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Summer 2002 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Assistive Technology After Public School

By Diane Yoder, Transition Consultant,
Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind)

Transition from public school to adult life can be an exciting and challenging time for students with blindness or visual impairments and other disabilities.  It’s a time of celebration of accomplishments, but it’s also a time when young adults with disabilities put into action all of the transition plans made while in high school.  Students with visual impairments and blindness who have computers, note takers and other equipment and software provided by their school district must return the equipment when they are no longer in school.  School districts have the option of allowing the families to purchase the equipment (usually this is done by a district which does not have a student with similar needs who might use it), but they are under no obligation to do so.  The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired has a statewide technology loan program through the Outreach Program, but like school districts, driven by IDEA regulations and funding, the program cannot loan equipment to blind and visually impaired students who have graduated or aged out of school.

One resource option for blind and visually impaired youth after graduation is accessing services offered through the vocational rehabilitation program, and in Texas, this is the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) (TCB).  If a student has an impediment to employment, is in need of rehabilitation services, and meets the eligibility criteria for blindness or visual impairment, they may be eligible to receive services. Transition services through TCB assist students in planning for and accessing vocational training and ultimately employment.  If a student is eligible for vocational rehabilitation services, he or she works in partnership with a counselor at TCB to develop vocational goals based on interests, preferences and values.  Together they map out the steps it takes to achieve that vocational goal.

Special Education rules specify that the Individualized Transition Plan (ITP) must be written by age 16, and that transition services be discussed earlier in the student’s education in order to begin thinking of the long term post-secondary goals for training and employment.  Students can apply for transition services through TCB as early as 13 years of age. 

Technology is one of many resources provided to assist students in reaching their goals.  Often technology is needed to access post-secondary training and employment.  If it is determined that technology is needed, the TCB counselor and student work closely with the Employment Assistant Specialist assigned to their area.  This team identifies the tasks required, other resources available, and technological needs of each student participating in post-secondary training.  The focus of these services is to support students in their efforts towards reaching their vocational goals. Progress and needs are evaluated annually by the student and the TCB counselor to determine if there are other areas to consider in reaching the long-term goal of employment. 

Students who are blind, attend a public college, and live in Texas can have their college tuition waived.  TCB provides support for college that includes, but is not limited to books, equipment, supplies and reader services.  Colleges and universities also provide access to the educational environment through their Disabled  Students  Services offices.  It is recommended that a student research what resources are available at the colleges he or she is considering.  Services vary widely.  Some colleges offer notetakers, readers, assistive technology labs, and test taking options.  Young blind and visually impaired adults must make choices based on the knowledge that the availability of assistive technology varies widely.  The college or university they wish to attend may not provide the accessibility options to which they are accustomed.  This is an opportunity for young people to develop their self-determination skills and investigate their options when making a decision about post-secondary training.

The transition from school to work requires information, resources, and support.  The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (formerly known as Texas Commision for the Blind) Transition program offers a multitude of resources, including technology training and support, to empower blind and visually impaired youth to participate in adult life successfully.

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Last Revision: August 27, 2003