Transfering Assistive Technology from School To Work
One of the major problems encountered in transition from school to work for youth with disabilities is the issue of transferring assistive technology devices (purchased by the school system) from the education agency to the work site, post-secondary school, or the agency providing work-related services such as the Vocational Rehabilitation agency. Barriers continue to be met despite extensive provisions in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that address requirements for youth with disabilities transitioning from school to work. Some of these barriers include:
- Lack of involvement of rehabilitation counselors (who assist customers of vocational rehabilitation services) at the student's transition planning Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings.
- Lack of information by rehabilitation counselors about assistive technology.
- Burdensome rules imposed on school districts regarding disposition of equipment.
- No established buy-out method to enable VR to purchase AT from school districts.
- Lack of communication/collaboration/planning between agencies providing educational and work-related services.
All parties lose when assistive technology devices do not follow the individual. The individual loses most of all because of loss of potential employment opportunities; the school district retains equipment for which it may have no use, and the employment services agency loses because it must make another investment in the equipment to meet the needs of the individual. In addition, valuable time is lost because of the lack of accessibility of AT devices. IDEA recognizes and attempts to remove these barriers.
In a July, 1999 letter from Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services to Susan Goodman, Esq., a major barrier to transferring equipment was removed. In this letter, Ms. Heumann states that federal regulations do not prohibit the transfer of equipment from school to work and work-related activities. In fact, the Department encourages such transfer.
How You Can Make Equipment Transfer a Reality
- Identify a discrete number of students with disabilities who use or need to use assistive technology who will face problems of device ownership as they transition to work place activities.
- Assess the students' needs and develop profiles that describe the problem of ownership, transference and associated maintenance costs. Use active examples of students who will leave the education system soon.
- Ensure that the students have the assistive technology devices and services spelled out in both their Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plans (IWRP) and Individualized Transition Plans (ITP).
- Bring together key persons from the various state agencies and private entities as appropriate to address the profiled students needs:
- regular and special education;
- rehabilitation services;
- Medicaid or other funding agencies;
- early childhood intervention providers;
- workplace training agencies or nonprofit disability services organizations with work programs;
- private industry councils or other interested private sector entities such as equipment distributors or manufacturers;
- independent living centers;o state and/or local purchasing procurement officials;
- blind or deaf services;
- health insurance commissioners;
- rehabilitation engineering and/or protection & advocacy technology;
- Set up a conference called "Saving Money & Eliminating Hassles; Securing Technology."
- Discuss the profiled students' needs and brainstorm how the ownership and transference issues can be addressed for each particular student.
- Present information about the assistive technology changes in IDEA and the Rehab Act and the legal definition of assistive technology.
- Show officials the policy guidance from the Department of Education encouraging equipment transfer and ruling that there are no federal legal requirements prohibiting a transfer.
- Share examples of solutions developed by various states. For a description of these examples, contact UCP by phone (202) 776-0406 or by e-mail.
- Discuss pros and cons of:
- passing legislation
- adopting 'buy out' or leasing mechanisms
- utilizing OMB circular A87
- creating interagency agreements or memoranda of understanding (MOUs)
- developing inventories of equipment
- establishing formulas for determining cost and depreciated value of equipment
- developing estimates of savings to the state budget if there is less duplication, smoother transition of ownership, less paperwork and bureaucracy
- equal purchasing of AT where appropriate (VR-LEA/SEA)
- Adding language to existing Memoranda of Understandings between state agencies.
- Adopt one or more of the strategies tailored to the situation in your state and that will solve the problem for the profiled students.
- Monitor and follow up individual commitments made by key personnel quarterly or as necessary.
- Evaluate the success of the initiative to see if the profiled students have jobs, or job related activities, in which they use their assistive technology. If problems remain, bring key personnel together again and develop a new or different strategy.
- Replicate or test and duplicate the process for other groups of students with disabilities with assistive technology needs in another part of the state. Tinker with the process as necessary.
- For state tech act programs and others interested in getting youth with disabilities with assistive technology needs into the workplace.
- Work with the school district and rehabilitation agency to get them interested in dealing with this important issue by bringing together key persons.
For more information about transition from school to work of if you need a copy of the policy guidance from the Department of Education contact UCP National at 202-776-0406.