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Fund Your AT > Funding by Purpose > For School

Funding for School *

School age children with disabilities who need assistive technology (AT) devices and services to benefit from their education may be entitled to it—free of charge—from their school districts. The type of AT that a student may need varies from simple and inexpensive (e.g., pencil grip) to more expensive devices (e.g., amplification system). Below are explanations of the federal laws that provide these benefits and how AT may be accessed through each of them.

*This page has been adapted from the Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative fact sheet "Public Schools" available at Please note that information provided herein has no effect of law or regulation, and in no way constitutes an official notification of benefits.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The IDEA is the primary mechanism by which students with disabilities acquire the AT they need to benefit from their education. Read more.

In IDEA, AT devices are defined broadly as items that maintain or improve the functional capabilities of a person with a disability. AT services are those that assist in the selection, acquisition, or use of an AT device. The student's needs, including the need for AT, must be documented in a written Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP should be developed by a team of school personnel, the child's parents, and the child (if appropriate), and someone on the team should have sufficient knowledge about AT options if AT is among the services discussed. Like all other services authorized in the IEP, AT must be provided at no cost to the student and family. The IDEA has been revised several times since its initial passage, under a different name, in 1975.

AT access is supported in several important ways:

  • AT is one of only five "special factors" that MUST be considered for all children for whom an IEP is developed. This means that the IEP team must explicitly discuss the student's need for AT and, if the need is confirmed or suspected, must take appropriate action to ensure access to needed devices and services.
  • Training for families and school staff relative to AT operation and use can be included on the IEP.
  • A school's obligation to provide AT may extend to homework and school-based extracurricular activities as long as these needs are documented in the IEP.

AT Access Under IDEA

The process of obtaining AT through the IDEA starts at the IEP meeting. It is critically important that the IEP team has the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions. The student's IEP should be based on a variety of factors, including data about the student, his/her environment, and the required tasks. The standard for whether AT should be included in the IEP is whether it is needed to ensure reasonable educational progress in the least restrictive setting. AT may be considered as either special education and related services or as "supplementary aids and services." If the school rejects a parent's request for AT, the parent can seek an independent evaluation at the school's expense if the school fails to show that its evaluation was appropriate. The parent can also consider an appeal of the school's decision. See Advocacy Assistance for AT for guidance with this effort.

Sometimes families acquire AT that is both medically and educationally necessary through their health insurance provider (see Other Funding Options to Consider). Regardless of the payment source, the school is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the student has access to all devices/services on the IEP in a timely fashion.

In addition, a student cannot derive educational benefit from a malfunctioning device. Thus, in most cases, school districts are obliged to pay for repairs, replacement batteries, or other services needed to keep a device in good working order. If the device needs to be returned to a manufacturer for repair, the school must ensure that the child has access to comparable supports in its absence. (Note: recent IDEA regulations create exceptions to this obligation with respect to surgically implanted devices, such as Cochlear implants.)


The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Special Education Planning and Policy Development Office
Marcia Mittnacht, Director
(781) 338-3388

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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act defines an "individual with a disability" more broadly than the IDEA, and can sometimes help students receive services—including AT—who are not covered by the IDEA. Two provisions of the ADA offer additional protections for students in public schools. Read more.

Though not as predominant as the IDEA, both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can assist students with disabilities to obtain the assistance they need in school. Section 504 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any program receiving federal funds. The ADA extends Section 504's non-discrimination provision to include public institutions that do not receive federal funds. Two provisions of the ADA directly concern public schools. Title II prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by state and local governments. Title III bans discrimination on the basis of disability by places of public accommodation.

Section 504 differs from IDEA in several respects. Section 504 defines an "individual with a disability" more broadly. It includes one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Another difference is that under Section 504 students can be eligible even if they do not need any special education services, but just need modifications to the regular education program. Another difference is schools do not receive federal funds to administer Section 504 as they do for the IDEA.

AT Access Under 504 and ADA

If a school decides that a student with a disability is not eligible for services under the IDEA, it must have a system in place to determine whether the student is covered by Section 504. This evaluation must be individualized and must be conducted by a team that includes the parents. The student's needs and services must be documented in writing and parents who disagree have the right to appeal. In satisfying Section 504's requirement, the school must ensure that all of its programs are accessible to all students. If a student needs an AT device under Section 504, the school may be required to provide training on the device as well as the device. Under Section 504, the school is responsible for repairs and maintenance.

Under the ADA, schools may use AT to accommodate students, parents, and staff so that the school's programs are accessible to them. However, the school is not required to fundamentally alter the nature of the program or activity or to incur unreasonable financial or administrative burdens to achieve ADA compliance. Those with concerns about ADA compliance may contact the Disability Law Center (see General Advocacy at Advocacy Assistance for AT) or the United States Attorney's Office at (617) 748-3100 VOICE or (617) 748-3696 TTY.

For more on Section 504 see the U.S. Department of Education's website.

For more on the ADA see the U.S. Department of Justice's ADA website.

For more information on accommodations, IEPs, and Section 504 specific to children with learning disabilities and ADHD see the LDOnline website.


The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Special Education Planning and Policy Development Office
Marcia Mittnacht, Director
(781) 338-3388

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Other Funding Options to Consider

Public and Private Medical Insurance

Some AT is considered both "medically necessary" and needed for a student's education. In these cases there are advantages to pursuing funding through a family's health insurance provider rather than the school district, but the device should still be listed on the student's IEP. See Funding for Medically Necessary AT.

Massachusetts Assistive Technology Loan Program

The MATLP gives people with disabilities and their families access to low-interest cash loans to buy the assistive technology devices they need. See Loan Information.

The Hearing Aid Program for Infants and Children (at MDPH)

Hearing aids are an example of AT best owned by the student, and not the school district. This program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) can help income-eligible families (whose health insurance won't cover the expense) afford a hearing aid. Read more

The Hearing Aid Program for Infants and Children offers financial assistance for hearing aids to families with children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

Who is Eligible?

Children from birth to age 21 are eligible to apply. Applicants must have pursued all other available sources of funding to be considered (including health insurance) and meet income eligibility guidelines. In 2012 a family of four may earn a maximum adjusted gross income of $69,150. See the financial guidelines (PDF) for more information.

What AT is Provided?

The program reimburses eligible families for hearing aid purchases. Visit for additional funding recommendations for Hearing Aid Purchase Plan/Financing.


Janet Farrell, Director
Universal Newborn Hearing Screening
Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition
250 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02108
(800) 882-1435 or (617) 624-5959
(617) 994-9822 Fax
(617) 624-5992 TTY
Universal Newborn Hearing Screening web page

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