For both instruction and assessment, the primary goal of accommodations is to provide access to grade-level content for the student. In instruction, accommodations allow the student to participate fully in instruction. For an assessment, accommodations make sure that the student is able to show what he or she knows and can do. Accommodations make sure that the student's test score is valid--that the score is an accurate measure of what the student can do, not a measure of some aspect of the student's disability.
It is important to document a student's use of accommodations. In Minnesota, the MCA tests are not timed, so a student would not need an accommodation of extra time on an MCA test. But, if a student needs extra time to take classroom assessments, it is important for the student to have that accommodation documented on their IEP or 504 plan. This documentation is important for transition purposes. When the student takes a college entrance exam, such as the ACT, for example, he or she may not be able to have extra time if the accommodation has not been previously documented. When the student goes to college, he or she may need extra time, and again, it will be easier to substantiate this need if it has been previously documented.
There may be other aspects of new technologies that can be built-in to a student's learning in an online environment, such as large print, additional white space, color contrast, and even a read aloud or sign interpreting avatar. Because these features are built-in, they may be considered universally designed components. Yet, this does not diminish the student's need to use them, and they still must be documented on an IEP or 504 plan. In addition to transition planning, it is important to ensure that the student gets these accommodations every time they need them.
Finally, accommodations are a legal right of students. Providing accommodations is meeting the letter of the law--the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.