Accessible Assistive Technology in Your IEP, A Four-part Series
This February, we have been exploring assistive technology (AT)—what it is and what makes it accessible AT:
Now it’s time for putting your knowledge into action in Part 4: Getting the Accessible AT Devices and Training You Need in Your IEP!
How Do I Get Accessible AT Devices and Training Into My IEP?
Make a list of what you think you need and why you need it. Look back at the earlier parts of this series. Think about the SETT Framework, and write down ideas for accessible AT devices that can help you do what you need to do in school, at home and in your community. Consider current needs as well as needs in the future—again, in school, at home, and in the community. Making a list of your needs and possible AT device solutions will help you and the whole IEP team make good decisions.
Next, discuss your list with your parents. Show them what you have learned, and ask if they have additional ideas about tasks with which accessible AT devices might be helpful. Please consider having these conversations with anyone else you feel could provide good feedback and ideas, including teachers, family members, and friends.
You are part of the IEP team, and you have the right to attend and participate in every IEP meeting. You (or your parents) are permitted to ask for an IEP meeting any time. You may contact your IEP case manager and ask for an IEP meeting to discuss your need for accessible AT devices and services and add them to your IEP. Also, IEPs can be changed without a formal meeting if you, your parents, and the school agree.
If you do have an IEP meeting, let the team know what your accessible AT device and training needs are, show them how you determined you needed these things, and ask them to amend provide those devices. You may also ask the team to add needed accessible AT services, including training and instruction to your IEP.
The team may want to get a formal AT evaluation performed, and that’s not a bad idea. However, if everyone agrees that you need a particular accessible AT device or training, there’s no need to wait for a formal evaluation to be performed.
Dare to compare
If there is some disagreement about making a large purchase, ask the IEP team to consider adding a trial use of the accessible AT device to your IEP. In Maryland, there is a great accessible AT loan program available.
Overcoming Past Obstacles to Getting the AT You Need
Usually, when schools try to avoid providing accessible AT devices and training, it isn’t because they want to be mean or keep something from you. Blindness and low vision are “low incidence”—meaning that they are kind of rare. Accessible AT devices and services are also somewhat rare, so schools might not know much about them. To complicate matters even further, accessible AT devices tend to be more expensive than similar, more widely-used, inaccessible technology. Many teachers, administrators, and even parents might have trouble understanding why you need a device that costs so much.
What you can use school-provided AT devices for
Some schools claim that students may not take school-provided accessible AT off campus or use it for anything that’s not directly related to classwork. This is incorrect. You have the right to use school-provided accessible AT if your IEP team agrees that you need it for either classes or for transition (training, education, employment, and, where appropriate, independent living skills).
Cost cannot be a factor
The school is legally-obligated to provide you the accessible AT you need at no charge to you. The cost of the equipment is irrelevant.
Accessible AT training
As noted in Part 3: Determining the Training You Need, the school must provide AT services to support you in using your accessible AT device. These AT services include evaluations and paying for, maintaining, repairing, or replacing the accessible AT device. These services also include training and technical assistance for you and, if appropriate, for your parents, family members, school personnel, your employers, and others involved with supporting you as you use the device.
FAPE means FREE Appropriate Public Education
Additionally, the law requires that the school provide needed accessible AT devices and training at no cost to you or your family. No cost means that the school may not charge you any fees related to the device or training. It also means that the school must pay for travel expenses if you need to travel to receive training. Finally, schools may not require you or your parents to take financial responsibility for damages to accessible AT devices that might occur.
Points to Remember
The law allows each of the following:
- Taking your school-provided accessible AT home to use for school work at home
- Using school-provided accessible AT home for non-school-related tasks, including:
- Personal tasks
- Employment-related tasks
- Tasks related to practicing your religion
- Providing training or technical assistance for your accessible AT devices to:
- Your parents
- Professionals who work with you
- Your employer
- Others who work closely with you
- Having the school to pay for needed maintenance, repairs, and replacement of school-provided accessible AT devices
- Note: The school is not allowed to require you or your parents to sign papers that accepting responsibility for loss or damage.
- If you want more information or support in getting more accessible AT into your IEP, please contact the free Bridges Helpdesk.
- Accessible web form
- : Helpdesk@imagemd.org
- : Send to: (410) 305-9199
- Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page or Facebook Messenger
- : Call (443) 320-4003, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.