Nonprofit of the Month: ND Assistive

6 mins read
Mike Chaussee, Executive Director of North Dakota Assistive

North Dakota Assistive was first launched in 2000 with the mission to provide assistive technology (AT) demonstrations and offer support device loans to allow people with disabilities to live independently. Furthermore, North Dakota Assistive was launched to serve people at an affordable cost under the operations of a nonprofit. North Dakota Assistive was designated by former Governor Ed Schafer as the implementing entity for the Statewide Assistive Technology Act Program in 1993.

North Dakota Assistive is governed by a Board of Directors and is provided program guidance through a Consumer Advisory Council. This council is made up of individuals and agency staff representing a range of ages, abilities, and regions of the state.

Today, North Dakota Assistive is providing assistance and impacts thousands of people across the region. With a plethora of services, AT categories, and funding opportunities, the nonprofit organization is committed to making a difference, one day at a time. I talked with Mike Chaussee, Executive Director of North Dakota Assistive, regarding North Dakota Assistive’s growth, impact on the community, its message for awareness, and more.

“We are constantly following advances in the field of assistive technology so that we have the expertise to consistently provide comprehensive, quality services. The services that we provide can cover a broad range of needs. This includes assistance in the classroom, the community and at work, as well as technology to allow those experiencing the effects of aging to safely remain living in their own homes. Providing funding and distribution programs is another integral segment of our organization. We feel that all people should be given the opportunity to learn about, try and afford assistive technology devices.”

– North Dakota Assistive Website

Since North Dakota Assistive’s beginnings in 2000, the organization has grown tenfold and is continuing to expand its reach and impact further every year. Not only does the organization continue to grow in distance and audience reach, North Dakota Assistive is growing in the number of opportunities available for people with disabilities as well.

“We’ve taken on new programs, expanded into other parts of the state and continue to serve thousands of people annually. Through our role as the state’s Assistive Technology Act program, we are charged with serving the entire state of North Dakota. In looking for ways to spread awareness outside of Fargo and Bismarck, we’ve increased our marketing efforts and started the Rural Services Initiative. Our Rural Services Initiative includes an effort to get AT kits into 25 North Dakota communities,” Chaussee said.

“The kits house about 15 of our most popular AT devices. So far, we’ve recruited nine “ambassadors” in smaller North Dakota towns who receive the kits and make the devices available for people in their communities. Additionally, we have started an evidence-based program called Community Aging in Place—Advancing Better Living for Elders (CAPABLE).

“The idea is that an occupational therapist (OT) and a registered nurse (RN) work with a handy worker to identify and make modest changes to someone’s living environment to ensure that they can live safely in that space for as long as possible. The evidence gathered will show that having an OT and RN involved will increase successful utilization of the modifications and/or adaptive equipment received by the person.”

North Dakota Assistive has remained committed to the same goals since the first day. The only things that have changed, however, are the scope of their mission, ambition, and vision, as well as their range of services.

Did You Know?
North Dakota Assistive services are supported by a variety of funding sources including the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Community Living; the North Dakota Department of Human Services, Aging Services, and Vocational Rehabilitation Divisions; the State of Minnesota, MN STAR; and private donations.

North Dakota Assistive also actively seeks other funding sources and projects that fit its mission.

One of ND Assistive’s clients playing a game with classmates in gym class—something he would have been unable to do without his Trexo walker device through ND Assistive!

What is North Dakota Assistive?

North Dakota Assistive is a nonprofit organization that strives to bring assistive technology devices and services into the lives of North Dakotans and Minnesotans of all ages who need it. The organization’s goal is to help bridge the gap between ability and disability by using assistive technology.

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive Technology (AT) is any device that can help someone overcome limitations. Think of AT as a tool in your toolbox for living. Just like a gardener uses a shovel or a farmer uses a plow, AT makes it possible to do something that at times seems nearly impossible. The organization likes to say that assistive technology helps people live, work, learn, or play.

“The vision has grown exponentially. The pressure on people and communities due to the lack of workforce and the threat of isolation is dramatic. Assistive technology is a real, tangible answer to these problems,” Chaussee said.

Today, many of these threats are more present than ever before. Despite these challenges, North Dakota assistive has overcome obstacles to provide free devices for safety, communication, independence, hearing, speech, and mobility to nearly 980 recipients at a value of more than $150,000!

Furthermore, North Dakota Assistive has offered demonstrations to more than 1,000 people last year alone. At the time of writing, they also have 37 financial loans out for people who need low-interest financing to afford things like modified vans, home modifications, and other expensive equipment.

Q&A with Mike Chaussee

What sets you apart from other organizations in your community?

There are no other organizations that do this. There are places that recycle medical equipment—walkers, canes, scooters—but nobody works with AT like we do. The closest thing would probably be special education teachers in schools (there are AT professionals in some large school systems, including Fargo) who provide devices for kids so that they can succeed in the classroom.

Can you explain the services that you offer today and how they contribute to/ support the mission?

We demonstrate devices in an accessible location where clients can see them in action. We lend them out for free so people can try them before they invest in them. We offer training on how to use the devices. We also offer training to professionals who work with people with disabilities. We have several programs that help people access devices for free if they can’t afford them on their own. And probably most importantly, we open others’ eyes to possibilities that can come with assistive technology by promoting the benefits.

What services will a donor’s money go to when contributing to the mission?

Every aspect of what we do is designed to get assistive technology into the hands of people so they can thrive wherever they choose to live. We do it in many ways, from gifting devices to just showing people how they work. Donor money helps make it all happen, including the gifting of devices.

In what ways can people donate to the organization without giving money?

We would love volunteers to help us clean up the equipment that we get back after someone no longer needs it. Also, we think it would be super cool to have a couple of people available to help install devices in homes and troubleshoot when things aren’t working right. There are times when something as simple as a dead battery keeps someone from using their device.

Both in and outside of North Dakota Assistive, Chaussee states that there is always a solution out there if you know where to start looking. North Dakota Assistive is always welcoming of donations to support their cause, financially and in other ways.

“Spread the word that assistive technology is a solution and there is a nonprofit that can help you or someone you love find the best technology for their needs. It’s not scary! Anyone can use this stuff. In fact, if they can’t, there’s probably another assistive technology that can ensure they can,” Chaussee said.

Four Things You May Not Know About North Dakota Assistive and Assistive Technology

1: North Dakota Assistive’s devices and services assist caregivers nearly as much as the person who needs the device. There are few people on the planet who won’t benefit from assistive technology at some point in their life.

2: Assistive technology doesn’t mean complex digital systems all the time, it can be as simple as a rubber band placed in the right spot. Most people have no idea what kinds of technology are available to help them, but when they discover it, their lives are changed.

3: When someone works with us, they usually benefit from multiple programs we offer—some of them provide devices for free. We know other funding sources and often leverage them for people when they need the support. We have helped people fund devices that cost less than $200 that have literally kept someone out of a nursing home for a decade or more.

4: We serve people of all ages and all disabilities, including those that emerge as we age.

Support North Dakota Assistive

Phone: (701) 258-4728
Facebook: /NDAssistive
Twitter: @NDAssistive
Monday – Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. to noon
Address: 4501 Coleman St, Suite 107 Bismarck, ND 58503