Know the Laws
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) defines AT as both a device and a service: Assistive Technology Device
Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customize, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. Assistive Technology Service
Any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.
What does this mean for students & schools?
School districts are required under law to provide appropriate AT to students with disabilities when it supports their acquisition of a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). In order to support the inclusion and participation of students with disabilities in regular education classrooms, all IEP's developed for children identified as needing special education services, must indicate that AT has been considered to "to provide meaningful access to the general curriculum" (IDEA, 1997). More specifically, IDEA indicates that AT devices and services must be made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child's-
- Special education;
- Related services; or
- Supplementary aids and services.
There have been several clarifications from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) on the use of AT by students with disabilities. These include:
- AT must be provided by the school district at no cost to the family.
- AT must be determined on a case-by-case basis; it is required if needed to ensure access to free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
- If the IEP team determines that AT is needed for home use to ensure FAPE, it must be provided
- The student's IEP must reflect the nature of the AT and amount of supportive AT services required.
- A parent is accorded an extensive set of procedural safeguards, including the provision of AT to the child.
Keep in mind that AT is any item that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. For some students with disabilities, AT may be the only way that access to the general curriculum can be ensured!