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Title | Defining AT | Defining IT | Defining AET | AT Categories | AT Checklist | AT Accommodations | Screen Readers | Example Materials

Laws that Impact Assistive Technology

Law/Topic Date Basic Content that Applies to Assistive Technology
Rehabilitation Act
1973 Reasonable accommodations and LRE mandated in federally funded employment and higher education – AT devices and services required
Vocational Rehabilitation Act,

Section 504

1973 Basic civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities, protection for students with orthopedic impairments and other disabilities that would not qualify them for special education.

AT can be used as an accommodation to allow students to take part in activities

Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA)


1975 Reasonable accommodations LRE are extended to all school age children

IEPs mandated

AT plays a major role in gaining access to educational programs

Preschool and Infant/Toddler Program
- amendments to EHA
1986 Reasonable accommodations and LRE are extended to children from ages 3-5, expands emphasis on educationally related assistive technologies
Rehabilitation Act
- amendments
1986 Provisions for the addition of assistive technology to be included in state plans and in individual rehabilitation programs, Section 508 demands access to electronic office equipment for all Federal employees
Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act
(Tech Act)
1988 First federal legislation directly related to assistive technology

Stresses consumer driven systems and systems changes

Section 508 extended to all states

OSEP Policy Letter
1988 When AT is used as a “supplemental aid and service it must be included in the IEP”
OSEP Policy Letter
1990 Case by case determination

AT is required if needed as part of FAPE

AT can be used to maintain a child in the least restrictive environment

Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act 1990 Formally adopted the same definitions and terminology as IDEA

Mandated that rehabilitation technology be seen as “a primary benefit” to be included in rehabilitation program

Americans with Disabilities Act



1990 Provisions including assistive technology are recognized in the areas of public accommodation private employment, transportation and telecommunications

Extends 503, 504, and 508 to all citizens

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)


1990 Specifically defines assistive technology devices and services as well as carefully delineating how they apply to education
Libous Letter
OSEP Polity Letter
1990 Even if AT were considered only a related service, it cold be provide as the sole component of a summer program
Anonymous Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1991 The School Board cannot change the decisions of a PPT regarding the implementation and need for assistive technology
Anonymous Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1991 If an IEP determines that an AT device is need for home use to ensure FAPE, it must be provided
Lamber Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1992 Calculators my qualify as AT devices
Anonymous Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1992 An FM training system qualifies as an AT device
Seiler Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1993 If a hearing aid is an assistive technology device then the school must provide it if it is hart of the IEP to benefit the child’s education
Moore Letter
OSEP policy
1993 School district funds can be used to purchase a computer for a student with disabilities attending a parochial school if the computer is provide to assist the child to communicate, not for religious instruction
Anonymous Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1994 If a parent provides the AT device, it is reasonable for the school to assume liability for the device when used during school hours and for maintenance of that device.

Schools can ask parents to use private insurance to finance AT devices or services, but parents do not need to do this

Telecommunications Act 1996 require manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and providers of telecommunications services to ensure that such equipment and services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, if readily achievable. These amendments ensure that people with disabilities will have access to a broad range of products and services such as telephones, cell phones, pagers, call-waiting, and operator services, that were often inaccessible to many users with disabilities.
Various Letters

OSEP Policy Letters referring to specific devices

1989-1996 Any lists of AT devices are not exclusive.

AT devices and services could include orientation and mobility services for students how are blind, large print books, adapted spoons, FM auditory trainer, calculators, pulmonary nebulizer, optical scanner with speech output, and bus lifts as examples

Favorito letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1995 AT devices required by a child in order to benefit from an education program might also include changes in lighting, cooling, and/or carpeting
Bachus Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1995 Eyeglasses can be considered an assistive technology device if they are needed for a child to benefit form his or her educations
Anonymous Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1995 An assistive technology is like that of any other evaluation, and parents have the right to ask for an independent evaluation if they disagree with a school’s evaluation
Shelby Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1995 When AT is provide to educate a child in the regular education environment, any modifications must be included in the IEP
Nanon Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1995 There is no federally approved list of AT devices
IDEA amendments

IDEA Implementation



Assistive technology needs must be considered during the development of a student’s IEP – an indication during these discussion that AT might be needed leads to an evaluation of needs
OSEP Policy Letter
1997 As with any other special education service, the need for AT must be determined on a case-by-case basis, considering the unique needs of each child
Tex. SEA

25 IDELR875

1997 On a case-by-case basis, a laptop computer may be required over a desktop computer
Ark. SEA


1997 Methodological specifics can be included in an IEP regarding the use of specific computers and/or software
Culbreath Letter
OSEP Policy Letter
1997 If the students needs a device at home for FAPE, the district must provide it at no cost

Parents cannot be charges for normal use, and wear and tear, but state law, not IDEA, will generally govern parent liability for theft, loss, or damage due to negligence or misuse of AT at home or in other settings.

Assistive Technology Act



1998 Reauthorization of the Tech Act

Under Title I in the new ATA, states and funded territories are required to conduct the following activities:

  1. Support a public awareness program designed to provide information related to the availability and benefits of assistive technology devices and assistive technology services.
  2. Promote interagency coordination that improves access to assistive technology devices and services for individuals of all ages with disabilities.
  3. Provide technical assistance and training including the development and implementation of laws, regulations, policies, practices, procedures, or organizational structures that promote access to assistive technology devices and services.
  4. Provide outreach support to statewide community-based organizations that provide assistive devices or services to individuals with disabilities or assist individuals in using assistive technology devices and services including focusing on individuals from underrepresented and rural populations
Rehabilitation Act
- amendments to Workforce Investment Act

Section 508

Electronic And Information Technology




Section 508 requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.

Section 508 establishes requirements for any electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured, or used by the Federal government.

States receiving assistance under the Assistive Technology Act State Grant program are required to comply with section 508 and the Board’s standards, according to the Department of Education, which administers the Act.

Developmental Disabilities Act


2000 system to protect the rights and support the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities through the development of a consumer-oriented, coordinated system of services, supports and other assistance to promote independence, productivity, integration and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities.

OSEP: Office of Special Education Programs

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Copyright 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008