UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
OFFICE OF SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATIVE SERVICES
600 INDEPENDENCE AVE., S W
WASHINGTON, D. C. 20202-2500
Jan 13 1995
Terry K. Bachus, Director
Department of Special Education
Wichita Public Schools
217 North Water
Wichita, Kansas 67202
Dear Mr. Bachus:
This is in response to your letter to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) concerning the obligation of local educational agencies (LEAs) to provide eye glasses to children with disabilities under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Part B). Your inquiry consists of two questions with several subparts that I would like to respond to separately.
1. For a visually impaired student whose parents cannot afford glasses- -are we obligated to provide them? If so, who is responsible for the evaluation expense to determine the need for glasses? Who is responsible for the evaluation costs for determining the need for a hearing aid?As you know from reading OSEP's recent policy clarification on the provision of hearing aids to children with disabilities, the policy of this Office has been that a public agency was not required to purchase a hearing aid for a student who was deaf or hearing impaired because a public agency is not responsible for providing a personal device that the student would require regardless of whether he or she was attending school. OSEP also has taken this position with respect to the provision of eye glasses to children with disabilities, i.e., eye glasses are a personal device the student requires regardless of whether he/she attends school. However, this policy does not apply where a public agency determines that a child with a disability requires eye glasses in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), and the child's individualized education program (IEP) specifies that the child needs eye glasses. In that situation, the public agency must provide the eye glasses at no cost to the child and his or her parents. Nothing in Part B, however, would preclude the public agency from seeking funds from outside the agency so long as there was no cost to the child or his/her parents.
Before any action is taken with respect to the initial placement of a child with a disability in a program providing special education and related services, a full and individual evaluation of the child's educational needs must be conducted in accordance with the requirements of 34 CFR §300.532. See 34 CFR §300.531 (copy enclosed). As part of this evaluation, the child must be assessed in all areas related to the suspected disability, including, if appropriate, health, vision, hearing, social and emotional status, general intelligence, academic performance, communicative status, and motor abilities. See 34 CFR §300.532(f). The cost of these assessments are the responsibility of the public agency responsible for providing FAPE to the child.
2. For an [learning disabled] LD student or any other exceptionality--are we responsible for placing glasses on the student? Must there be a relationship between the student's disability and the need for glasses in such a case?Under 34 CFR §300.308, each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices and services, or both, as those terms are defined in 34 CFR §§300.5 and 300.6, are made available to a child with a disability if required as part of a child's special education under 34 CFR §300.17, related services under §300.16, or supplementary aids and services under 34 CFR §300.550(b) (2). The term "assistive technology device" means "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities." 34 CFR §300.5. A device such as eye glasses could be a covered device under this definition. The determination of whether a child with a disability requires an assistive technology device and/or service in order to receive FAPE must be made by the participants on that child's IEP team in accordance with applicable IEP requirements. Thus, participants at the meeting to develop a child's IEP must determine whether, in light of a particular child's educational needs, the public agency must make an assistive technology device and/or service available in order for the child to receive FAPE.
The relationship that must be present is between the educational needs of the child and the assistive technology device and/or service.
I hope that this information is helpful to you. If I may be of further assistance, please let me know.
Office of Special Education Programs
Cc: Ms. Judy Cutsinger
Kansas State Board of Education