I had a recent email from a family new to the country who wondered how they would afford their child’s assistive technology (AT) needed for school. Are there organizations who provide technology for free or a reduced cost? What financial assistance is available? I’m confident other families have the same concerns and thought it wise to publish the response as a blog post and ask for seasoned parents to provide additional suggestions in the comments section.
Letter to Parents About Your Child’s Assistive Technology Needs
Dear concerned parent,
Will your child attend a public school? If so, the school must conduct an assistive technology assessment in order to determine the types of AT needed to complete tasks and access the curriculum. The school will provide the AT—though the brands or specific models will depend on what the school district has available. To learn about advocating for AT, you’ll want to read How to Get Assistive Technology for Your Child.
When it comes to assistive technology for home use, such as a screen reader or screen magnifier, know that if the use of AT is required at home and documented on the Individualized Education Program (IEP), the school must provide the technology for home use.
If access to the technology is not required for home use, but would certainly be beneficial for home use, and the cost is prohibitive, I recommend contacting your state’s Division of Blind Services and any additional local resource, such as a Lighthouse for the Blind or other nonprofit serving your community. As a teacher of students with visual impairments at a nonprofit agency, I provided students with assistive technology (again, based on an AT assessment) funded by the state’s Division of Blind Services, and I trained students how to use the equipment or software. When searching for a local service provider, you can utilize our database.
Lastly, if you are in need of a home computer or laptop with accessibility software, take advantage of Computers for the Blind, a company that refurbishes computers, installs accessibility software, and sells them for $50 a desktop or $70 a laptop. All you need is your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments to write a letter to Computers for the Blind stating your child does need a computer or laptop with assistive technology. You can learn more about the offer by reading Computers Installed with AT Offered as Low as $50 for the Blind and Visually Impaired.