Technology is used in education for a variety of purposes. Information technology (IT) makes data available to students, teachers and parents. Instructional or educational technology can help students acquire skills or demonstrate their understanding. Teachers integrate technology in their lesson plans to provide effective instruction. Assistive Technology (AT) has a different purpose. AT is used "to meet the needs of and address the barriers confronted by individuals with disabilities (Rehab Act, Sec. 7(30). " In education, the purpose of AT is to give students with disabilities access to learning experiences and the curriculum. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA, 2004) requires Individual Education Plan (IEP) teams to consider whether a student with a disability needs assistive technology as part of the development, review and revision of an IEP.
IDEA 2004 defines assistive technology as devices and services. An assistive technology device, or tool, is "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted or the replacement of such a device." (32 CFR 300.5) An assistive technology service is "any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device." (32 CRF 300.6)
Assistive Technology Resources:
Accessible Instructional Materials
IDEA 2004 also mandates access to instructional materials for students who need them. Accessible instructional materials (AIMs) generally refers to providing print materials in alternate formats that are accessible to the blind or visually impaired, the physically impaired or students with a print disability. Technology is used to create and provide accessible instructional materials which often overlaps with the use of assistive technology. Orland District 135 provides accessible materials to students under the guidance of the AT specialist using resources such as Bookshare (www.bookshare.org), Learning Ally (www.learningally.org) and text-to-speech software. Accessible instructional materials for the visually impaired are provided in cooperation with the AT specialist and vision itinerant.
For more information on AIMs, visit the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials at http://aem.cast.org/