Assistive Technology

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What is Assistive Technology (AT)?

AT is any device or system that can maintain or improve the capabilities of a person with a disability and the training or other support to ensure its availability. When school officials are deciding whether to place a student with a disability in a regular classroom, before they look at other placements, they must consider how assistive technology can help the student succeed in the least restrictive environment.

Florida law requires that if an IEP team makes a recommendation in accordance with State Board of Education rules for a student with disabilities to receive an assistive technology assessment, that assessment must be completed within 60 school days after the team’s recommendation.

A student’s IEP or 504 Team can determine the need for assistive technology based on a professional evaluation. If the student needs the technology to access the curriculum, for home study, or in the transition to adulthood, the school may pay for both the equipment and the training to use it. A student with a disability may also need — and has a right to — some form of technology in order to participate fully in school activities.

In that case, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may require that the school provide the technology, as well as any training necessary to use it. DVR and DBS are required to equip an eligible person for employment.

Assistive technology services include evaluation, maintenance, repair and training for students, their families and the professionals working with them.

Examples of AT

  • Augmentative communication systems, including talking computers
  • Assistive listening devices, including hearing aids, personal FM units, closed-caption TVs and teletype machines (TDDs)
  • Specially adapted learning games, toys and recreation equipment
  • Computer and software
  • Computer-assisted instruction
  • Electronic tools (scanners with speech synthesizers, tape recorders, word processors)
  • Curriculum and textbook adaptations (audio format, large print format, Braille)
  • Copies of overheads, transparencies and notes
  • Adaption of the learning environment, such as  special  desks, modified learning stations, computer touch screens or different computer keyboards
  • Durable medical equipment

Who Pays for AT?

Payment for assistive technology may come from any of several sources — the special education system, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Division of Blind Services, Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or the SSI program’s “Plan for Achieving Self Support.”

Which agency will pay? The answer depends on the disability, age and situation of the person who needs it. It also depends on how the technology is expected to impact that person. If, for instance, the technology makes it possible for a student to be educated in the least restrictive environment, as the law requires, then it may be considered the school’s responsibility.

A major source of financing for assistive technology is Medicaid, which regularly pays for such items as custom and power wheelchairs, augmentative and alternative communication devices, specialized beds, bath equipment, high and low-tech lifting devices, and other technology that helps overcome the effects of disabling conditions.

Sources of Medicaid funding vary based on whether the person with a disability is under or over age 21, which state he or she lives in, and which program or waivers he or she qualifies for.

Medicare helps pay for durable medical equipment, defined as equipment that:

  • can withstand repeated use
  • is primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose
  • generally would not be useful to a person who isn’t ill or injured
  • is appropriate for use in the home

Transfer of AT

When an AT device is needed by the student in another district, postsecondary institution, state or community agency, employment facility or community living facility, Florida law requires that state agencies agree to facilitate a student or parent's request to transfer or retain use of the AT device.

Student and parents or guardians must put their request in writing.

Florida's interagency agreement has been signed by five state agencies:

  • Florida Infants and Toddlers Early Intervention Progarm (Department of Health)
  • Division of Blind Services (Department of Education)
  • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (Department of Education)
  • Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (Department of Education & Agency for Workforce Innovation)
  • Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (Department of Education)

Florida's signed interagency agreement and a form that may be used to request transfer or retention of an AT device can be found in this Florida Department of Education memorandum titled Interagency Agreement for the Transfer of Assistive Technology.

A Technical Assistance Paper regarding Transfer of Assistive Technology published by the Florida Department of Education also contains additional helpful information.