Future Reflections Summer 1990, Vol. 9 No. 2

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by Roxanne Rice, J.D.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the News Digest (Number 13,1989), a newsletter published by the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Handicaps, Washington D.C.

... For more information about any of these laws, contact your State Education Agency, State Developmental Disability Council, State Protection and Advocacy Agency, parent or disability group, or write to NICHCY, Post Office Box 1492, Washington, D.C. In addition, single copies of these laws may be obtained, usually for about $ 1.00, by writing to the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 (Telephone 202/7833238). Information may also be available by contacting your Congressional Representative.

1.1986 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act (P.L. 99- 506)

Title I of the Rehabilitation Act authorizes over one billion dollars to the states to provide rehabilitation services including evaluation, counseling, training, placement and rehabilitative technology services to individuals who qualify for vocational rehabilitation services.

The 1986 Amendments require that states receiving funds available under this Act must "describe how rehabilitation engineering services will be provided to assist an increasing number of individuals with handicaps."

The Amendments also include a definition of rehabilitation technology services as "the systematic application of technology, engineering methodologies, or scientific principles to meet needs of individuals with handicaps in areas which include education, rehabilitation, employment, transportation, independent living, and recreation."

The law requires that in assessing an individual's potential for rehabilitation services, rehabilitation engineering services should be explored. In addition, part of the Individual Written Rehabilitation Plan (IWRP) should include, where appropriate, a statement on the benefits of rehabilitation technology services for the individual's rehabilitation goals.

II. Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act Amendments of 1987 (P.L. 100-146)

The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act requires that all funded services be aimed at providing opportunities and assistance for persons with developmental disabilities to allow them to "achieve their maximum potential through increased independence, productivity and integration into the community."

The 1987 Amendments require that each state submit an annual report including descriptions of the currently unavailable assistive technology services which could be of benefit to persons with developmental disabilities.

Funds authorized under this Act may be used for planning, advocacy, systems change, and direct services. These direct services may include assistive technology services.

III.Education of the Handicapped Act (P.L. 94-142) and the 1986 Amendments to the Act (P.L. 99-457)

The Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA) requires that states provide a free, appropriate, public education, including related services, for all children with disabilities from ages 5 to 21. The 1986 Amendments to the Act require that states provide special education and related services to children from 3 to 5 years of age no later than the 1991 school year and establishes anew voluntary state grant program for providing early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities (ages birth to 2 years).

The law requires that each child receiving special education and related services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP, for children birth to age two), designed to meet their uinique needs. The IEP or IFSP should reflect the assistive technology needs of the child. Part G of the Act authorizes the Secretary of Education to make grants or enter into agreements with appropriate institutions to advance the use of new technologies, media, and materials used in educating students with disabilities.

States differ on the issue of providing assistive technology under the Act. Some states do provide technology-related assistance as part of related services, while other states have made no such provisions.

IV. Elementary and Secondary School Improvement Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-297)

This Act is a consolidation of legislation on programs for elementary and secondary education. A number of the amendments are designed to conform the Act more closely with the Education of the Handicapped Act. This includes the P.L. 99-457 requirement for early intervention services to children between birth and age 2.

The Act allows states to use authorized funds for programs which may include the acquisition of equipment and instructional materials. Funds may additionally be used for training in the use of assistive devices and other specialized equipment.

V. Social Security Act, Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (P.L. 99-509)

A. Medicaid. Medicaid funds provide medical services to qualifying individuals. States are required to provide certain basic medical services but can elect to cover other services as well.

Assistive technology devices are covered only if they fit into the Medicaid definition of a prosthetic device. Prosthetic devices are defined as replacement, corrective.or supportive devices prescribed by a physician or other licensed practitioner. Additional covered services include "other diagnostic, screening, preventive and rehabilitative services." This language might be seen as including assistive technology devices and services. States differ greatly in what they will cover in this area. Some states allow Medicaid funds to be used for augmentative communication devices. Other states will not allow funds to be used for equipment they do not consider to be a prosthetic device.

Individuals in active treatment in an Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded and other related conditions may be eligible for assistive technology services under Medicaid regulations. Active treatment could include mechanical supports to achieve proper positioning, toilet and bathing facilities, communication aids, and other devices.

B. Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant (Title V). Maternal and Child Health Services funds may be used by each state for its own priorities. Many services may be funded including: early identification and intervention services, diagnostic and evaluation services, family support services and "medical, surgical, and corrective services." Some states are currently using Maternal and Child Health Services funds for adaptive equipment and assistive devices including wheelchairs for children with disabilities.

VI. Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-407)

Citing the inadequacies of available access, trained personnel, and financing in the area of assistive technology, Congress enacted P.L. 100407 with the purpose of extending the availability of assistive technology to individuals with disabilities and their families.

"Assistive technology device" is defined by the bill as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system whether acquired off the shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities." The broad definition of devices and individuals included under this law gives states great flexibility in the programs to be developed.

Title I provides states with funds to develop a consumer- responsive state system of assistive technology services. States receiving funds may develop or carry out any of the following: I) model delivery systems; 2) statewide needs assessment; 3) support groups; 4) public awareness programs; 5) training and technical assistance; 6) access to related information; 7) interagency agreements; and 8) other activities necessary for developing, implementing, or evaluating a statewide service delivery system. Nine states have successfully competed for funds. Twenty additional states could be added in 1990 with the remainder to be added in 1991.

Title II of P.L. 100-407 authorizes the federal government to perform various activities to assist the states in the development of their service delivery systems. These activities include: a study to be undertaken by the National Council on Disability to identify practices which facilitate or impede financing of assistive technology devices and services; and, a study of the need for a National Information and Programs Referral Network to assist states to respond to technology related information needs.

In the Fall of 1989, nine states were awarded funding to plan and establish statewide programs of technology-related assistance. These states included: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Utah. For contact information about these programs in your state, contact the Center for Special Education Technology, or the Association for the Advancement of Rehabilitation Technology (RESNA).

In addition to the state awards, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) awarded a contract to RESNA, an interdisciplinary association for the advancement of rehabilitation and assistive technology, to provide technical assistance and information to States on the development and implementation of a consumer-responsive statewide program of technology-related assistance under this law. For more information, contact RESNA (202) 857-1199.

Understanding and becoming aware of the laws relating to assistive technology can make a significant difference in how, where, and when you gain access to these services. For a listing of any of the groups mentioned in your area, contact NICHCY, or the Center for Special Education Technology, located at the Council for Exceptional Children, and ask for a State Resource Sheet.

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