Improving Systems, Practices and Outcomes

Federal & Laws Regulations

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Devices and services that are now commonly referred to as assistive technology (AT) have been included as part of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) since the initial enactment of federal special education legislation in 1975. However, it wasn't until the 1991 amendments to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that the terms "assistive technology device" and "assistive technology service" were first used in education law. The accompanying federal regulations that were adopted in 1992 included provisions that AT devices and services be made available to any child with a disability, if required as a part of the child's special education, related services, or supplementary aids and services. See the language in the current, 2006 Part B regulations under WWW: 34CFR§ 300.105.

With the reauthorization of the IDEA in 1997 and the adoption of new regulations in 1999, school districts were required to consider the need for assistive technology whenever a child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was developed. This has not changed under IDEA 2004 and the 2006 regulations WWW: (34CFR§ 300.324(a)(2)(v)).

The Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities Program of the IDEA (Part C) also requires the provision of assistive technology for children from birth to three, if deemed appropriate as part of a child's early intervention program. See Section 303.13(b)(1) of the 2011 Part C Regulations.

For further clarification see Federal Definitions of Assistive Technology.

The Assistive Technology Act

In 1988 Congress passed the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act (P.L. 100-407) to increase access to, availability of, and funding for assistive technology for all individuals with disabilities, including very young children. The Act was amended in 1994 (P.L. 103-218). In 1998 Congress enacted the Assistive Technology Act (P.L. 105-394) and in 2004, the AT Act was amended. See the Assistive Technology Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-364). More information about WWW: the history of the AT Act is available on the Web site of the WWW: Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP).

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

WWW: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act is a civil rights law that prohibits any agency or program receiving federal funds from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Under this law schools may be required to make special accommodations, including the provision of assistive technology, if deemed appropriate to ensure that children with disabilities have equal access to an education. For additional information, see WWW: Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and the Education of Children with Disabilities

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Additionally, children with disabilities, even those who are not eligible for special education under IDEA may have a right to assistive technology under either Title II or Title III of the WWW: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which protects the rights of individuals with disabilities of all ages in many different aspects of their lives.

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Center on Technology and Disability published the following resources showing how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) supports the effective use of assistive and instructional technology to enhance teaching and learning.

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