The updated Connecticut Assistive Technology (AT) Guidelines (2021) is an online, interactive, Web-based document divided into two sections: section 1 addresses the needs for children and students ages 3–21 primarily in a school setting, and section 2 focuses on infants and toddlers in the Connecticut early intervention system and those providers. The guidelines are based on and embedded with the Quality Indicators of Assistive Technology (QIAT) with a focus on helping educators, parents, and advocates understand the rights of students with a disability regarding the use and availability of technology.
Assistive technology (AT) is a broad and inclusive term that covers everything from specialized drinking cups to wheelchairs and on a continuum from simple to low-technology (such as highlighters) through the most sophisticated and cutting-edge, high-tech tools (such as computers). The federal definition of an assistive technology device is “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 the functional capabilities of children with disabilities” (Sec. 34 CFR §300.5). It should be noted that the IDEA Improvement Act of 2004 added an exception for surgically implanted devices such as cochlear implants.
While the type of AT a child or student may use depends on the environment, the needs and abilities of the child, and the demands of the task, many types of AT are available to address needs in all areas of development: cognitive, physical, communication, social/emotional, and/or adaptive.
To ensure that a child is able to access and benefit from needed AT device(s), the law places equal importance on the provisions of AT services. Under 34 CFR §300.6, an assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an AT device. This includes:
- evaluating the needs of a child with a disability, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child’s customary environment;
- purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of AT devices by children with disabilities;
- selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing AT devices;
- coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with AT devices such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
- training or technical assistance for a child with a disability or, if appropriate, that child’s family; and
- training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education or rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of that child.
These guidelines describe the continuum of assistive technology from universally designed devices used by all through differentiated adaptations of low-tech/no-tech, moderate technology of simple electronics through the high tech of specialized individual adaptations, or complex electronics. The guidelines review current federal and state laws (section 1, appendix 4) and policies regarding the Connecticut Birth to Three system (Section 2—Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers) as well as preschool and school-aged students (Section 1—Guidelines for Ages 3–22). Key topics include consideration of AT needs, assessment/evaluation, funding for AT, documentation, implementation and effectiveness, transition planning, administrative responsibilities, universal design for learning (UDL), formats for accessible educational materials (AEM), the Connecticut Data Privacy Law, implications for distance and blended learning, and other resources.