2002 Conference Proceedings

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ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY IN THE SPECIAL EDUCATION SYSTEM

Michael Kluk, Senior Attorney
Protection & Advocacy, Inc.
100 Howe Ave., #235N
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 488-9950
mikek@pai-ca.org

Rights

Special education is instruction that is specially designed to meet the unique needs of students with disabilities at no cost to parents. This includes classroom instruction, home instruction, instruction in hospitals and institutions, vocational education, and physical education.

When hearing aids and eyeglasses are necessary for your child to receive an appropriate special education program, the school district must provide them.

Any equipment purchased by the school belongs to the school district. If your child moves to another school district, the equipment stays with the district that bought it. The school should allow your child to take the equipment home, however, if he needs it to benefit his education. For example, he might need it to do homework or to practice communication skills outside the classroom.

The school district is responsible for repairing and maintaining the devices it buys.

School districts may also have to provide assistive technology for students as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Students who are not eligible for Special Education under the IDEA (perhaps because they do not fit into one of the defined categories, or because their learning problems are not severe enough) may still qualify for assistive technology to allow them equal access and opportunity to participate with non-disabled peers.

Schools get specific funding to purchase assistive technology for students with low-incidence disabilities. The school district cannot deny devices and services because your child does not meet the low-incidence disability criteria, however, or because the school district has already spent all its low incidence funds.

Process

You should ask to include any necessary special education services, including assistive technology, in your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP). If you do not know exactly what type of device your child needs, ask for an assessment of your child's need for assistive technology.

An IEP team develops the IEP. The IEP team must include you as the parent and your child (if appropriate). Your child's need for technology must be considered at every IEP meeting.

The Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is a legal document. The IEP sets out your child's present levels of educational performance, goals and objectives, special education and related services, and placement for each school year, and any assistive technology that your child needs as part of her educational program.

In addition, if your child is blind or has visual impairments, the IEP team must provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille. The only exception is when the IEP team determines, after evaluating your child's current and future needs, that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for her.

The school district may consider cost in deciding whether to provide a device but only if a less expensive device is also appropriate. Cost may not be a factor if the other choice is not appropriate.

Appeal

If you ask for assistive technology devices or services and the school district denies this request, your child's IEP team should discuss any disagreements and try to resolve them informally. If you disagree with the proposed IEP, you can file for a due process hearing with the state Special Education Hearing office.

You must send a hearing request in writing to:

Special Education Hearing Office
Institute for Administrative Justice
McGeorge School of Law
3200 Fifth Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95817

When you believe the school district has violated a part of special education law or procedure you (or any other person, public agency or organization) can file a complaint with the California State Department of Education (CDE). Examples of non-compliance could be when the school district does not provide a device that is in your child's IEP or does not follow time lines for assessment and referral.

To file a compliance complaint with CDE, write to:

Complaint Management and Mediation Unit
Special Education Division
California State Department of Education
515 L Street, Suite 270
Sacramento, CA 95814

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