According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), when appropriate “each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services” (Sec. 602[A]; 34 CFR §300.105) be provided to students with disabilities.
Assistive technology (AT) is a broad and inclusive term that covers everything from specialized drinking cups to Velcro; from computers to wheelchairs. In fact, AT is anything that helps a child with a disability to perform a skill or participate in an activity (Campbell, Milbourne and Wilcox, 2008).
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. 602[A]; 34 CFR §300.5). The use of AT can be advantageous for children with disabilities regardless of their diagnosis. The type of AT a student may use will depend on the environment (e.g., an electronic communication device for the classroom and a picture communication system for the cafeteria); the needs and abilities of the student; and the demands of the task (e.g., a wheelchair for mobility and a text-to-speech device for reading). AT must enable students to access, participate in, and progress in the general education curriculum.
AT supports and services are an integral component of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The standards recognize the significance of AT as supports and services for students with disabilities in meeting high academic standards to demonstrate their conceptual and procedural knowledge and skills in mathematics and language arts. The CCSS clearly state that instruction for students with disabilities should incorporate supports and accommodations, including AT devices and services to ensure access to the general education curriculum and the CCSS ( Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010).
The Quality Indicators for Assistive Technologies (QIAT) were developed, revised, and validated by professionals representing various perspectives and roles within the field of assistive technology, who were concerned about the provision of AT to students ( QIAT Consortium Leadership Team, 2000). The purpose of QIAT is to improve the educational achievement of students with disabilities by enabling districts to evaluate and develop their AT services ( QIAT Leadership Team, 2012). As this document intends to provide a framework for providing AT services for students with disabilities in the educational setting, it seems fitting to embed QIAT throughout.
Consideration of the need for assistive technology during the IEP meeting.
- Evaluation of the need for assistive technology.
- Including assistive technology in the IEP.
- Implementing the use of assistive technology.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of assistive technology use.
- Transitioning with assistive technology.
- Administrative support for assistive technology services.
- Professional development and training in assistive technology.
These indicators are evidence-based and are used by various states (e.g., Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, and Texas) to guide AT services for students with disabilities. The indicators include descriptions of common errors that may occur, self-evaluation matrices, and specific statements and intent in the above-mentioned eight areas.
Service delivery professionals can use the indicators to ensure that:
- AT services that districts develop and deliver are legally correct according to the mandates and expectations of federal and state laws;
- AT services align to district policies;
- team members involved in AT processes are responsible for following the code of ethics for their specific profession; and
- AT services, at all stages, involve the ongoing collaborative work by teams that include families and caregivers, school personnel, and other needed individuals and service agencies.
Document Purpose and Layout
This document provides a framework for making decisions about the AT needs of students with disabilities. It outlines procedures for making initial consideration decisions, evaluation, documentation, implementation, and evaluation of effectiveness. An essential focus of this document is also to assist educators, parents, and advocates to understand the legislation and rights of students with a disability regarding the use and availability of technology.
In providing this framework, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) recognizes that some districts already have AT practices in place. At the same time, it realizes that AT services vary from district to district, in both procedure and delivery, for those students that require AT. This document is an attempt to ensure that all children being provided services under IDEA have access to AT to increase their functional capabilities, and that all students being served under IDEA receive appropriate AT services so they can access, participate in, and progress in general education. The intent is that this process will enable school districts to make informed decisions about the AT considerations, implementation, and evaluation for their students, factoring in administrative support and professional development.