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Assistive Technology and the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004

1.1 What is Assistive Technology?

The Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA '04) defines assistive technology with these words.

OAR 581-015-2000 (2) 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. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such a device.”

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 '04 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 '04 has to say about assistive technology services.

OAR 581-015-2000 (3) Assistive Technology Service

“Any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device.”

(a) Evaluation:
the evaluation of needs, “including a functional evaluation of the child, in the child's customary environment;”

(b) Providing Devices:
“Purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices;”

(c) Selecting, Repairing:
“Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing of assistive technology devices;”

(d) Coordinating:
“Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;”

(e) Training and Technical Assistance - Child:
“Training or technical assistance for a child with a disability, or if appropriate, that child's family;”

(f) Training/Technical Assistance - Professionals:
“Training or technical assistance for professionals, employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise(delete comma) 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 2004 (IDEA '04) 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.

OAR 581-015-2055 Assistive Technology 
(1) “School districts must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, are 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.”

(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 a free, appropriate public education.

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 from IDEA.

IEP Team Considerations and Special Factors, 

OAR 581-015-2205(2) 

“In developing, reviewing, and revising the child’s IEP, the IEP team must consider the following special factors:

…(b) 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 '04 leaves the decisions about how to assess a child's need for assistive technology up to the IEP team. The Oregon Administrative Rules and Comments from the Federal Register, below, help to clarify 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) I can’t find this in the OARs but it’s very close to  OAR 581-015-2205(4), below under Documentation in the IEP
  • Parental Liability for Assistive Technology Devices Used at Home
    While ownership of the device in these circumstances would remain with the public agency, by state law school district policies 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. (OAR 581-015-2055 (3))
  • Transfer to Another District
    “School district policies govern transfer of an assistive technology device when a child with a disability using the device ceases to attend school in the district that purchased the device. ‘Transfer’ means the process by which a school district that has purchased an assistive technology device may sell, lease or loan the device for the continuing use of a child with a disability who is ceasing to attend school in the district.” (OAR 581-015-2055 (4))
  • Documentation in the IEP
    If, in considering these special factors, the IEP team determines that a child needs a particular device or service (including an intervention, accommodation, or other program modification) for the child to receive free appropriate public education, the IEP team must include a statement to that effect in the child's IEP. OAR 581-015-2205(4)
  • Eye Glasses and Hearing Aids: Not in OARs
    As a general matter, public agencies are not responsible for providing personal devices, such as eyeglasses or hearing aids, that a child with a disability requires, regardless of whether he or she is attending school. However, if it is not a surgically implanted device and a child's IEP team determines that the child requires a personal device (e.g. eyeglasses) in order to receive FAPE, the public agency must insure that the device is provided at no cost to the child's parents. (34 CFR Attachment 1)