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Program Helps Montanans with Disabilities Afford Assistive Tech


Monday, September 20, 2021   

HELENA, Mont. - It can be hard for people with disabilities to afford the assistive technology they need to perform daily activities. A program in Montana ensures people and families in any financial situation can get these important tools.

The Montana Assistive Technology Loan program provides low-interest loans when other funding isn't available.

Rachel Winn is a mother of four with one son who is in a wheelchair. She was struggling to afford a wheelchair-accessible van and got a helping hand from the program and Rural Dynamics, a nonprofit financial institution that distributes the loans.

Winn said the timing was fortuitous.

"They actually helped us with getting a vehicle on my son's birthday, which was November 24," said Winn. "Which was just the sweetest and the neatest thing ever. He can't see very well, but we talked it up to him that God gave him a van on his birthday."

The Montana Assistive Technology Loan program provides loans with 0% interest up to $1,500 and 3.5% beyond that.

The loans can help pay for a variety of devices, such as hearing aids or reading assisters for people with low vision. It can also fund home and vehicle modifications, prosthetics and communication devices.

Ann-Margaret Periman is the disability resource coordinator with Rural Dynamics and helped Winn's family. So far, she said she's closed 14 loans this year.

She said there can be many barriers to traditional loans for people with disabilities.

"A lot of people are living on Social Security Disability," said Periman. "So they're on a limited income, first of all. Second of all, they've amassed medical debt, so their credit score is not the greatest. And if it is fair, they're going to pay a lot higher interest rate."

Winn said it's been helpful to go through this process.

"That's one thing that I've had to learn through this journey of being a special needs mom," said Winn, "is don't be afraid to ask for the help."

Disclosure: Rural Dynamics, Inc. contributes to our fund for reporting on Consumer Issues, Disabilities, Philanthropy, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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