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Changes in Rights to Accessible Equipment

The third in a four-part series: Life After IEPs Series.

Once high school ends, so do IEPs, this month, the Free Bridges Helpdesk Transition Tip Tuesdays explores post-secondary, IEP-free life. Topics discussed include:

Part 1: When Do Things Change, and Why?

Part 2: Changes in Rights to Instructional Services

Part 3: Changes in Rights to Accessible Equipment

Part 4: Changes in Rights to Accommodations and Modifications

In this third installment of the series, we delve into how students’ rights to accessible equipment change when they are no longer eligible for IEPs.

Rights to accessible equipment under IEPs

Under federal law, schools are required to provide students with IEPs accessible assistive technology (AT) when those tools are needed for the student to receive FAPE (free appropriate public education). Additionally, the law requires that student be allowed to use these tools at home, in the community, and over school breaks—again, if needed for the student to receive FAPE. It’s important to note that the school must provide the accessible AT to the student even of other students aren’t provided similar devices. For example, the school must typically provide a manual braille writer if a blind/low vision student needs it to do school work even though the school does not provide paper and pencils for nondisabled students to do the same schoolwork.

Rights to accessible equipment under Section 504 and the ADA

As discussed before, individuals with disabilities must request reasonable accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While there are some other laws (like building codes and state or local statutes) that require reasonable accommodations without a request for them, individuals with disabilities should be prepared to make requests for reasonable accommodations and to provide proof of their disability/disabilities.

In post-secondary life (at a school, in a job, and in the community), individuals with disabilities have the right to accessibility, but they do not necessarily have the right to accessible assistive technology tools. For example, most buildings are required to have ramps for wheelchair users, but they are not required to provide the wheelchair.

However, to the extent that the school employer, or community agency provides tools to nondisabled users, they may be required to provide accessible assistive technology to allow individuals with disabilities the opportunity to access whatever services nondisabled people access through technology. For example, a college might use inaccessible beakers and scales and thermometers in a science lab, so that college would need to provide a blind/low vision student similar access to experiments in the science lab through the use of accessible scientific equipment.

What does this mean?

After you leave, your high school has the right to request that you return any accessible AT paid for by the school—and they almost always make this request. In general, disabled individuals are not entitled to demand accessible AT devices (such as laptops and refreshable braille displays) under Section 504 or the ADA (exceptions noted above). There are alternative resources for accessible assistive technology, so please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk for help or more information.

Next week, we’ll explore how rights to accommodations and modifications change under Section 504 and the ADA.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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