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Frequently Asked Questions

Advisory Councils under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended

In order to be eligible for a grant under Sec. 4 of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended (AT Act), a state is required to establish an advisory council to provide consumer-responsive, consumer-driven advice to the state for the planning of, implementation of and evaluation of the activities carried out by its Statewide AT Program, including setting the state's measurable goals. Participants on the state's advisory council must reflect the diversity of the state, and a majority (not less than 51 percent) of those participants must be individuals with disabilities who use assistive technology or the family members or guardians of such individuals. Secs. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(II)-(V) of the AT Act require that, at a minimum, the advisory council include representatives from: the state vocational rehabilitation agency and the state agency for individuals who are blind, if these agencies are separate; a state center for independent living; the state workforce investment board; and the state education agency. Representatives from these organizations who are also individuals with disabilities cannot be counted toward the 51 percent majority of individuals with disabilities. States were required to establish these advisory councils no later than Feb. 22, 2005.

The following are some Frequently Asked Questions about state advisory councils.

Q:
Does the governor appoint the members of the advisory council?
A:
  Sec. 4(c)(2) of the AT Act neither requires the governor to appoint, nor precludes the governor from appointing, members of the advisory council. The decision of how the membership of the council is selected, and by whom the selection is made, is left to the discretion of the state.
     
Q:
  Can my state have additional organizations other than those listed in Secs. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(II)-(V) of the AT Act?
A:
  Other state agencies, public agencies, or private organizations may be represented on the council, as determined by the state. However, the number of individuals with disabilities identified under Sec. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(I) may need to be adjusted accordingly because the advisory council needs to maintain a 51 percent majority when organizations in addition to those listed in Sections 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(II)-(V) are part of the council.
     
Q:
  Can my state have more than one representative from the same organization serve on the advisory council?
A:
  Only one representative from each organization listed in Secs. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(II)-(V) of the AT Act can be officially on the advisory council. However, additional individuals from the same organizations can participate in the advisory council in an unofficial capacity.
     
Q:
  Can my state appoint a single individual to represent two of the required organizations listed in Secs. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(II)-(V) of the AT Act?
A:
  The AT Act requires that one representative be appointed from each organization separately.
     
Q:
  Since my state has a number of centers for independent living, can my state choose a representative from any state center for independent living? Can a member of our State Independent Living Council meet the requirement of having a representative from a state center for independent living?
A:
  Sec. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(III) of the AT Act gives states discretion in selecting a representative of a state center for independent living described in Part C of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Because State Independent Living Councils are described in Part A of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a member of a State Independent Living Council does not meet this requirement unless that member also represents a state center for independent living described in Part C of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
     
Q:
  Can a representative of an organization listed in Secs. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(II)-(V) of the AT Act be an employee of that organization rather than an administrator or board member of that organization?
A:
  An individual chosen to represent an organization listed in Secs. 4(c)(2)(B)(i)(II)-(V) of the AT Act is not required to have a particular role within that entity, so long as that organization designates that individual to be its representative.
     
Q:
  Can my state establish a short-term advisory council until a permanent advisory council is formed?
A:
  Though the advisory council itself must be ongoing and permanent, Sec. 4(c)(2) of the AT Act does not specify the length of the terms that must be served by advisory council members. Any advisory council that is established must still meet all of the requirements of Sec. 4(c)(2) of the AT Act.
     
Q:
  Can my state pay members of its advisory council for their participation?
A:
 

According to Sec. 4(c)(2)(C) of the AT Act, advisory council members cannot be compensated for their service. Council members only may be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses actually incurred in the performance of official duties for the advisory council. States are encouraged to determine those expenses that are reasonable and necessary when developing any policies or by-laws related to their advisory councils.

While the AT Act does not define the term reasonable and necessary, other federal statutes and regulations that provide for similar councils provide some guidance that states may want to take into account. In these cases, reasonable and necessary expenses include those of attending council meetings and performing council duties (including child care and personal assistance services); however, paying lost wages is considered a form of compensation, not reimbursement of expenses.

For additional guidance, states also should review OMB Circulars Nos. A-21, A-87, or A-122, as applicable, to learn more about allowable costs for awards carried out through federal grants.

     
Q:
  My state established an advisory council for my Statewide AT Program prior to the 2004 amendments to the AT Act, but it does not meet the requirements of the amended AT Act. Can my state continue to use this advisory council?
A:
  While Sec. 4(c)(2)(E) of the AT Act says that state statutes, rules, or official policies related to advisory bodies for state assistive technology programs should not be affected, a state's advisory council still must meet all of the requirements of Sec. 4(c)(2) of the AT Act. Therefore, a state can continue to use an existing council if it already meets the requirements of Sec. 4(c)(2) or if it is modified to meet these requirements.
     
Q:
  My Statewide AT Program is operated by a nonprofit with a governing board. Can this governing board serve as the advisory council?
A:
  While Sec. 4(c)(2)(E) of the AT Act states that governing bodies of incorporated agencies that carry out state assistive technology programs are not required to change, a governing body has roles and responsibilities that differ significantly from those of an advisory council. Therefore, an organization may choose to have members of its governing body serve on its advisory council, but the governing body is not a substitute for the advisory council. Regardless of whether or not the governing body and advisory council share membership, the advisory council must meet all of the membership requirements and roles and responsibilities required in Sec. 4(c)(2) of the AT Act.
     
Q:
  My state already has a number of advisory councils that are similar to the advisory council under the AT Act. Can one of these councils serve as the advisory council?
A:
  While the advisory council required under Sec. 4 of the AT Act may share membership with other advisory councils in the state, it must carry out the roles and responsibilities specifically described in Sec. 4(c)(2) of the AT Act. It also must meet all of the membership requirements set forth in Sec. 4(c)(2) of the AT Act.


 
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Last Modified: 08/22/2006