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When Must a New York School Cover the Costs of Assistive Technology for Students Living with a Disability?

Published February 7, 2020

Students living with one or more disabilities may face a number of challenges in the classroom. Often, these challenges can be overcome with the use of assistive technology. The New York Department of Education considered assistive technology to include “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 students with a disability.”

Assistive technology can help students feel more comfortable participating in class, which helps to maintain their overall interest in school. Studies have shown that students who can benefit from assistive technology are more likely to succeed in school and become independent adults. Assistive technology can help students in wide variety of areas, including:

  • Handwriting
  • Reading
  • Mobility
  • Seeing
  • Spelling
  • Math
  • Listening
  • Self-Care
  • Recreation
  • Communication

Of course, assistive technology is often very expensive, leading many parents to ask whether schools will pay for it. Generally, schools must provide assistive technology for students who need it. A student’s need can be based on a New York IEP or a 504 plan. Thus, if an IEP or 504 team determines a student needs certain assistive technology, the school must provide it. The most direct way for a student to obtain assistive technology is through a New York IEP plan.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Act, schools must provide assistive technology devices and services that the IEP team decides the child needs in order to

  1. access the educational content that is being provided by the school,
  2. meaningfully participate in classroom discussions and
  3. demonstrate to teachers and fellow students what the student knows and what they can do. Schools are required to identify students who may need assistive technology; however, parents can also suggest that their child be evaluated for assistive technology if the school does not raise the issue.

Once a student is determined to need assistive technology, the school must provide it. Schools cannot tell parents that they do not have the money in their budget, or require the parent to pay for any portion of the cost. Similarly, schools cannot ask parents to have their health insurance cover the costs of assistive technology. Schools must also provide teachers and students with any training that is necessary to effectively use the assistive technology.

While assistive technology devices technically belong to the school, most students who need assistive technology at school will also need it at home to complete projects and homework. Thus, when necessary, schools must allow students to take assistive technology home. However, students must return the device when they leave the school.

While the process of obtaining assistive technology through a New York individualized education plan may seem overwhelming, it is also incredibly important to a student’s education. Parents who are concerned that their child’s education does not “fit” their unique needs, should consider reaching out to an experienced New York special education attorney for assistance. The New York IEP process can be complex, and an attorney’s assistance is an invaluable tool for parents hoping to get their child the assistive technology they need to thrive in the classroom.

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