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1997 Individuals With Disabilities
Education Act Amendments Increase
Access to Technology for Students
In late May 1997, Congress passed, and on June 4,
1997, President Clinton signed, the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act of 1997 (IDEA). On
March 12, 1999, the U.S. Department of Education
promulgated final regulations implementing IDEA.
Both the Amendments and the implementing regula-
tion clarify the rights of students with disabilities to
assistive technology devices and services.
The key to access has always been how the device
or service in question is to be used: the purposes it
will serve, not its label. Before the term “assistive
technology” became part of policy discussions,
schools were required to provide computers and
other adaptive equipment, augmentative communi-
cation devices, typewriters, tape recorders, word
processors, braille printed materials, auditory
trainers, wheelchairs and other types of devices and
services to students whose individualized education
program (IEP) teams determined such services and
devices were necessary to ensure that they had a
free appropriate public education available to them.
In addition, other decisions and policy letters
established some core principles related to assistive
technology (AT) device funding.
One of the best known policy letters concerning provi-
sion by schools of AT devices and services, was issued
on August 10, 1990 by the Office of Special Education
Programs (OSEP). In this letter to Susan Goodman
from Judy Schrag, the Department of Education made
it clear that schools are prohibited from refusing to
consider AT devices and services as part of the proce