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Assistive Technology and the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA '97)

What is Assistive Technology?

The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA '97) defines assistive technology with these words.
300.5 Assistive Technology Device
...any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized that is used to increase, maintain or improve functional capabilities of children with disabilities.
If you take a closer look at this definition, it really has two parts. An assistive technology device is:
  • an item or piece of equipment
  • which when used, increases functional capabilities
  • Almost anything can be considered assistive technology if a person with a disability needs it to increase, maintain or improve the way he or she functions. Assistive technology devices are often referred to as assistive technology tools. Here's a list of reasons why people with disabilities might use assistive technology tools.
  • for communication
  • for managing the environment
  • for hearing and listening
  • for moving their bodies
  • for working with numbers
  • for play
  • for reading
  • to help them remember
  • to help them see
  • to help them work
  • for writing
  • Another way to look at what is assistive technology, is to ask what the tool would do for a person. Here are some things assistive technology commonly does:
  • Increases levels of independence
  • Improves quality of life
  • Increases productivity
  • Enhances performance
  • Expands educational/vocational options
  • Increases success in regular education settings
  • Reduces amount of support services needed
  • 1.2 What are Assistive Technology Services?

    IDEA '97 also tells us that there are services that must be provided to support a person's use of assistive technology. Everyone needs some help when they begin to use a new tool for the first time. Here's what IDEA '97 has to say about assistive technology services.
    300.6 Assistive Technology Service
    Any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.
    1. Evaluation:
      the evaluation of needs, including a functional evaluation, in the child's customary environment;
    2. Providing Devices:
      purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices;
    3. Selecting, Repairing:
      selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing of assistive technology devices;
    4. Coordinating:
      coordinating with other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
    5. Training and Technical Assistance - Child:
      training or technical assistance for an individual with disabilities, or where appropriate that child's family;
    6. Training/Technical Assistance - Professionals:
      training or technical assistance for professionals, employers, or other(s) who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise, substantially involved in the major life functions of children with disabilities.

    1.3 What is a school's responsibility to provide assistive technology devices and services to students with disabilities?

    The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA '97) includes the requirement that assistive technology devices and services be provided to every child with a disability if they are needed by that child. Here are the words from the law that establish that requirement.
    300.308 Assistive Technology
    1. Each public agency shall ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in 300.5-300.6, are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child's--
      1. Special education under 300.26;
      2. Related services under 300.24; or
      3. Supplementary aids and services under 300.550(b)(2).
    2. On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased assistive technology devices in a child's home or in other settings is required if the child's IEP team determines that the child needs access to those devices in order to receive FAPE.
    IDEA also ensures that every IEP team for a child with a disability considers the child's need for assistive technology. This rule is contained in the section of the law that talks about the things that must be included in an IEP. Here are the words for IDEA.
    300.346 (a)(2) Special Considerations
    Consideration of special factors. The IEP team also shall:
    (v) Consider whether the child requires assistive technology devices and services.
    These two simple statements have had a powerful effect on the lives of many students with disabilities. They have made it very clear that every child with a disability might need assistive technology and that school has a responsibility to provide it when it is needed.

    1.4 What guidance does IDEA give us when making decisions about an individual child's need for assistive technology?

    IDEA '97 leaves the decisions about how to assess a child's need for assistive technology up to the IEP team. Comments from the Federal Register help to clarify some of the words in IDEA about the requirement to provide assistive technology. Below we have summarized the guidance provided.
    • Provision of AT for a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
      The assistive technology devices that are necessary to ensure FAPE must be provided at no cost to the parents, and the parents cannot be charged for normal use, and wear and tear. (34 CFR. Attachment 1)
    • Parental Liability for Assistive Technology Devices Used at Home
      While ownership of the device in these circumstances would remain with the public agency, state law, rather than Part B, generally would govern whether parents are liable for loss, theft, or damage due to negligence or misuse of publicly owned equipment used at home or in other settings in accordance with a child's IEP. (34 CFR Attachment 1)
    • Documentation in the IEP
      (c) Statement in IEP. If, in considering the special factors described in paragraphs (a)(1) and (2) of this section, the IEP team determines that a child needs a particular device or service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification) in order for the child to receive FAPE, the IEP team must include a statement to that effect in the child's IEP. (Sec. 300.346(c)).
    • Sharing Information
      It also is essential that the child's teachers and other service providers who are not members of the IEP team are informed about the contents of the child's IEP, in whatever manner deemed appropriate by the public agency, so that the IEP is properly implemented by all school personnel. (34 CFR Attachment 1)
    • Eye Glasses and Hearing Aids:
      As a general matter, public agencies are not responsible for providing personal devices, such as eyeglasses or hearing aids or braces, that a disabled child requires regardless of whether he or she is attending school. However, if a child's IEP team specifies that a child requires a personal device in order to receive FAPE, the public agency must provide the device at no cost to the child's parents. Consistent with section 612(a)(12) of the Act, public agencies that are otherwise obligated under Federal or State law or assigned responsibility under State policy or inter agency agreement or other mechanisms to provide or pay for any services that are also considered special education or related services, including devices that are necessary for ensuring FAPE, must fulfill that obligation or responsibility, either directly or through contract or other arrangement. (34 CFR Attachment 1)
    For information about effective practices in implementing the assistive technology mandate of IDEA
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    Last Updated: November 6, 2002  Total hits since 3/4/2004 - 331
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