BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Twenty five percent of Louisiana’s population struggles with some sort of disability and LATAN (Louisiana Assistive Technology Access Network) helps those people succeed.
State funding provides 40 percent of LATAN's budget. However, cuts from lawmakers will make it difficult for the organization to continue its work, creating fear for those who utilize its services.
Mike Futrell thought he would have to retire early when he lost his eye site, until he found out about LATAN. The organization introduced him to technology that helped him see and saved his career.
"These 3 devices extended my career by a couple of years and even after I retire I continue to use them," noted Futrell.
Now he’s worried about LATAN’s future.
“As a result of the cuts they will be harmed significantly,” said Futrell.
He’s concerned there are others out there like him, who won't get the help that he did.
“It’s terribly important," he said.
LATAN lets people preview tools they need before they spend a lot of money. With such a huge hit to its budget, founder Julie Nesbit says the effects could be drastic.
“That will have an effect on people's success in school, on employment, and maybe even gaining employment," she explained. "It also means fewer people will be able to move out into the community.”
LATAN helps more than just the disabled; it affects a huge part of our community.
“We train occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, teachers and rehab counselors,” noted Nesbit.
By cutting back staff, those programs and even centers will also see the side effects from this huge budget cut, leaving Futrell with one question, why?
The remaining 60 percent of LATAN’s funding is provided by a federal grant. That will help sustain the organization, but there are only two centers in Louisiana; one in Baton Rouge, and one in Shreveport.
With these cuts, one may have to be shut down simply because the funding just isn't there.