Legal considerations and assistive technology (AT)

Provinces and territories control the delivery of educational services and establish their own systems of services. There isn’t a national K-12 educational strategy on the provision of assistive technology for special needs students (Jane, 2004). Some countries, like the United States, have a national strategy. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), along with other legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), is part of their national strategy bolstered through the United States Department of Education to increase access to assistive technology in education.

As noted by Jane (2004), while information on Assistive Technology (AT) services in education is clearly identified in some Canadian provinces and territories, there seems to be little or no AT service information for other provinces and territories. The provincial and territorial special education documentation dealing with assistive technology services is listed below. Without a federal legislation, funding, or national standards addressing AT entitlement for students with special needs in Canada, the implementation of AT in education can be inconsistent. Some provinces have developed initiatives such as the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA) to foster cooperation between the provinces and remove the discrepancies between services to students with disabilities.


  • Special Education: Special education programs and services primarily consist of instruction and assessments that are different from those provided to the general student population. These may take the form of accommodations (such as specific teaching strategies, preferential seating, and assistive technology) and/or an educational program that is modified from the age-appropriate grade level expectations in a particular course or subject, as outlined in the Ministry of Education’s curriculum policy documents.
  • The Education Act: The Education Act identifies the principal provisions related to special education in Ontario, including assistive technology consideration and assessment.
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA): Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities in Ontario, the AODA legislation will shift the current practices in the realm of education to address the diversity and inclusion of all learners and educators, including people with disabilities. Of specific interest are the Integrated Accessibility Standards, including the Information and Communication Standards that addresses topics such as accessible formats and education.

Newfoundland and Labrador 

  • Department of Education Student Support Services Division: The Student Support Services Division is responsible for special education programming, guidance services, student retention, speech and language services, itinerant services to children who are deaf and hard of hearing and visually impaired, educational psychology services and the Newfoundland School for the Deaf. The division coordinates programs offered through the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA).
  • Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA): Established in 1975 by joint agreement among the Ministers of Education of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the APSEA serves children and youth who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf blind, blind, or visually impaired, including AT services.

Prince Edward Island

  • Special Educational Needs: In this section of the website, the department of Education and Early Childhood Development shows its committed to providing services to students with special educational needs based on the philosophy of inclusion. In this initiative, AT has a clear important place.
  • Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA): Established in 1975 by joint agreement among the Ministers of Education of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the APSEA serves children and youth who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf blind, blind, or visually impaired, including AT services.

Nova Scotia 

  • Assistive technology-Supporting Student Success: Published By Nova Scotia Education, Assistive technology-Supporting Student Success represents a foundation for building an on-going comprehensive process to support students through AT.
  • Minister’s Review of Services for Students with Special Needs: The Report of the Special Education Implementation Review outlines numerous recommendations to more effectively meet the needs of students with special needs. Assistive technologies are widely targeted by these recommendations.
  • Student Services Division Website:  Student Services is one of three divisions in the Student Equity and Support Services Branch. It provides direction and leadership to school boards regarding the development, implementation and evaluation of policies, programs and services in the areas of Special Education, Learning Disabilities, Autism, SchoolsPlus, Comprehensive Guidance and Counselling, Safe and Inclusive Schools, English as an Additional Language, Race Relations, Cross Cultural Understanding and Human Rights (RCH), and other support services to students. The website includes a number of policies, guidelines, and support documents. Division consults, liaises and communicates with its education partners and the public to ensure a coordinated and collaborative approach in implementing its mandate.
  • Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA): Established in 1975 by joint agreement among the Ministers of Education of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the APSEA serves children and youth who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf blind, blind, or visually impaired, including AT services.

New Brunswick 

  • Student Services Unit: The responsibilities under Student Services include the development, implementation and coordination of special education programming, which includes all areas of learning difficulties and learning disabilities. Student Services provides consultative support to schools, school districts, and other government departments, both provincially and nationally. The Francophone Student Services Page also provides a handful of resources in French.
  • Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons: The Premier’s Council on the Status of Disabled Persons is a body for consultation and study, which was created to advise the provincial government and the general public on matters relating to the status of persons with disabilities. The Council reports directly to the Premier of New Brunswick.
  • Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA): Established in 1975 by joint agreement among the Ministers of Education of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, the APSEA serves children and youth who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf blind, blind, or visually impaired, including AT services.


  • Handbook for parents of children with special needs: This handbook is addressed to parents of children with special needs who are now attending school or who will soon be enrolling in school, and to parents who discover that their children have adjustment or learning difficulties. It is intended as a tool to help parents navigate the process of supporting and representing their special needs child throughout the school experience—a process that may seem daunting or difficult at times.


  • Student Services: The Student Services Unit (SSU) includes a team of consultants who have education and experience in working with students with special learning needs in the school system. SSU consultants support the work of student support teams in Manitoba schools.
  • Appropriate Educational Programming in Manitoba: Appropriate Educational Programming in Manitoba: Standards for Student Services outlines standards and provides direction to define appropriate educational programming for students in Manitoba.


  • Supporting Students with Additional Needs: Education in Saskatchewan is guided by the philosophy and principles of a needs-based model to provide supports for students. This model focuses on the strengths, abilities and needs of each individual student. Students are supported in inclusive settings by a collaborative team that includes their parents, education professionals and other individuals who can help the student reach his or her goals.
  • Supports for Learning Publications: This list of publications of the Government of Saskatchewan provides a handful of documents related to inclusion for students in the school system.  


  • Assistive Technology for Learning: This section provides information on Assistive Technology for Learning (ATL), defined as a subset of a broad range of technologies that enhance students’ learning. It is part of the Instructional Supports section of the Alberta Education site, which also has information on instructional supports, differentiation, individualized program plans, learning coaches, transitions, and behaviour support.

British Columbia

  • Special Education Technology – British Columbia’s SET-BC is a Provincial Resource Program designed to assist school districts in British Columbia in in utilizing technology with students whose access to the curriculum is restricted. SET-BC offers services related to professional learning, technology training and classroom-based solutions, and complex needs training and student-based solutions.
  • Special Education: The purpose of Special Education is to enable the equitable participation of students with special needs in the educational system in British Columbia. This page provides links to various documents related to special education.


  • Support for Students: This webpage outlines the supports available within the Education System, as well as a handful of resources available related to students requiring additional supports.  
  • Student Support Services Manual: The purpose of this manual is to assist schools in developing programs and services that enable students with special educational needs to meet their goals. The mandate for differentiated programming and inclusive education is outlined in the Pyramid of Intervention Model, the framework to be followed for identification and implementation of services. The document mentions assistive technologies as part of assessment, support services, and the Individual Education Plan.

Northwest Territories

  • A Guide to Assistive Technology To Support Literacy Learners With Disabilities: This guide is intended to help literacy practitioners explore possible assistive technology devices, intervention, and solutions for their learners.
  • Inclusive Schooling and Student Support: To assist school staff in meeting student needs in accordance with the Ministerial Directive on Inclusive Schooling, Programming for Student Success was developed. This tool, which is divided into three main areas, provides educators with the approved templates and processes involved in developing Individual Education Plans (IEP) and Student Support Plans (SSP). It also contains the NWT Program Support Guide, which provides detail on the roles and responsibilities of all staff members in meeting student needs.


  • Student Support and Wellness: Student Support Services staff help to develop guidelines and supports for inclusive education programming, including supports for the full range of learner needs. They work with regional school operations to improve school success for all students. This webpage notes that the Department of Education is currently reviewing inclusive education in Nunavut to develop a guide for inclusive education in Nunavut, identify potential gaps in services and challenges in delivering appropriate programming, and offer the Department evidence-based recommendations that address the challenges of teaching and reaching all students in K-12.

Legal considerations related to AT

  • Assessing Students Needs for Assistive Technology: This resource provides background information about AT and how these resources can support the special needs of learners in elementary and secondary schools. Teachers are directed to online sources for assessing special needs, for evaluating AT products, and for continuous professional growth in this area.
  • Wrigthslaw: Wrigthslaw is a source for information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities, based in the US.