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Assistive Technology in the School Setting


The use and implementation of assistive technology in public schools is supported by law.  First, the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, (officially called The Improving Access to Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 2004) provided a definition of AT devices and services.  Then The U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (PL 101-476), or IDEA which was first passed in 1975, re-authorized and amended in June 1997 and again in 2004 adopted the Tech Act language for AT. It also indicated that the educational team consisting of professionals employed by the school district and the parents or guardians of the student, must consider the need for assistive technology at least yearly at each IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting.  This is a brief process whereby at least one person on the IEP team should have knowledge about AT. This process varies from district to district. The team is essentially determining if assistive technology devices and services are needed to remove barriers to student performance and whether AT is needed to participate actively, work on expected tasks and make progress toward mastery of educational goals, all based on the student's present level of performance. Typically, IEP teams indicate one of 3 decisions:

  • AT is not needed because the student is making adequate progress with the available instruction and interventions.
  • AT is needed. The team indicates in the IEP how, when and where the new or current devices and services will be provided.
  • AT is needed, but the team is unsure of what AT is most appropriate. They may request an AT assessment or evaluation or identify devices they wish to trial to determine the appropriateness.  



In postsecondary education, the student bears most of the responsibility for self-disclosure and for the quality and integration of the assistive technology.  Self-advocacy is an important skill needed to ensure successful implementation of the AT in the post-secondary setting. Knowledge of civil rights legislation including Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act will guide the student as he or she transitions from secondary ed to the postsecondary ed environment. These laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. 

In the postsecondary environment, if a student wants academic adjustments, he or she must disclose the disability.  The academic adjustment is based on the disability and individual needs.  Adjustments may include auxiliary aids and services, such as providing note takers, recording devices, or other adaptive software or hardware such as screen-readers or speech recognition. The postsecondary school does not have to provide personal devices or services such as tutoring and typing. The publications below answer many of the questions you may have about transitioning to a postsecondary setting.

Additional Reading

Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology in Post Secondary Education

Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities, prepared by the U.S. Office of Education and the Office of Civil Rights, revised, 2011. 

College Resources for Students with Disabilities
Website that covers legal rights, tips for campus life while applying and before enrollment, and many software and mobile device apps for specific disabilities. 

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities
Thinking about online education.  Take a look at this guide with valuable information about accreditation of colleges and universities. 

Scholarship Opportunities for People with Disabilities
n interactive site to find scholarships for higher education.

A Guide to Visual Disabilities, How Colleges Help Visually Impaired Students Succeed
This guide identifies what colleges are doing for the visually impaired, and offers insight and tips as well as a list of scholarships and grants.