Understanding the Assistive Technology Act: What it Does and How it Helps People with Disabilities

The Assistive Technology Act (ATA) is a law that seeks to provide technical assistance to people with disabilities, so that they can participate more fully in education, employment, and daily activities on an equal basis with other members of their communities. The ATA was first passed in 1988 as the Technology-Related Assistance Act for People with Disabilities (P. L. 100-407), and was amended in 1994 (P.

103-218). In 1998, Congress enacted the Assistive Technology Act (P. 105-394), which was reauthorized in 2004 (P. 108-364).The ATA defines an assistive technology device as “any item, equipment, or product system, whether commercially purchased, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities”.

It also defines assistive technology services as “any service that directly helps a person with a disability to select, acquire, or use an assistive technology device”.The purpose of the ATA is to provide access to assistive technology devices and services for people with disabilities of all ages. This includes children who do not qualify for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), but are still entitled to assistive technology under Title II or Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ATA also provides funding for research and development projects related to assistive technology.The ATA provides formula grants to the 50 states, four U. S.

territories, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. These grants are used to fund state Assistive Technology (AT) programs that provide technical assistance and support to individuals who need assistive technology devices and services. The ATA also funds the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP), which sponsors the AT3 Center.The AT3 Center provides information about assistive technology devices and services, as well as financial assistance for individuals who need help paying for these devices and services. The center also supports reuse activities that allow individuals to acquire assistive technology at a lower cost than purchasing new devices.Since 1975, when federal special education legislation was first enacted, assistive technology has been included as part of free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

With the reauthorization of the IDEA in 1997 and the adoption of new regulations in 1999, school districts are now required to consider the need for assistive technology every time an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for children.

Violet Martin
Violet Martin

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