Right to Take Assistive Technology
Home From School

By Michael Morris

This article is reprinted from the A.T. Quarterly, Volume 2, Number 5 (1991)

Based on amendments to Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1991 and the 1990 policy letter of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) in response to Ms. Susan Goodman there is a clear right to assistive technology for a child with a disability to be determined on an individualized basis by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team. If the IEP team, including the parents, determines that the child requires assistive technology in order to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as either a means to benefit from special education or a related service or to be educated in the least restrictive environment, then the IEP must include a specific statement of such devices and services needed, including the nature and amount of such devices and services. In school districts across the country, there is a growing awareness and recognition of the right to assistive technology, taking into consideration the unique needs of each individual child. Parents have a right to question assessment and placement decisions, inquire about assistive technology as a means to achieve specific skill levels, seek an independent evaluation, and appeal any aspect of the Individualized Education Program when agreement cannot be reached with the IEP team.

Can assistive technology aids or equipment be limited to in school use? In a new policy letter from OSEP, the answer is a very clear no. In a letter to Dr. Judy Schrag, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs, the request was made for another CCTV for home use to accomplish the same results as in school (for homework, reading, books, and any assignment from school). The response was that "if the IEP team determines that a particular assistive technology item is required for home use in order for a particular child to be provided FAPE, the technology must be provided to implement the IEP." It is not a valid rationale for a school system to deny categorically any request for assistive technology to go home because of inadequate property insurance coverage. These decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis recognizing each child's strengths and weaknesses in an educational context.

In the same policy letter, OSEP also clarifies the federal intent on two related issues. First, the letter states clearly that a "local school board may not unilaterally change the statement of special education and related services contained in the IEP for a child." A school board can not reject the decision(s) of an IEP team. A school board can not change a child's IEP, refuse to pay for it, or in any way refuse or slow down implementation.

Second, the policy letter clarifies that "no delay is permissible between the time a child's IEP is finalized and when special education and related services are provided." Dr. Schrag explains that there are some circumstances which require a short delay (e.g. working out transportation arrangements or an IEP meeting which occurs during the summer). However, the intent of the law and regulations is quite clear. In order for a child to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education, services should begin "immediately" after the IEP is finalized.

What does this policy letter mean to states funded under the Technology-Related Assistance For Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-407)? It is an opportunity to again meet with your state special education director and review your state's policies regarding the right to assistive technology for children with disabilities. Have local school districts been notified in writing about inclusion of assistive technology in the IEP based upon a "benefit from education" test? Have local school districts been notified about consideration of assistive technology for home use as part of a child's right to a Free Appropriate Public Education? Each state department of education faces major challenges this summer in planning for the new school year to begin next September. Building the capacity of the education system to evaluate for assistive technology needs and deliver assistive technology services on a statewide basis is an important responsibility that deserves the attention of all states funded under P.L. 100-407 now as part of a systems change agenda. Please share your state's revised policies with the RESNA Technical Assistance Project Office so we can share them with other states (A full copy of the new policy letter from Dr. Schrag is available from the RESNA Technical Assistance Project Office.

The A.T. Quarterly was a newsletter developed by the RESNA TA Project under a contract with the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education (ED). The content, however, does not necessarily reflect the position or policy of NIDRR/ED and no official endorsement of the material should be inferred.

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