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What are the laws related to AT?

Many people have taken the journey to assistive technology, which has resulted in significant legislature. This section includes a review of pertinent legislation, including four laws that have improved the civil rights of people with disabilities.


Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act provides civil rights protection against discrimination for individuals with disabilities similar to the protection provided on the basis of race, gender, age, nationality, and religion. It mandates accessibility and accommodation requirements in public facilities, employment, state and local government services, transportation, and communication.

For public buildings, all new construction and modifications must be accessible to individuals with disabilities. For existing facilities, barriers to services must be removed if readily achievable.

ADA protects individuals with disabilities from employment discrimination based on the disability alone when the person is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations. These accommodations may include the use of assistive technology and technology access, unless the changes create an undue hardship for the employer.

For more information on ADA, visit the ADA Home Page.


Assistive Technology Act (Tech Act)

The Assistive Technology Act was passed by Congress to increase access to, availability of, and funding for assistive technology through state efforts and national initiatives.  This law affirms that technology is a valuable tool that can be used to improve the lives of Americans with disabilities.  The Act provides federal funds to assist states in developing consumer responsive systems of access to assistive technology, services, and information.

Ohio’s Tech Act project is Assistive Technology of Ohio.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Assistive Technology was not originally included in IDEA.  Eventually, assistive technology was written into the law and placed in the section entitled "Related Services."  In a 1990 policy letter, the Office of Special Education in the US Department of Education, referred to the Tech Act definition of assistive technology in clarifying the students’ right to assistive technology in the IEP.  This laid the groundwork for the inclusion of specific language for assistive technology devices and services in the 1990 Amendments to IDEA.  Finally, it was moved into it’s own section, Section 300.5 and 300.6, where it can now be found and defined.  The 1997 Amendments to IDEA specifically required that assistive technology be considered for every student with a disability as part of the IEP process.  Assistive technology may be considered as either special education and related services, or as supplementary aides and services.

To locate statute and regulations related to AT with in IDEA, visit the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) IDEA Website, and do a search for "assistive technology."


Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act is built on the presumption of an individual’s ability to achieve employment and other rehabilitative goals regardless of the severity of the disability. Vocational rehabilitation agencies are required to focus on solutions and the attainment of employment outcomes, unless the agency can "unequivocally demonstrate" that no possibility of employment exits for a particular individual. Careful consideration is to be made on options for training, assistive technology, reasonable accommodations, and supports.

Students who do not qualify for special education may still be eligible for accommodations under Title V of the Rehab Act, commonly referred to as Section 504. This section provides that...

no otherwise qualified handicapped individual shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act (Section 508) to require that Federal agencies remove barriers to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. This web accessibility mandate has had significant impact on the design of web sites.

For additional information, visit these websites: