Future Reflections Fall 1995, Vol. 14 No. 3

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ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Reprinted from the May, 1995, Dakota Link Newsline.

The 1992 Amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) states that assistive technology devices and services must be considered on an individualized basis and become a part of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) if the child needs it to benefit from his educational program.

Listed below are some of the steps that can be taken in assisting students who need assistive technology to benefit from their IEP:

1. Make the school aware that assistive technology needs to be considered as part of the student's educational plan. This should be done by requesting, in writing, to a representative of the school district, an evaluation or re-evaluation of the child. State that you believe your child can benefit educationally from the use of assistive technology.

2. The school district must provide the evaluation. If you receive an evaluation that is not appropriate, ask for an independent evaluation.

3. Upon completion of the evaluation, an IEP meeting should be convened to determine how to meet the goals and objectives for the student's educational plan with the use of the appropriate assistive technology.

4. Remember, according to federal law and policy, if your child needs assistive technology to benefit from his/her educational program, it must be part of the IEP and at no cost to the parent. Policy letters are useful tools in reminding the school district of the student's rights as they relate to assistive technology. If you are dealing with a negative response to your requests for proper evaluation, provision of technology, or taking technology home, for example, these letters can and should be used.

If you disagree with the school district at any step in the process, you may request an impartial due process hearing. If you need legal assistance, you may contact your state Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency. In addition, each state has a Parent Training and Information Center that may be able to offer assistance.

[Editor's Note: One of your first calls should be to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and/or its affiliated Parents of Blind Children organization in your state. Although the other agencies listed above may be very knowledgeable about the law and experienced in advocacy, they are likely to have only the most general knowledge about technology for the blind and visually impaired. Some assistive technology is so standard for the blind that evaluations are unnecessary. For example, Braille writers for Braille reading students. For the number of your local affiliate of the NFB and Parents of Blind Children, call (410) 659-9314.]

EDUCATION POLICY LETTERS ARE POWERFUL TOOLS

Policy letters are a powerful tool for parents, advocates, and others in gaining access to assistive technology and other special education child rights. A policy letter is a written, public response to clarify a section of special education law.

The Office of Special Education Programs in the U.S. Department of Education referred to the Tech Act definitions of assistive technology devices and services in a 1990 policy letter clarifying the rights of students to assistive technology in IEPs. This policy letter gave families a new tool in advocacy for their sons/daughters and promoted the development of a new technology policy in the states. It helped lay the groundwork for inclusion of specific language on assistive technology devices and services in the 1992 Amendments to IDEA. The amendments state that assistive technology devices and services must be considered on an individualized basis and become a part of the IEP if the child needs it to benefit from his educational program.

Since that time, a number of policy letters have been issued. These policy letters have repeatedly reinforced the right of the child to assistive technology devices and services if they are needed to enable a child to benefit from his/her IEP. They have served as effective tools for gaining inclusion of assistive technology in IEPs. Following is a summary of actual policy letters related to assistive technology that have been issued since 1990.

The Right to have Assistive Technology included in an IEP

August, 1990
A child's need for assistive technology must be determined on a case-by-case basis and can be special education, related services, or supplemental aids and services for children with disabilities who are educated in regular classes.

Taking Assistive Technology Home
If the IEP team determines that a particular assistive technology item is required for home use in order for a child to be provided FAPE (benefit from his/her education program) the technology must be provided to implement the IEP.

Responsibility of the School District for Assistive Device (hearing aid)
November, 1993
A hearing aid is a "covered device" under the 1990 amendment to the IDEA and must be available to the child if it is determined by the IEP team that it is needed for the child to benefit from his/her educational program.

Liability of Schools for Family-owned
Assistive Devices Used at School
If parents provide a device for a child in order for his/her IEP to be implemented, the school must assume liability for the device.

The above information was taken from the Assistive Technology Funding and Systems Change Project, a project of the United Cerebral Palsy Association in Washington, D.C.

(The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position of the U.S. Department of Education and no official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of the opinions expressed herein should be inferred.)

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