Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology and Transition

Ensuring that Assistive Technology is in place and funded by coverage or other means is part of a transition plan from school age and pediatric care to adult services and is critical to ensure continuity of quality of care and supportive services.

Funding for Assistive Technology and Medically Necessary Devices

If a school has purchased a device for a student, these devices may technically belong to the school. Private insurance or Medicaid are typically used to purchase the device. If insurance or Medicaid makes any payment, the device is owned by the individual. Also, assistive technology can be included in a transition plan, and ACCES-VR can agree to purchase the device. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, as well as many other devices, including computers, software, special writing devices, are needed not just in school but are a 24/7 need for children with medically fragile conditions. Funding should be a non-issue if the right resources and partners are brought together. See AT Resources for more information (43).

Background and Terminology

Assistive Technology: Assistive Technology or adaptive technology (AT) includes any equipment, or product system that increases, maintains or improves the functional capabilities of a person with a disability. The product or equipment can be an item that is purchased commercially off the shelf, or is modified or a system of items that are customized to meet a person’s specific needs. There is a wide range of medical, educational and therapeutic equipment, including computers, specialized software and switch activation, FM devices, augmentative communication systems, and motorized wheelchairs. Additionally, laminated picture boards, head pointers, specialized drinking cups, adapted spoons, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, apnea monitors, computers and crutches are aso considered assistive technology.

Some items are considered “low tech” such as a foam wedge for positioning your wrist appropriately on a desk in order to write, to something considered “high tech” such as a Segway scooter or power wheelchair for independent mobility (44).

Assistive Technology Service: A service that directly assists a person with a disability in the assessment of appropriate technology and devices to meet specific functional or medical needs; the selection, acquisition, and training in appropriately using an assistive technology device.

Assistive Technology Assessment: An assessment by qualified personnel to identify the technology, software, and equipment that would meet the special needs of a person.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on Assistive Technology

School districts are required under IDEA to provide Assistive Technology to classified students who require technology in order to acquire a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), and support the inclusion and participation of students with disabilities in regular education classrooms. The student’s Individual Education Plan must indicate the AT devices and services are needed to support a student’s special education, as related services or supplementary aids and services (43,45).

  • If purchased exclusively with school district funds, the device is owned by the district and they are responsible for maintenance. AT must be provided by the school district at no cost to the family.
  • AT must be considered at every IEP Team meeting, and decisions determined on an individual basis to ensure a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
  • If the IEP team agrees that the equipment is needed for home use it must be provided
  • The IEP must identify both the AT equipment, training, and support services required to be provided.
  • AT for students covered under special education can include both the hardware and educational software of computers. AT covered under IDEA must directly help a student with disabilities access the general education curriculum.

Youth with disabilities, who are not eligible for special education under IDEA, may be entitled to the provision of assistive technology under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act or under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Home Medical Technology: Advanced medical technology and portability has made possible living at home for many children and young adults with medically fragile conditions an option not available 20 years ago. Home medical equipment today is increasingly more specialized and sophisticated, as are the skills and processes needed to maintain the equipment. As part of discharge planning, equipment technicians can prepare families to use a wide range of equipment and technology processes, such as Hoyer lifts, feeding tubes, and management of intravenous medications, oxygen equipment, medication dispensers, and telemedicine equipment. A team of clinicians, therapists, and equipment technicians from vendors ensure the technology is maintained and properly working. All equipment, new or used, needs to be inspected and meet the manufacturers’ specifications for quality and safety standards.

Technology Dependent: Technology dependent is a term that is still used for people who cannot live without specific equipment, such as oxygen and ventilators, telemedicine monitoring equipment, battery-and oxygen cylinder backups, and replacement equipment.  For individuals who are technology dependent, emergency and disaster plans must be in place to ensure that necessary equipment and technology will continue to function in an emergency.