established in 2000, to make low-cost loans for assistive technology to people with disabilities by stabilizing the cooperative's flexible loan program. Sack will oversee the new grant that will make loans through KATCO. The majority of individuals on the cooperative's board and loan advisory committee are Kansans Assistive technology includes motorized wheelchairs, adapted vehicles and communication devices that enable individuals to pursue educational goals, gain employment and live independently.
KATCO is a collaborative effort between KU researchers, led by Sara Sack, director of the Assistive Technology for Kansans program and KU associate scientist, and the Kansas disability community. Sack said that Kansas is a national leader in recognizing the importance of assistive technology for independent living.
"What we heard most often from Kansans with disabilities was the lack of available funding," Sack said. "An individual could get a job if they had a van with a lift for their wheelchair to get to the office, but they couldn't borrow money until they already had the job. It was a Catch-22."
Funds from the U.S. Rehabilitation Services Administration help develop a Telework program in Kansas by authorizing loans that support working by distance as an employment option for Kansans with disabilities.
"The Telework program recognizes that increased access to assistive technology can reduce or eliminate barriers to employment, such as inadequate transportation, fatigue and inaccessible work environments," Sack explained.
As part of the award, the university also will study the impact of the acquisition of technology on Kansans with disabilities.
"This significant grant brings federal money to Kansas, which with state funds will make new technologies available to Kansans with disabilities," said Jim Roberts, interim vice provost for research at KU. "We're pleased that KU, through the strength of the Life Span Institute, is able to serve Kansans throughout the state in this "
Note: The KATCO award was a feature story in the Topeka Capitol-Journal and the Hays Daily News and mentioned in other media.