The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.)
IDEA, the Federal Special Education law, provides the following legal definition of Assistive Technology: “Any item, piece of equipment or product system… that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. Under IDEA assistive technology can be used in the educational setting to provide a variety of accommodations, support or adaptations for students with disabilities. (For information regarding Assistive Technology in the workplace, see Access4Employment).
IDEA also lists the services a school district may need to provide in order to ensure that assistive technology is useful to a student in the school setting. The law defines an Assistive Technology Service as: “Any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.” This service includes all of the following possibilities:
- Evaluation of the technology needs of the individual, including a functional evaluation in the individual’s environment.
- Purchasing, leasing or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology for individuals with disabilities.
- Selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing or replacing of assistive technology.
- Coordinating and using other therapies, interventions or services with assistive technologies or devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs (O.T., P.T., Speech).
- Assistive technology training or technical assistance with assistive technology for an individual with a disability, or where appropriate, the family of an individual with disabilities.
- Training or technical assistance for professionals, educators, employers or other individuals who provide services for or otherwise are substantially involved in the major life functions of individuals with disabilities.
The intention of the special education law is that, if a student with disabilities needs technology in order to be able to learn, access the curriculum and learning materials and access F.A.P.E., the school district will:
- Evaluate the student’s technology needs
- Acquire the necessary technology
- Coordinate technology use with other therapies and interventions
- Provide training for individuals, the individual’s family and school staff in the effective use of the technology
During the time that students with disabilities are in school they can have the opportunity to learn to use technology at the same time that they are learning academic subjects and social skills. The efficient and effective use of assistive technology can be as a basic skill for students with disabilities with reading, writing and math. Assistive Technology is providing students with disabilities a “level playing field” in every area of life.