Federal and state laws support providing assistive technology to individuals with disabilities. Only a few are mentioned here. You can read more about your child’s rights to assistive technology by getting copies of these and other laws and regulations from your state or national legislators.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (as amended in 2008), the ADA, proposes to eliminate “. . .discrimination against individuals with disabilities . . . to address the major areas of discrimination faced day-to-day by people with disabilities.” The ADA’s definition of “auxiliary aids and services,” its mandates for “acquisition or modification of equipment and devices” and “reasonable accommodations” support the provision of assistive technology devices and services to individuals with disabilities.
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was enacted so that states will assist individuals with disabilities to “prepare for and engage in gainful employment.” Because of this law, Vocational Rehabilitation is able to pay for some assistive devices and services for eligible people.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires that any “program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” comply with non-discrimination. Section 504 Regulations require that public schools provide students who have disabilities an educational opportunity equal to the educational opportunity provided to students without disabilities.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) requires free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) for students with disabilities. IDEA mandates education in the least restrictive environment, requires schools to use supplementary aids and services, special education and related services to help assure that students with disabilities participate in and benefit from public education. Its purpose is also to make students ready for employment and independent living.
Maine Special Education Regulations (Chapter 101) assure each Maine student an equal opportunity to education. These Regulations give specific details about how Maine education law supports non-discriminatory education for students with disabilities.
The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Act ensures that Maine’s Career and Technical Education programs are accessible to students with disabilities. The law ensures supplementary services including classroom, curriculum and equipment modifications, supportive personnel, instructional aides and instructional devices.
Families of children and young adults with disabilities, their professional staff and advocates know that your child may have a right to assistive technology under various laws. Your child has an expectation to grow up to be happy, to be as independent and self-sufficient as possible. Available and accessible assistive devices and services may be necessary for your child to realize that independent, self-sufficient life.
Parents whose young children have disabilities get practice early being part of a team that plans for the equipment and services their children require. Even shy parents, after a little practice, realize the value of their experience with and knowledge about their child’s strengths and needs.
Team participation in Early Childhood Teams (ECTs) prepares parents for later participation in IEP Teams. Team participation in ECTs and IEPs is one of the most important things you can do to assure that your child gets needed equipment and services.
Parents can make a difference in the lives of all families whose children and young adults have disabilities. By telling other parents, policy makers, politicians and professionals how assistive technology has equalized the differences in their children’s lives, parents affect the way people live, work and interact with children and young adults who have disabilities. By talking about happy, useful and productive lives, supported by assistive technology devices and services that we rely on and our children succeed on, parents help make life accessible to all families.
If your child is not yet school age, you should be in touch with your local Child Development Services (CDS) office . CDS will help you find the resources to get the devices and services your child and family need. CDS is able to direct you to due process resources if your needs are not met.
Participating in the IEP Team helps assure that even when your child is older than 5, the equipment and services needed will be “transitioned” to public school.
If your older-than-5 child’s need for equipment is not school related, an AT professional will be able to help you fill your child’s needs. Your pediatrician, other health specialist, speech/language pathologist, physical or occupational therapist should have information about evaluating your child’s needs. Professional staff from the Bureau of Rehabilitation’s Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired or Division for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Late Deafened should have information about finding the resources to meet those needs.
If your child’s assistive technology needs are school related, you should contact your school’s special education case manager, special education or special services director, 504 coordinator, school principal, or your superintendent. The Maine Department of Education’s special education staff can give you information to help you get the school-related assistive technology your child or young adult needs.
Regional Transition Councils assist families whose young adults are moving out of school and into the world of adult life and community living. Counselors with Vocational Rehabilitation assist young adults who are looking for the employment-related or post-secondary related assistive devices and services they require.
During the IEP Team meeting for young adults, make sure that the participants are aware of the agreement between the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Office of Special Services. The agreement allows schools to sell (at depreciated value) any employment related assistive technology to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation is an especially important potential funder for students with post-secondary plans for employment or education goals.
Alpha One has advocacy information for young adults needing assistive technology as they work their way toward independence. The Disability Rights Center of Maine (DRC) can help families who are having trouble getting the devices and services their children and young adults need. The advocates and attorneys at DRC know about Maine and federal laws that assure the rights of people with disabilities. They can give you information about civil rights and can support your advocacy for necessary assistive technology.
Parent organizations such as Maine Parent Federation are another source of helpful advocacy information and parent-to-parent support.
Getting the devices and services your child or your young adult needs means being part of the planning team. It means talking with other families and users of assistive technology about devices and services, learning how they found the best devices and services, figuring out where to go when resources are few. Getting assistive devices and services is not always an easy job. But help is not far away. Work with your child’s planning team and talk with other families and users of assistive technology for encouragement and information.