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    used by the school district to make educational decisions consistent with Section 504 or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as applicable. At the postsecondary level, a decision about whether to provide a particular emerging technology as an auxiliary aid or service, even though such technology currently is not used for all students, is an individualized one that should be made through any procedure that the school may have established to consider students’ requests for auxiliary aids or services. Postsecondary institutions’ procedures must comply with Section 504 and the ADA.

  1. Must a school always provide the same form of emerging technology to a student who is blind or has low vision as it provides to all other students?
  2. No: The legal duty imposed by Section 504 and Title II is to provide equal opportunity — that is, to provide the student who has a disability with access to the educational benefit at issue in an equally effective and equally integrated manner. As described more fully in Question 1, a school must apply this standard in determining whether the use of a particular technological device for a student with a visual impairment is appropriate.

    Example: A school library plans to make electronic books available to students by loaning electronic book readers. The school does not, prior to purchase, make necessary inquiries about whether the book readers are accessible to students who are blind or have low vision.

    The school subsequently determines that the book readers are not accessible. In an effort to ensure that the educational benefits, i.e., the same library books, are available in an equally effective and equally integrated manner to students with visual impairments, the school purchases a few small, light-weight tablet computers for the library. These tablet computers are designed to serve as a platform for electronic books, as well as other visual and audio media. If the tablet computers can access those electronic books and have accessible text-to-speech3 functions that allow users to hear the on-screen content read aloud, navigate device controls, and select menu items with the same ease of use afforded by the electronic book readers to sighted students, the tablet computers will then provide the same content and functionality to students with visual impairments.4 In this example, the tablet computers have those features. As a result, the accommodation or modification would meet the standards articulated in the DCL because it provides the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as sighted students, as well as meet the standards in the DCL for ease of use.

3 A text-to-speech function is software that provides audio for the printed words, enabling a person to hear instead of having to see the printed material.
4 The text-to-speech function of the tablet computers provides, for example: electronic book text that is accurate and presented in proper reading order; descriptions of graphical and other non-textual material (e.g., a narrative description of a photograph); and proper presentation of material contained in tables (e.g., properly associating row and column headers with their respective cell data).

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Last Modified: 11/16/2011