4 Communication Technology Programs That Can Benefit People with Disabilities

Kansans may be able to access communication technology under a collection of federal and state programs, including one for low-income households that offers discounts for affordable internet connection and several others specifically for individuals with disabilities.

"An older man in a blue shirt with a hearing aid smiles as he looks into an iPad screen and holds up his index finger"
TAP provides telecommunications equipment including tablets to people who have a certified disability that affects hearing, vision, speaking, memory, walking, or holding a telephone. Pexels

The Affordable Connectivity Program aims to reach underserved audiences who need support to access broadband internet for work, school, health care and other needs. Kansas is pursuing $451 million as part of a five-year initiative to narrow the broadband divide across the state.  

For individuals with disabilities, connectivity programs available include the Kansas TAP (Telecommunications Access Program), the Kansas Relay System, and the iCan Connect program, which is for individuals who have hearing and vision impairments or are deaf-blind. Each program is administered by KU Life Span Institute staff through Assistive Technology for Kansans.

Affordable Connectivity Program 

The Affordable Connectivity Program provides up to $30 a month for broadband internet service and up to $75 a month for households on Tribal lands. Those eligible can also receive a one-time discount of $100 to cover the cost of a laptop, desktop computer or tablet. 

Service and device discounts are limited to one per household. Eligibility requirements are as follows: 

  • Your child or dependent already receives a Lifeline benefit. 
  • You have an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (for example, a household income of $60,000 or less for a family of four). 
  • You, your child or your dependent participate in certain government assistance programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, WIC or related programs. 

View details on qualifying at at the Affordable Connectivity website

Those interested in applying for benefits under the Affordable Connectivity Program should apply online or by printing and mailing a downloadable PDF.  

People can also seek help to apply from participating broadband service providers by searching for participating providers online.

TAP (Telecommunications Access Program) 

TAP provides telecommunications equipment to people who have a certified disability that affects hearing, vision, speaking, memory, walking, or holding a telephone. Free specialized telecommunication devices are provided to qualified individuals who have an income of less than $55,000 a year and have an existing phone service.  

TAP-eligible equipment may include smartphones and tablets, amplified telephones, large number telephones, telephones with talking keys, photo button telephones, emergency response telephones, captioned telephones, hands free telephones, light flasher/loud bell signaling devices and voice dialer accessories. 

Individuals can reach Kansas TAP for help with questions they may have, including information about the nearest demonstration center with equipment available to try out, call 1-800-526-3648. 

The application for TAP enrollment may be found online.

Kansas Relay Service 

The Kansas Relay Service is a public service for people who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard-of-hearing and/or have speech disabilities who use a teletypewriter (TTY) or similar assistive communication device used with standard telephones. 

The 24-hour service facilitates communication by relaying information between two parties through a trained Kansas Relay Communications Assistant and is available every day of the year. There are no restrictions on the number, length or type of calls made, and all calls are confidential. English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English translations are also available. 

The Kansas Relay Service is available by calling 711 or 1-800-766-3777. 

For more information, including instructions on how to use the relay service as an individual with a disability or to contact a person who uses an assisted communication device, visit the Kansas Relay Service website.   

iCan Connect 

iCan Connect is a national program that provides free equipment and training for people who have certified impairments in hearing or vision or both who also meet income eligibility requirements. 

To qualify, individuals should have a household that is within 400% of the federal poverty guidelines — about $58,000 for a household of one or about $120,000 for a household of four. Learn more about federal qualifications and information about the program at the iCan Connect website. 

In Kansas, the University of Kansas ATK administers the iCanConnect program. Resources for Kansans and the application for the program can be found at the Assistive Technology for Kansans website.