Assistive Technology (AT)
If the IEP Team determines that Assistive Technology (AT) is required for home use, and this is written into the Individual Education Program (IEP), the AT must be provided by the school and allowed to go home with the student. Discussion regarding the loss or damage of the AT equipment while the device is at home should be discussed by the IEP Team and liability information recorded in the IEP. If the device is owned by the school, the school’s insurance policy should be checked to determine if the AT equipment is covered.
If the IEP Team has determined that an AT device is required for home use by a student, they may decide that the student can and should bring the device home over vacation periods, including the summer vacation. This decision should be written into the IEP. Once again, discussions regarding liability while the device is at home needs to be held and recorded in the IEP.
A child may bring their own AT from home to school, but schools have no authority require this. If the family agrees to allow the device to travel from home to school, then a discussion regarding liability while the device is transported to or is at school needs to be held and recorded in the IEP. If a separate rider is necessary for the device to be covered under the family’s insurance, then the school district should reimburse the family for this coverage. The family can and may insist that schools provide the necessary devices as part of the child’s IEP even if the child has identical device(s) at home.
Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)
If the IEP Team has determined the student needs AEM (e.g., Braille, large print, digital or audio), these materials, and associated AT, must be provided by the school and allowed to go home.
Training on the use of AT and AEM
Depending on the AT and the role of the family, training on the use of AT and AEM should include but not be limited to the following:
- information on the AT and how it works;
- information about how the device is programmed or set up;
- information about how to recognize and fix minor problems;
- information about how to use the device in the child’s life at home;
- information about how to use the device for the child’s education goals and objectives;
- information about maintenance and repair services in the local community.
Planning for Transition, moving from high school to adulthood, is an essential goal and responsibility for the IEP Team. When a student reaches the age of 14, it is important to have professionals on the IEP Team who are knowledgeable about AT and transition issues. A Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) transition counsellor should be on to the IEP Team.
During the transition years the student moves from school to community. AT needs will vary depending on the environment. When considering transition services for young people, the questions to be answered should not be limited to academic achievement. Critical areas for discussion and transition planning include the goals of the student as he/ she reaches adulthood, where he is now in reaching those goals, and what will be needed between now and the time he completes high school or ages out to be ready to meet those goals? Examples of the types of questions that the IEP Team might consider include but are not limited to:
- Is AT needed at school, home, work or in the community?
- Is there a change in the AT to reflect the changing needs in various settings?
- How long will the student be in the environment, and for why: developing independent living skills, learning how to get around their community, exploring work experiences?
- What transportation issues need to be considered and resolved?
- What are other funding sources that provide AT in work and/ or in the community?
- Would the student benefit from the use of AT loan or demonstration services?
Bookshare, is an free online library of Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) for students with print disabilities. Members may access over a half-million titles, including textbooks, assigned reading, and bestsellers, and read in ways that work for them. They can hear text read aloud, hear and see words as they are highlighted, or read in braille or large font.
Students who have an IEP and receive their AEM through Bookshare are often encouraged to become a Bookshare Member (membership is free for all qualified students). As a Member, the student may download both school-related materials as well as books for personal reading. Schools often create institutional accounts with Bookshare which allows teachers to assign textbooks and other AEM to the students in their class.
Students can access the Bookshare AEM on computers, Chromebooks, smartphones, tablets, and other assistive technology devices. These devices may be owned by the school and assigned to the student as part of their IEP, or the student may use their own device. Using the Bookshare Web Reader allows the student to access the AEM from any location using any device. Therefore, if the student has a device at home, they do not have to bring their school-own device home.
Bookshare is free for all qualified U.S. students thanks to awards from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education.