Frequently Asked Questions about Assistive Technology

What is Assistive Technology?

IDEA Statute: TITLE I / A / 602

Except as otherwise provided, in this title:

  • (1) Assistive technology device.--
    • (A) In general.--The term `assistive technology device' means any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.
    • (B) Exception.--The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device.
  • (2) Assistive technology service.--The term `assistive technology service' means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes--
    • (A) the evaluation of the needs of such child, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment;
    • (B) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such child;
    • (C) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
    • (D) coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
    • (E) training or technical assistance for such child, or, where appropriate, the family of such child; and
    • (F) training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of such child.

Who uses Assistive Technology?

Students are potential users of AT when they have disabilities that interfere with their communication, learning, social relationships, mobility, and active participation.


How does AT help students?

Students are helped by AT because they are enabled to actively participate in the classroom learning environment. AT can provide alternate access to text through software that reads the words and numbers on a computer screen. It can provide an alternate means of writing through use of a keyboard, an augmentative communication device or voice recognition software. Assistive technology can also allow a student to get extended practice and extra opportunities to apply knowledge in new activities. They are also enabled to demonstrate that they have been successful in learning through devices that enable writing and speaking.


How does AT get into a students IEP?

An IEP (an Individualized Education Plan) is the document created by the school team, parents (and even the student if they are able!) that identifies the student's educational goals and directs the educational program to help the student accomplish those goals. Each special education student has an IEP. The current special education law known as IDEA'97 states that an "Annual consideration of assistive technology devices and services is required for all children identified as having an exceptional need. The Colorado SWAAAC Teams help evaluate assistive technology needs and participate in the process of getting the use of the AT device written into the student's IEP.


What tests are used to assess a student’s need for AT?

There is no specific test for evaluating the need for AT. The assessment is tailored to the unique needs of each student. It is based on the need for additional support in the educational setting and this is usually determined in an IEP or IFSP meeting.


How does a person learn more about Assistive Technology?

The WWW is a wonderful resource for this purpose. Using searches on specific topics on websites like Google and resources like those found on this website will lead you to information about products, conferences, training programs and degree programs focused on AT. The web is also a rich resource for information on evaluating and assessing the need for AT devices and services. Every state has a Tech Act Project supported by Federal dollars for the purpose of increasing public awareness about and access to AT devices and services.

In Colorado that project is located in Denver at Assistive Technology Partners. See the site for information on the regional conference on AT, open lab times and many other opportunities for learning.


Ask a question.

If you think of a needed question or would like to contribute more questions and answers to this page, please contact Christina Perkins.


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