What child doesn’t love their local library? And just as the local public library is the focal point of one’s community, the Technology Lending Center is at the center of the New Jersey disability community. However, instead of books, the Technology Lending Center lends assisitive technology. “We’re kind of like an AT library,” says Eden Melmed, Technology Lending Center Coordinator, who is ready to assist. Finding the right device or app can be challenging. Each disability presents a different challenge and need. Even among individuals with the same disability, the solution that works for one individual may not work as well as for the other. “The purpose of the Technology Lending Center is you can try it before you buy it,” says Vanessa Lombardo, the Assistive Technology Department Director.
The Technology Lending Center is funded through a grant from Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ). “It is free to any New Jersey resident. All you need to be a person who lives in the state of New Jersey,” says Vanessa. “You don’t have to be of a certain age. Income doesn’t matter. Anyone can borrow equipment.” But first you need to become a member of the Technology Lending Center, which is free of charge.
The First Step: Become a Member (It’s Free!)
Start by filling out the online application, here. There are three different membership types: Individual/Family, Rehabilitation Professional, and School/Agency. Simply add name, address, phone number, and email. You can also contact us directly via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone, at 888-322-1918.
Making the Match: A Best Practice
At the Technology Lending Center, the first consideration is the type of tools that could fulfill the person’s needs. Of these, however, there is a considerable variety. “It’s not just necessarily the most complex device, the latest and greatest. It can be anything,” says Vanessa. That said, for many individuals and families, navigating them can be bewildering. “They hope there’s technology that can meet their challenge,” says Eden. “I let them know what we have here that might work for them.”
The next consideration is what type of service the client would benefit from. We can help. That service could be an evaluation or just a collaboration, consultation, or hands-on training. (For most of our AT services, says Vanessa, “We’re mobile, in that we go out and do evaluations and trainings where people are, be it at their place of work, their home, or their school.”) Both considerations are essential with matching the features of the tools with the individual’s need. “We really want to make sure we are recommending the best thing for them,” says Vanessa. “And that is really the purpose of the Technology Lending Center—that you can try it before you buy it.”
Then, everything is shipped out via UPS, so you don’t have to come to Ewing. You borrow it for approximately six weeks and ship it back by UPS with a call tag we provide. If, however, you do live close to Ewing, you can stop in and try equipment yourself on site.
“We can speak with anyone, whether it’s someone who is a family member or a professional working with a person with a disability or the individual themselves,” says Vanessa. “We’re happy to have that conversation and figure out what type of device might be helpful for them to try out and start them on their journey of figuring out what might be best for them.”
This webinar explains what the Technology Lending Center is all about, in greater detail.