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Director’s Corner

September 21st, 2017

Since school has started we have gotten a surprising number of questions from parents who are getting contracts from their school calling for them to be financially responsible for damage to any assistive technology provided for their children to use out of school. This is what we think:

First, it is clear that the IDEA requires that your child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education. That means assistive technology must be provided for your child at no cost to you BUT, you CAN be expected to exercise a reasonable amount of care for property that is in your control.

The contract we have seen most often seems to be adapted from one issued by CABE to cover the Ipads and Chromebooks that are being issued to all students in some schools. They include language about neglect, misuse, theft and abuse of the equipment. Many parents of children with disabilities are rightly concerned that a student with a disability can be expected to do things that might be considered abuse of the device because of her disability. So the contract seems to put them on the hook for the cost of repairing or replacing the device because their child does things as the result of his or her disability.

Our suggestion has two parts. First reach out to your team leader or special education contact and explain your concerns. It is often the case that a form like this is issued from a business office where the people may not understand its implications for kids with disabilities. We suggest that you provide some language to amend the contract acknowledging that everyone knows that many children with disabilities are going to expose equipment to more stressors than their typical peers.

An example of language that might work is:

My son or daughter is a child with a disability and may, as a result of that disability, subject the device to actions that might be considered abuse if they were performed by a child who does not have the same disability. I am asking THE Board to confirm it understands this and that it must accommodate the limitations imposed by his disability and that it will not seek to obtain reimbursement for the cost of damage caused as a result of his disability.”

The second issue we see is language limiting the use of the device to your home. Again, particularly for communications devices this is probably not a reasonable requirement. If an AT device is being provided for home use by your child’s IEP, any limitations on where it can be used should also be spelled out. A contract written for a device that might be used at home for homework could reasonably be expected to be used only at home, but one that a child uses to communicate is going to be needed in many places from the grocery store to the doctor’s office and hundreds of others.

Again, the IEP is going to be the answer. So, if your child’s IEP calls for the use of AT to learn and support communication in typical situations clearly it is intended to be used everywhere he or she can be expected to be able to use expressive language. So contact your special education director or team leader to make sure the actual use of the device is documented.

There are always going to be twists and unusual situations so if you have further questions we hope you will call us at (860)739-3089, or email at cpac@cpacinc.org. You chan also check out the website for more information.