This new era of computer-based assessment brings with it opportunities to address issues for all students in ways that testing has not previously been able to. For example, some elements of the way the test is presented can be more dynamic than in a paper-and-pencil test. Consider these examples:
- A student with a disability may need a large-print version of a paper test, but with a computer-based test, this adjustment may simply be asking the test to display a larger font size.
- For a student who needs the test read aloud, the computer based test may have a built in screen reading program.
- A student who requires a sign language interpreter may be able to access sign language on a computer based assessment through an avatar who is able to sign the test for the student
- Screen contrast colors may be able to be set by the student
- A student may be able to access calming music or white noise through the testing platform
If these are features of the test, do they become aspects of universal design because they were developed at the front of the testing process? Are accommodations limited only to those elements that must be considered AFTER the test is developed?
I think the answer is no.
Accommodations are the supports a student needs to access the test. In all of the examples above, I believe an educator still has a responsibility to ensure that the student receives the accommodations that he or she needs.
It is important to have these components built-in to the test. Having a read aloud accommodation delivered via synthesized text may ensure that there is consistency in how this accommodations is administered from student to student. This is something we worry about--we worry that teachers may inadvertently prompt a student with a tone of voice or a certain emphasis on a word. Computerized delivery of this accommodation can standardize the experience of the accommodation. But, it does not change the fact that it is an accommodation.
Furthermore, as is explained in other sections of this website, the accommodation remains a legal right of a student with a disability. Furthermore, it may be that a student with a disability still needs an accommodation beyond what is built into a computer platform. For example, a student with a visual impairment may still require magnification equipment beyond what is available on the test.