It is fairly well known that a lot of resources for autism or disability in general are incredibly expensive. There is a tip that has been circulating for a number of years which suggests that sometimes people have better luck searching for items “for the lazy” than “for disabled people”. Which is a pretty sorry statement in and of itself.
Items which have value for a wide population of people just needs to have the word “autism” slapped in the sales title somewhere and the price seems to shoot up. Software which has become synonymous with autism or disability often has costs far out of reach of families or disabled people. Things are beginning to get worse in some ways as so many products move across to subscription based services – at least in the past once you bought the product you owned it. Now you have to keep paying for it monthly or yearly to retain it.
The reason this particular topic is figuratively rolling around in my head is because I attended a talk recently about autism and successful employment. During this talk, the main recommendation and accommodation discussed – at some length – was the use of the service ‘Brain in Hand’.
I first heard of Brain in Hand at The Autism Show a few years back and it sounded very promising. The handouts for it suggested that this might be a really useful tool for the massive executive dysfunction difficulties I often experienced.
Then I learnt about the price.
Now, there is of course an expectation that a service such as this would be more expensive than average apps or services – you essentially gain access to a mentor-via-text/phone/e-mail service. Those people have to be paid. Fair enough. I just don’t know exactly who can even afford this app – I can only assume a select few people get funded via their local authority, through Access to Work or Disabled Students Allowance, or a generous charity? I don’t know. Let’s break down the costs:
So – £49 a month. Quite pricey yes but when you think about the work involved in managing and maintaining the app and everything perhaps it’s not so bad. Except…
Okay – so many people who would benefit from Brain in Hand might not necessarily know how to set it up to the best of their ability. If we divide that number over twelve months and add it to the original cost of £49 per month we are now at just over £72 per month. Already this is starting to look inaccessible. That estimate is for four sessions of one hour a piece – some people might need less, others might need more. So for paying monthly we’re looking at £868 for the year, for the yearly discount it sits at £820. Definitely edging into expensive, still feasible that people could afford it each year or that DSA might foot the bill (although only for the time spent as a student).
Except, that cost doesn’t include access to mentors. So that seems to be the cost if you have family members, friends, support staff etc. who will be acting as your mentors. If you want access to professional mentors who monitor your responses to Brain in Hand and intervene to support you via e-mail/text/phone call then that’s an additional charge. So that’s £90 a month, now sitting at just over £162 a month when the costs are balanced out. Which brings our total when paid monthly up to £1948 a year and with the yearly discount it is £1815.
Except – that’s not necessarily the final cost. It seems to depend on where you are getting your mentors from. If you want to access Brain in Hand with support through the National Autistic Society then it seems as though you also require a workplace assessment so that brings the grand total to…
The point of this post isn’t to suggest that Brain in Hand isn’t worth the cost. I don’t know if it is because I cannot afford it. I will probably never be able to afford it. It’s not just a one-off payment either, you’re paying out each year (although the NAS one may not be £2790 a year if the workplace assessment isn’t repeated). I can logically understand the need for the cost – it’s a niche tool, staff wages need to paid, maintenance needs to be performed. That doesn’t make it anymore accessible.
It’s easy to point to things like Access to Work, Disabled Students Allowance, Local Authorities and Schools and argue that they could foot the bill so the individual wouldn’t need to but when we think of how difficult it is for people to get access to far less complicated supports or services through these systems, exactly how likely is it that people are going to be able to get Brain in Hand funded (indefinitely) through any of them?
So when I sat through a presentation discussion the advantages of Brain in Hand for autistic people in employment, I just couldn’t help switching off because there’s absolutely no way I will ever be able to use it. Which I imagine is the case for a great many people