Assistive Technology and Education
Photo is of a teacher helping a student with school work.
Things You Need to Know
Your Rights in Public School
The questions and answers below are meant to provide a brief overview of the special education process and how to get the best education for your child. We have included information on how Assistive Technology (AT) fits into assuring a student receives the best possible education process. For more information, visit the section on Resources , which lists informative websites, publications, and service agencies that provide additional help. Also be sure to visit the area entitled Assistive Technology that Can Help at School . We have also provided information on Early Childhood, Transition to Work, and Transition to College. You can link to these areas by clicking on the words highlighted or through the buttons provided in the upper left corner.
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Q: Do children with disabilities have a right to a public education?
A: Yes! All children with disabilities have the right to a free, appropriate public education. There are three primary federal laws that underscore that right:
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as amended in 2006 (IDEA). IDEA lays out requirements for providing special education services that state and local education agencies must meet in order to receive federal education monies.
- Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, prohibits discrimination that prevents individuals with disabilities from access to programs that receive federal funding, including the right to receive a free appropriate public education.
- Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, provides similar protections against discrimination in government-funded programs as well as public accommodations, telecommunications, and transportation program and services.
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Q: How are children identified as needing special education?
A: A child may be referred for special education services by parents or by the school district. Once a child is identified as possibly being in need of special education services, the school has a responsibility to provide a full and individual assessment.
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Q: Why is an assessment important and what does it cover?
A: The assessment is an important step in the educational process because the results of this kind of evaluation will determine whether a student is eligible for special education services or not. The assessment will determine if the child has a disability, if there is a need for special education services, and the student's current educational level and needs. Parents must be notified and provide written consent in order for an assessment to be performed. Parents should also be informed (and attend) the assessment meeting.
At the assessment meeting should include at least the parent, the student's teacher or another qualified teacher, and a professional who is experienced in providing assessments. This assessment team will review all of the information that already exists and the information that parents, teachers and other smay have about the student's educational needs. The team will decide what additional information is needed to assure a complete picture of the student's educational level, strengths, and needs. A written report will be provided for any type of assessment that is done. Included in the assessment should be an evaluation of the type of assistive technology devices and services that can help the student to benefit from education.
Check the Resources section for more detailed information about requirements, timelines and rights in the assessment and special education process.
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Q: How often are reassessments done?
A: A reassessment may be done at any point when a child's disability or circumstances change and the IEP Team requests a reassessment. Reassessments may be in specific areas of concern or on a broader level. A comprehensive reassessment should be done at least every three years.
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Q: What happens if I disagree with my child's assessment?
A: An independent evaluation may be requested when a parent does not agree with the results of the assessment. Please refer to the resource publications below for more information on how to request an independent evaluation.
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Q: What happens after the assessment?
A: Once the evaluation is obtained, a team of individuals meets to determine if the student is eligible for special education services and to develop an Individual Education Program (IEP). The IEP team should include at least the parent, the student (where appropriate), the student's teacher or another person qualified as a teacher, and a professionals representing the school district. Other professionals and/or advocates may also be part of this team.
If the student is determined to be eligible for special education, the IEP team will develop the IEP based on the results of the assessment. The IEP should specifically address all areas that impact the student's ability to benefit from education--learning techniques, subject areas, physical/medical issues, accessibility issues and more. The IEP should be very specific and should include the type of assistive technology or AT services that are needed including whether particular technology may be required outside of the school environment. For instance, if a student utilizes a particular device to complete written work at school and is required to perform similar work for homework, the device used at school may also be needed for use in the home.
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Q: If the school buys technology for my child to use, doesn't it belong to my child?
A: No. If the school purchases technology, the device(s) purchased belong to the school. When the student either no longer requires a particular device or graduates from the school program, the technology remains school property. If the needed technology is purchased by another source that is specific to the student, like private insurance or Medicaid, however, that AT device does belong to the individual, not the school. The device should remain with the student upon graduation. (Click here for a publication that provides in-depth information on the IEP process.)
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Q: Does the school provide support when a student graduates?
A: Beginning when the student turns 15, the school has a responsibility to begin focusing on the needs a student has to transition from school to work. This transition focus may or may not include transition into higher education, depending on the student's needs and goals. At this time, additional support professionals, such as a rehabilitation counselors, should begin to meet with the IEP team. This expanded IEP transition team should assure that the continuing need for AT is addressed and how needed technology will be obtained for use in the workplace or higher education.
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Q: What is my child has a disability but is determined not to be eligible for special education?
A: If a student has a disability but does not meet eligibility requirements for special education, he or she may still be eligible to receive accommodations, including AT, under Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Section 504 prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities from access to and participation in federally funded programs. The definition of disability under Section 504 is broader than the categorical definitions for special education. In this case, the Team should define what type of accommodations, including technology, that are necessary in order for a student to participate fully in the educational process. For more information on Section 504, review the resources below.
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Q: What happens if I disagree with decisions made by the IEP Team?
A: When students or parents disagree with the results of the evaluation or with any part of the IEP, they have the right to due process and can appeal decisions of the IEP team. There are very specific timelines and requirements of how appeals must occur which are outlined in the Blue Book, created by Arkansas' Disability Rights Center. Other resources are listed below.
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Assistive Technology that Helps Make School Easier
In what area are you needing help?
Resources on Assistive Technology and Special Education
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as Amended in 2004--Children with disabilities have the right to a free, appropriate public education. The primary federal law that lays out the rights of children with disabilities and their famillies and the responsibilities and rights of schools is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as amended in 2004. This law is comprehensive and very important for all children with disabilities.
U.S. Dept. of Education IDEA homepage http://idea.ed.gov/
InfoDisability.Gov is the government's website that addresses all types of issues affecting the lives of American's with disabilities, including education. http://www.disabilityinfo.gov/
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)--The Americans with Disabilities Act protects children and adults with disabilities against discrimination based on disability in many areas, including education.
ADA Homepage for the federal government. http://www.ada.gov/
Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act--Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act requires programs and facilities supported by federal funding to be accessible to people with disabilities. Section 504 protections are available to all children with disabilities but they are particularly important for children who need accessible school facilities and programs but are not eligible for special education services.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, Section 504 Info http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/edlite-FAPE504.html
Arkansas Disability Rights Center is a federally-funded protection and advocacy service to help Arkansans with disabilities with legal rights issues like education, employment, and assistive technology. DRC can assist individuals who are transitioning from school to post-secondary education and from school to work. Visit DRC's website at: http:www.arkdisabilityrights.org
AR Disability Coalition/Parent Training & Information Center (PTI)--The Parent Network forms support groups, parent mentoring, and provides parent training. There are links for educational and legal resources as well as regional information on service providers. http://www.adcpti.org
Arkansas Department of Education, Special Education Unit
Arkansas Transition Services--http://arkansastransition.com/
Arkansas Interagency Transition Partnership with Bonnie Boaz at 501-835-3330. Just contact them for more information.
Bookshare, (www.bookshare.org ), is the world’s largest online accessible library for individuals with print disabilities, such as blindness, low vision, a physical or reading disability that makes it difficult or impossible for them to read standard print. Bookshare is free to qualified U.S. schools and students through a $32 million award from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). The library has tens of thousands of books including best sellers, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading and periodicals along with two software applications that read digital books. Parents and Educators can SIGN UP at http://www.bookshare.org/signUpType.
ICAN AT4ALL--provides device demonstrations, loans, recycled devices, training, information and referral, AT evaluations and more to help students with disabilities get the most from educational programs. Contact ICAN AT4ALL .
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001--http://www.ed.gov/policy/elsec/leg/esea02/107-110.pdf
United Cerebral Palsy of America has a wealth of information about special education and assistive technology. The following list of publications is available through the UCP website at http://www.ucp.org/ucp_channelsub.cfm/1/12/69
(ATIA) Assistive Technology Industry Association-