key question, often left unstated during assistive technology
consideration, is: Who can benefit from assistive technology? Federal law is silent on this issue assuming that the local
IEP team is in the best position to decide if a student’s
needs can be met through technology interventions or other
school districts have failed to implement systemic
screening processes to identify students who could
from assistive technology. Rather, the current system is
predicated on individual advocacy. In practice this means
that someone on the IEP team must raise the issue of assistive
technology and advocate on behalf of the student. Anecdotal
evidence suggests that only 3-5% of students with disabilities
have assistive technology written on the IEP. As a result,
it is clear that the vast majority of students with disabilities
do not have routine access to appropriate assistive technologies.
5% or less of students with disabilities are assistive
technology users, this situation suggests a scenario that
in order to receive assistive technology devices and services,
one may need to have an advocate who challenges the system
on their behalf. The purpose of this article is to provide
an overview of issues associated with advocating for assistive
technology. This information should be useful to students
for self-advocacy, as well as parents, advocates, teachers,
and IEP teams.
the Rules: Federal Law Requires the Consideration of
School staff may not be familiar with the laws and regulations
or may not perceive the need for assistive technology.
However, assistive technology consideration is not optional.
Federal law mandates the provision of assistive technology
in the following regards:
technology devices and/or services essential for a student
to receive Free Appropriate Public Education
(FAPE) shall be made available. [Source: 20 USC 1412(a)(1)]
• Assistive technology shall support a student’s
participation in learning in the Least Restrictive Environment
(LRE). [Source: 20 USC 1412(a)(5)]
• Each public agency shall ensure that assistive
technology devices or assistive technology services, or
both., are made available to a child with a disability
if required as part of the child’s (1) special education,
(2) related services, or (3) supplementary aids and services.
[Source: 34 CFR 300.308]
Know What to Say
your legal assistive technology rights is only part of
the effort. You must also use this information
to educate the IEP team about their roles and responsibilities.
The chart below illustrates some ways an advocate
can redirect comments that may take the assistive technology
consideration process off-track.
Clarify Performance Deficits and the Need for Performance
Parents and teachers are well aware of the areas where
students struggle. Therefore, define the categories of
tools that are needed for an assistive technology toolkit.
Some areas you might include: Communication (Oral, Written),
Mobility, Visual Access, Auditory Access, Organization,
Memory, Reading, Writing, Solving Problems, Note Taking,
Test Taking, Homework, and Study Skills.
on Performance – Not Stuff
the appropriate assistive technology can produce a blinding
devotion to a specific technology product. However,
the key component of the definition of assistive technology
is that it enhances performance. As a result, focus on
issues of persistent educational failure as evidence that
a student is not receiving and benefitting from FAPE. Likewise,
emphasize the importance of No Child Left Behind’s
expectation that all students will achieve grade level
standards. Request that assistive technology be provided
to close the achievement gap. Don’t let the technology
blind you to the fact that the purpose of the technology
is to enhance performance.
Evidence of a performance problem can be presented anecdotally
using stories, using artifacts liked graded papers and
report cards, and with quantifiable evidence like the amount
of time spent writing a report, number of words generated,
number of spelling errors, etc. Struggling students may
spend excessive time completing a task with the final result
still being unacceptable. To make the case that assistive
technology enhances performance, data will be needed that
shows performance with and without technology, over time.
Use data to tell the story. If possible, graph quantitative
data so others can easily understand the trends.
is little evidence to indicate that all students who
could benefit from assistive technology have access
to appropriate devices and services. When an IEP team (a)
understands the importance and value of assistive technology,
(b) has technical resources to evaluate student needs and
select appropriate devices, and (c) has administrative
support for providing assistive technology support services,
the assistive technology outcomes are noteworthy for students
and their families. However, when one or more of these
critical ingredients are missing, the IEP process can become
a battleground regarding the provision of assistive technology.
Don’t give up. Continue to explore assistive technology
possibilities outside of school. Continue to collect evidence.
And, continue to advocate.
|If a school official says...
||An advocate might respond...
|We’ve considered your child’s
need for assistive technology and have determined
will not benefit...
||...I would like to review the documentation that
supports your decision. In particular, I would like
to see the data regarding performance with assistive
technology and performance without.
|Best practice suggests you always begin with no-tech
||...Consideration should not be a linear process of
trial and error. Rather, all possible solutions should
be explored as quickly as possible to minimize the
impact of persistent failure.
can’t afford that...
||...Cost cannot be considered a factor in AT consideration.
|We are not sure what types of AT are out there...
||...What steps will you take to fulfill the AT consideration
not clear that (the student) actually does better
with the AT...
||. ..I would like to see the data that supports such
a conclusion. Typically, we need to review performance
data over time, with and without the technology, to
come to such a conclusion.
don’t want him to become dependent on a
text-reader... when will he ever learn to read...
||...Since the student doesn't have the independent
reading skills and the expectations in grade 4 and
beyond are to access large amounts of text, how will
you demonstrate that he has access to the curriculum
without a text-reader?
|Your child is not the only one that struggles with
||...I can appreciate your concern, but my primary
interest is the success of my child. As a result, what
are you going to do to ensure that my child is successful?
|We will provide some specialized technology but there
is no need to write it on the IEP...
||...I am pleased to hear that assistive technology
will be provided. However, to ensure the rights of
all parties are protected, our plan for acquiring and
using AT should be written on the IEP.
|We are not authorized to make a decision about AT...
||...I am disappointed to hear that. I guess we will
need to adjourn the meeting until an appropriate administrator
Edyburn, D. (2009). Assistive technology advocacy. Special
Education Technology Practice, 11(2), 15-17.
Copyright 2009. Reprinted with permission of Knowledge
by Design, Inc.
Dave Edyburn is a member of the Board of Directors at The