Assistive Technology (AT) is an important consideration in the Individualized Education Program planning process for students with disabilities. When appropriately considered, AT plays an essential role in a student’s ability to access the general education curriculum with greater success and independence. In fact, this role is so important that student use of AT is addressed in both federal legislation and state regulations.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004 focuses on:
- Improving the academic progress of all students with disabilities.
- Aligning IEP content to the general education curriculum.
- Increasing states’ accountability for the academic performance of students with disabilities by requiring their inclusion in statewide assessments.
As part of ensuring academic progress for students with disabilities, IDEA 2004 includes several provisions that specifically address the issue of AT. This important law:
- Provides that AT devices and services required for a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) be provided to students at no cost to the family and be available for use wherever needed.
- Includes definitions of AT devices and services.
- Requires that IEP teams consider the student’s possible need for AT devices and services during the development of the IEP.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504 also provides for students with disabilities. This section:
- Is a national civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
- Ensures that a child with a disability has equal access to an education through accommodations and modifications.
- Includes fewer procedural safeguards for children with disabilities and their parents, but has a broader definition of disability. Under Section 504, individuals with disabilities are defined as persons with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. People with a history of, or who are regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, are also covered. Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks and learning. Although AT is not mentioned in Section 504, case law indicates that students eligible under Section 504 may have a right to Assistive Technology if the need is proven.
Maryland State Regulations
The Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) correlate with the federal IDEA requirements and are updated biweekly on the State’s website. The following websites have useful information about the legal requirements for AT:
The Federal Register for IDEA 2004 addresses all aspects of Special Education. The following are some of the sections that specifically deal with AT:
- Definition of AT: page 218
- Required Contents of the IEP: page 249
- AT Consideration requirement: page 252