U.S. Dept. of Education Issues Assistive Technology Guidance; Dispels Myths, Underscores Importance of Reducing Barriers to Education

U.S. Department of Education's (USDOE) new guidance documents debunk myths about the provision of assistive technology (AT) services and devices to students and underscore the importance of reducing barriers to education.

Released January 22, 2024, "Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services" and the "Dear Colleague" letter accompanying it provide long-needed guidance addressing the important role technology plays in ensuring all learners are afforded "meaningful access and engagement in education".

The document is broken up into the following five categories, hitting everything from the IEP team's responsibility to consider AT devices and services during IEP development, to funding sources for AT devices and services:

  • Assistive Technology Requirements Under Part B of IDEA
  • Common Myths and Facts about Assistive Technology Devices and Services
  • Common Myths and Facts about Deploying Assistive Technology Devices and Services
  • Assistive Technology Requirements Under Part C of IDEA
  • Common Myths and Facts about Assistive Technology Costs and Funding Sources

The information provided hits key needs of educators, parents, and students, and is provided in an easy-to-understand Q&A format. However, instead of questions and answers, myths and facts presented and then paired with sources supporting the facts, and discussions of the facts.

For example, the following is the first myth presented:

"MYTH 1: Assistive Technology (AT) should only be considered at some individualized education program (IEP) Team meetings."

Here's the fact countering MYTH 1:

"FACT: Each time an IEP Team develops, reviews, or revises a child’s IEP, the IEP Team must consider whether the child requires AT devices and services."

Here's the discussion related to the fact:

"Further, when an IEP Team determines AT devices and services are required to enable the child to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), the local educational agency (LEA) is responsible for providing and maintaining the AT device and providing any necessary AT service. The IEP Team has discretion in determining the type of AT device and service that the child needs to receive meaningful educational benefit. Specifically, IEPs must include a statement of the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services, which may include AT devices and services, based on peer-reviewed research, to the extent practicable, that will allow the child to: (i) advance appropriately toward attaining the annual goals in a child’s IEP; (ii) be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; (iii) participate in extracurricular and other nonacademic activities; and (iv) be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and nondisabled children."

Here are the sources supporting the fact and associated discussion:

  • 34 C.F.R. § 300.105
  • 34 C.F.R. § 300.324(a)(2)(v) and (b)(2).
  • 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.320(a)(4)

In addition, the documents provide a reminder that AT devices and services can be used with infants, toddlers, and younger children—and that early implementation of AT devices and services leads to better academic outcomes.