Assistive Technology

The term assistive technology is defined in the federal law that provides the foundation for all special education services - the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004). This law's definition of assistive technology consists of two parts: assistive technology devices and assistive technology services.

Assistive Technology Device

The term assistive technology device means 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 a child with a disability.

This broad definition includes a wide variety of items that might be considered assistive technology devices. Consideration of devices should include, but not be limited to the following areas of need:

  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • Reading
  • Math
  • Study/Organizational Skills
  • Listening
  • Communication
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Recreation, Leisure, and Adaptive Play
  • Positioning, Seating, and Mobility
  • Computer Access
Assistive Technology Service

The term assistive technology service means any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes -

  • the evaluation of the needs of such child including a functional evaluation of the child in the child's customary environments;
  • purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices by such child;
  • selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing assistive technology devices;
  • coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices, such as those associated with existing education and rehabilitation plans and programs;
  • training or technical assistance for such child, or, where appropriate, the family of such child; and
  • training or technical assistance for professionals (including individuals providing education and rehabilitation services, employers, or other individuals who provide services to, employ, or are otherwise substantially involved in the major life functions of such child.
For information about AT laws, visit

  • Assistive Technology Works: Legislation, Definition and Benefits


    Assistive Technology Works: Legislation, Definitions and Benefits is a brief introduction to the laws around assistive technology, otherwise referred to as AT, and how AT benefits students with disabilities. This presentation was developed by the Virginia Department of Education's Assistive Technology Priority Project.

    Assistive Technology Works: Legislation, Definition and Benefits (TTAC Online log-in required)

Assistive Technology and the IEP

  • Consideration and Assessment of Assistive Technology


    In November 2008 the Virginia Department of Education released materials for school divisions to use when developing operating guidelines and service delivery models for assistive technology. Included in the document ("Assistive Technology: A Framework for Consideration and Assessment") includes definitions, laws, consideration guidelines, and a process for assistive technology assessment. Sample forms are also provided.

    These documents do not replace any federal or state regulations but are designed to assist Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams in planning and implementing assistive technology (AT) services to students with disabilities.

    Many model assistive technology programs have also created resources and sample forms to be used during the consideration and assessment process for assistive technology. Acknowledgment is also given to these projects for inspiring others to learn more about assistive technology.

    Please visit the VDOE Assistive Technology Network ( website to get more detail.

  • Consideration of AT in the IEP


    IDEA (1997) added the requirement that each IEP team consider the need for assistive technology as part of the Consideration of Special Factors. IEP teams must also document their consideration of assistive technology in the IEP plan. Some school divisions use a series of questions to guide IEP team discussions about goals and objectives, areas of difficulty for the student, and whether AT devices or services are needed.

    These consideration guides were created to assist school divisions in developing a process for consideration of AT in the IEP process. These forms and sample completed forms are provided in word format to allow local school divisions to tailor the form for their respective divisions.

    Virginia Assistive Technology Guide

    Virginia Assistive Technology Guide (sample form)

    Virginia Assistive Technology Resource Guide

    Please visit the VDOE Assistive Technology Network ( website to get more detail.

  • Assessment of AT


    AT consideration and assessment differ in terms of depth and duration. Consideration is a short discussion that takes place during the IEP meeting to determine if current strategies are adequate or not. Assessment takes an in-depth look at the student’s abilities and difficulties and the demands of the environment and tasks. Assessment also includes the acquisition of new information (Reed & Lahm, 2004).

    The Quality Indicators for Assistive Technology (QIAT) model suggests that assistive technology assessment is an ongoing continual part of educational planning and not a “one-shot” separate event. It also emphasizes that the assessment process yields recommendations based on data collected from trials with assistive technology tools used for meaningful tasks in the student’s daily environments. These indicators highlight the importance of a team approach for AT assessment. Utilizing a team approach leads to meaningful follow through with AT recommendations.

    The process for assistive technology assessment applies many strategies, tools, and checklists. Assessing Students' Needs for Assistive Technology (ASNAT), 5th edition developed by the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative is considered to be a leading resource for assistive technology assessment. Forms from the ASNAT are used throughout the Virginia Assistive Technology Assessment process.

    The assessment process can be broken into three steps:

    1. Information Gathering
    2. Decision Making
    3. Trial Implementation

    The following AT assessment checklist was developed in order to assist IEP teams in tracking the AT assessment process. A column is provided which identifies forms to be used in the assessment process.

    Virginia Assistive Technology Assessment Checklist (click the link to download the document)

    Please visit the VDOE Assistive Technology Network ( website to get more detail.

AT Tutorials and Resources


Geoffrey Weber, M.Ed.,
Assistive Technology Coordinator