Assistive Technology

Brigid Peterson
Assistive Technology


How might my student benefit from assistive technology?

Assistive technology should be used as support for access, learning and performing daily tasks. In general, assistive technology is appropriate when it compensates for disabilities so that the individual can function as normally as possible. Assistive technology can help a student to have access to educational opportunities or to benefit from education.

Some skills are too laborious or taxing to accomplish at a rate or with degree of proficiency to allow for participation in the least restrictive environment. With assistive technology, the student can participate more fully and more closely approximate the levels of achievement and interaction of his or her peers.

The use of assistive technology enhances function and increases skills and opportunities.

Assistive technology may help a student do some of the following things:

  • Enables an individual to perform functions that can be achieved by no other means
  • Enables an individual to approximate normal fluency, rate, or standards--a level of accomplishment which could not be achieved by any other means
  • Provides access for participation in programs or activities which otherwise would be closed to the individual
  • Increases endurance or ability to persevere and complete tasks that otherwise are too laborious to be attempted on a routine basis
  • Enables an individual to concentrate on learning or employment tasks, rather than mechanical tasks
  • Provides greater access to information
  • Supports normal social interactions with peers and adults
  • Supports participation in the least restrictive educational environment.

Assistive technology is considered a related service and should be initiated and considered as any related service might be.  It supports the student's educational program.


A formal, legal definition of assistive technology was first published in the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (The Tech Act). This act was amended in 1994; in 1998, it was repealed and replaced with the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 ("AT Act"). Throughout this history, the original definition of assistive technology remained consistent.  The Federal Law known as public law 108-446, entitled the 'Improvement Act of 2004' or the 'Individuals with Disabilities Education Act' (IDEA) further supported the definition of assistive technology.

Assistive technology includes both devices and services. As defined in IDEA:

  • An assistive technology device means 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 a child with a disability. (34 CFR 300.5) 

        The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of that device.

        Some examples of assistive technology devices might be:

Computer adaptations, alternative keyboards, switches
Environmental control
Writing aids that might include helping a student with the mechanics of writing and/or the composition process
Reading aids
Math aids
Vision aids
Hearing aids
Mobility aids
Speech generating devices
Positioning and seating assists

  • An assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. 
    (34 CFR 300.6)

     Some examples of assistive technology services might be:                   

evaluation of the technology needs of the individual, including a functional evaluation in the individual's customary environment;

purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices for individuals with disabilities;

selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing of assistive technology devices;

coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;

assistive technology training or technical assistance with assistive technology for an individual with a disability, or, where appropriate, the family of an individual with disabilities;

training or technical assistance for professionals, employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or otherwise are substantially involved in the major life functions of individuals with disabilities.

How do I initiate assistive technology services?

 Assistive technology is considered a related service to a student's special education program.  An evaluation can be completed by the student's school team.  This evaluation is initiated through the IEP domain process when the IEP team is in agreement that it should be completed for that student.  A parent can initiate this process through discussing their concerns and questions with their child's case manager.  A staff member can initiate the process through the IEP team.  If either a parent or staff member has questions about the initiation of assistive technology, please contact your school's special education supervisor or the special education facilitator.