AT Acquisition

Assistive Technology Acquisition

What are the responsibilities of an LEA and the IEP team for provision of assistive technology?
AT provision is not simply the purchase of equipment or software. It is an ongoing process that engages school teams in thoughtful consideration (at least annually), and proceeds with targeted trials in customary contexts, leading to data-based decision making, acquisition of appropriate AT, and AT implementation with ongoing monitoring and supports, including capacity-building technical assistance when needed.

High quality, effective AT services include:

  • Consideration of need for AT for every student with an IEP

  • Assessment of AT needs, involving the student’s team and family

  • Access to AT for trials, conducted in the student’s customary environments

  • Documentation of AT devices and services in the IEP, reflecting decision-making by the IEP team

  • Acquisition of AT in a timely manner

  • Provision of training or technical assistance for staff in the use of the AT

  • Ongoing monitoring of student AT use to ensure effectiveness

What resources are available for IEP teams to try out AT before acquiring an AT device?

Trials with assistive technology (AT) devices assist teams in making informed decisions about the effectiveness of various device features before purchasing devices. AT may be available to borrow from a variety of sources:

  • PaTTAN Short Term Loan (STL) Program is a library of AT available to local educational agencies (LEA) for trial and assessment. See PaTTAN’s STL program.

  • Technology for Our Whole Lives (TechOWL), formerly called ‘Pennsylvania’s Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT),’ lends AT devices to all Pennsylvanians with disabilities. See TechOWL’s lending library.

  • AT Manufacturers and Vendors may have equipment available to borrow or rent. AT software is often available as a free 30-day download. Visit the companies’ websites to learn more.

Who is responsible to pay for AT?

Once an IEP team determines that a student needs AT, it is the responsibility of the LEA to provide it at no cost to the student or family. However, the means of acquisition is not mandated by IDEA, so it is possible that AT can be provided using any of a variety of options, including outside funding sources such as grants or foundations, use of equipment already owned by the school, or use of family funding or insurance. Regardless of the source of AT acquisition, it is the responsibility of the LEA to maintain the AT in operating condition for use by the student, as specified in the IEP.

Who owns the AT?

When AT for use in school is purchased using a student’s medical insurance, even in part, the device becomes the property of the insured student. This does not change the LEA’s responsibility for maintaining the AT in working order for the student’s use. Likewise, AT that is purchased by a school is owned by the school, and it may not transition with the student to a new LEA or upon graduation. Planning for these transitions is crucial for students who need and use AT.

Can school-owned AT be used at home?

The use of school-owned AT in home settings is addressed by IDEA. On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased assistive technology devices in a child’s home or in other settings is required if the child’s IEP team determines that the child needs access to those devices in order to receive FAPE. (34 C.F.R. § 300.105(b). As such, school-owned AT can and should be used at home, if it is determined by the IEP team that the use in home settings is needed for FAPE.

Local Education Agencies  are responsible for ensuring that Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams have the information and support needed to comply with state and federal laws in meeting the needs of students with disabilities for AT devices and services.

The information above is available as a PaTTAN publication entitled
Assistive Technology for Students with Disabilities: A Closer Look at Acquisition and Funding