The History of SET-BC
Special Education Technology - British Columbia (SET-BC) was established in 1989 to provide assistive technology services for students with physical disabilities. The Special Education Branch of the Ministry of Education considered the following trends when designing the purpose and structure of this program;
- students with special needs were being integrated into regular classrooms and participating in standard curriculum activities
- new technologies were being developed that allowed students with disabilities to participate more actively in their educational programs
- the Provincial Advisory Committee on Computers (1988), which investigated the use of technology in the school system, recommended that technology services for special education students should be a priority.
Initially, SET-BC was funded as a pilot project and was staffed by professionals from both the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. This program followed a prescriptive model, with SET-BC staff providing technology assessments and recommendations for educational programming for students.
Students with complex needs traveled from all areas of the province to Vancouver where SET-BC operated two transdisciplinary assessment centres. Community-based services were provided through two regional centres and a small outreach program.
By the second year of operation, BC school districts were placing increasing demand for services on SET-BC. While only 44 students were referred in its first year, the number had increased to 340 students in the second year. This rapid growth continued and by January 1993, approximately one thousand students had been referred and over eight hundred had been accepted into the program.
After two years of operation, the Ministry of Education changed SET-BC's pilot project status to the continuing status of a Provincial Resource Program. In order to keep pace with the demands for service, SET-BC undertook a shift in its approach, moving to a more collaborative and community-based model. More regional centres were established and SET-BC staff traveled throughout the province to provide services for students. Program staff also began to provide more training for school districts with the goal of increasing educators' expertise in the use of assistive technology.
Services for students with visual impairments were added to SET-BC's mandate in January 1992 and in the following year SET-BC also began supporting students with autism.
SET-BC currently has seven Regional Centres around the province and a Provincial Centre in Vancouver. Staff members at the Provincial Centre support and coordinate all program services and resources. Regional assistive technology consultants provide community-based services, including consultation, training, and resources, for all school districts in BC.
SET-BC and school districts now share responsibility for the provision of assistive technology services for approximately 400 new students annually. Districts determine which students will receive SET-BC services in a given year and school-based teams work with SET-BC consultants to consider student needs and educational goals. SET-BC consultants provide information on assistive technology and suggest strategies for the implementation of technology in the curriculum.
The Provincial Centre and each of the seven Regional Centres are funded as separate Provincial Resource Programs (PRPs). Each PRP is hosted by a school district and is usually located on the site of a host district school. Within each region, SET-BC regional consultants are located in satellite offices in one of the school districts in which they deliver services.
By working in partnership, SET-BC and school districts make it possible for students to have access to appropriate technologies and to learn to use them to achieve their educational goals. This collaboration, as well as on-going support for students, ensures that technology can continue to make a difference for students with special needs.