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Technical Assistance

Definition

Technical assistance (TA) is the process of providing targeted support to an organization with a development need or problem (Compassion Capital Fund [CCF] National Resource Center, 2010). The Assistive Technology Act does not include a formal definition of technical assistance (TA), one of the required state leadership activities. However, the AT Act does refer to potential recipients of such assistance to include “representatives of State and local educational agencies, other State and local agencies, early intervention programs, adult service programs, hospitals and other health care facilities, institutions of higher education, and businesses.”  Generally, the purpose of technical assistance is to improve the capacity of the beneficiary organization, as evidenced by increased efficiency, increased effectiveness, and/or increased funding (CCF, 2010).

Distinguishing Technical Assistance from Training

Technical assistance is focused on providing extensive assistance to state or local agencies or other entities (rather than to individuals) and generally involves problem solving to achieve a mutually agreed upon goal. Technical assistance may involve multiple contacts and interactions over an extended period of time. TA is a form of consulting, and can be contrasted with training, where contact is designed to teach, present or guide individuals in order to impart knowledge, skills and competencies. Although training on a topic may involve a series of classes or sessions, the goal of the activity is different from that of TA. In some cases, training may be a component of TA, a part of the process to improve the beneficiary organization’s performance or resolve problems it is experiencing.

Distinguishing Technical Assistance from Individual Assistance

Technical assistance is generally focused on assistance to agencies and organizations to achieve a mutually agreed upon goal. Assisting individual consumers with the use of a particular AT device or troubleshooting problems with devices should be reported under Public Awareness as Information and Assistance.

Technical Assistance and Transition

Technical assistance to assist entities responsible for students with disabilities who receive transition services under IDEA and adults with disabilities maintaining or transitioning to community living may satisfy part or all of the requirement in Section 4(e)(3)(A), e.g. spending 5% of the money allocated for State Leadership on transition technical assistance activities.

Performance Measures and Required Data Collection Elements

No performance measure is required for “technical assistance”. However, a short description of at least one activity should be reported. That may include technical assistance in the required area of “transition”. Further information on the reporting of technical assistance activities can be found in the instructions for the Annual Progress Report (APR) and the APR reporting instrument.

Frequently Asked Questions

We provided a home assessment to improve safety and functioning for an individual who was moving from a nursing home to a home in the community.  Can we report this as technical assistance?

Technical assistance is defined as providing extensive assistance to state or local agencies or other entities (rather than individuals).  Accordingly, this activity is best classified as I&A. 

We worked with our state Agency on Aging to develop an AT resource guide that could be disseminated through the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs).  Do we report this as technical assistance?

Yes, this appears to meet the definition of “technical assistance”. If the guide contains significant information that would be useful to individuals planning to return to community living from an institution or nursing home, you may be able to count this as transition-related technical assistance.

The state Developmental Disabilities (DD) agency has called us every day for the last two weeks with questions about the kinds of experience, certification, and education AT providers and should have.  Is this TA?

This scenario appears to illustrate technical assistance, in that the DD agency is trying to answer the question “what should we require of assistive technology providers” (ostensibly to identify appropriate credentials for providers in its system) and there are multiple contacts occurring over time. 

An aging services provider has asked us for assistance as they develop positions in each of its units to assess home safety and the need for AT.  They have also asked us to create a series of three videos (for which they will pay us).  Is this TA? Or training?  If we put the videos on our website, is this public awareness?

In response to the targeted request, the work that you do helping the provider with developing AT specialists’ job descriptions, qualifications, recruitment strategies, etc. is likely to require multiple contacts and should be considered TA.  Similarly, because the videos are likely to take a lot of time, the development of this product for the provider agency could be considered TA.  If you use the videos with an audience (live or via webinar) and obtain the appropriate data, you could count that activity as “training” – if the content of the videos produces an increase in knowledge, skills and competencies and you are able to identify the recipients.

Resources

Strengthening Nonprofits: A Capacity Builder’s Resource Library (2010).  Compassion Capital Fund National Resource Center, US Department of Health and Human Services.  Retrieved May 23, 2017 from http://strengtheningnonprofits.org/resources/guidebooks/Delivering_Training_and_Technical_Assistance.pdf