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United States Department of Education
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

August 10, 1990

Ms. Susan Goodman
18182 Headwaters Drive
Olney, Maryland 20832

Dear Ms. Goodman:
This is in response to your recent letter to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) concerning obligations of public agencies under Part B of the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA-B) to provide assistive technology to children with handicaps.

Specifically, your letter asks:

  1. Can a school district presumptively deny assistive technology to a handicapped student?
  2. Should the need for assistive technology be considered on an individual case-by-case basis in the development of the child's Individual Education Program?
In brief, it is impermissible under EHA-B for public agencies (including school districts) "to presumptively deny ;assistive technology" to a child with handicaps before a determination is made as to whether such technology is an element of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) for that child. Thus, consideration of a child's need for assistive technology must occur on a case-by-case basis in connection with the development of a child's individualized education program (IEP).

We note that your inquiry does not define the term "assistive technology" and that the term is not used either in the EHA-B statute or regulations. The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988, Pub. L. 100-407, contains broad definitions of both the terms "assistive technology device" and "assistive technology service." See Section 3 of Pub. L. 100-407, codified as 29 U.S.C. 2201, 2202. Our response will use "assistive technology" to encompass both "assistive technology services" and "assistive technology devices."

Under EHA-B, State and local educational agencies have a responsibility to ensure that eligible children with handicaps receive FAPE, which includes the provision of special education and related services without charge, in conformity with an IEP. 20 U.S.C. 1401(18); 34 CFR 300.4, (a) and (d). The term "special education" is defined as "specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parent, to meet the unique needs of a handicapped child . . . . " 34 CFR 300.14(a). Further, "related services" is defined as including "transportation and such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a handicapped child to benefit from special education." 34 CFR 300.13(a).

The EHA-B regulation includes as examples 13 services that qualify as "related services" under EHA-B. See 34 CFR 300.13(b)(1)-(13). We emphasize that this list "is not exhaustive and may include other developmental, corrective, or other supportive services. . . . if they are required to assist a handicapped child to benefit from special education." 34 CFR 300.13 and Comment. Thus, under EHA-B, "assistive technology" could qualify as "special education" or "related services."

A determination of what is an appropriate educational program for each child must be individualized and must be reflected in the content of each child's IEP. Each child's IEP must be developed at a meeting which includes parents and school officials. 34 CFR 300.343-300.344. Thus, if the participants on the IEP team determine that a child with handicaps requires assistive technology in order to receive FAPE, and designate such assistive technology as either special education or a related services, the child's IEP must include a specific statement of such services, including the nature and amount of such services. 34 CFR 300.346(c); App. C to 34 CFR Part 300 (Ques.51).

EHA-B's least restrictive environment (LRE) provisions require each agency to ensure "(t)hat special classes, separate schooling or other removal of handicapped children from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily." 34 CFR 300.550(b)(2); see also Analysis to Final Regulations published as Appendix A to 45 CFR Part 121a, 42 F.R. 42511-13 (August 23, 1977). Assistive technology can be a form of supplementary aid or service utilized to facilitate a child's education in a regular educational environment. Such supplementary aids and services, or modifications to the regular education program, must be included in a child's IEP. Id. Appendix C to 34 CFR part 300 (ques. 48).

In sum, a child's need for assistive technology must be determined on a case-by-case basis and could be special education, related services or supplementary aids and services for children with handicaps who are educated in regular classes.

I hope the above information has been helpful. If we may provide further assistance, please let me know.

Judy A.Schrag, Ed.D.
Office of Special Education Programs

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The National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership is a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Education and RESNA. The grant (Grant #H224B050003; CFDA 84.224B) is funded under the Assistive Technology Act of 1998, as amended and administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education.

This website is developed with grant funds. The information contained on these pages does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U.S. Department of Education or the Grantee and no official endorsement of the information should be inferred.