Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Federal Definitions of Assistive Technology

Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988

The Technology Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) first described an assistive technology device as "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 functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities."

The Tech Act described an assistive technology service as "any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device."

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004 uses essentially the same definition as the Tech Act, adding an exception that excludes surgically implanted medical devices. An assistive technology device is defined as "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 functional capabilities of a child with a disability. Exception. - The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, or the replacement of such device." (WWW: § 602(1)).

An assistive technology service is defined by IDEA 2004 as "any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device." (WWW: § 602(2)). The term includes:

  1. the evaluation of the needs of such child, including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environment;
  2. purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such child;
  3. selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
  4. coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
  5. training or technical assistance for such child, or, where appropriate, the family of such child; and
  6. training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services), employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of such child.

[Note: The final regulations on IDEA 2004 also state that "related services" do not include a medical device that is surgically implanted, the optimization of that device's functioning (e.g., mapping), maintenance of that device, or the replacement of that device (WWW: 34CFR§ 300.34(b)). For regulatory language related to the routine checking of hearing aids and the external components of surgically implanted medical devices see WWW: 34CFR§ 300.113]

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center

  • CB 8040
  • Chapel Hill, NC 27599-8040
  • phone: 919.962.2001
  • fax: 919.966.7463
  • email: ectacenter@unc.edu

The ECTA Center is a program of the FPG Child Development Institute of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, funded through cooperative agreement number H326P120002 from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the Department of Education's position or policy.

  • FPG Child Development Institute
  • IDEAs that Work