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Using Assistive Technology for Assessment Accommodations

On a daily basis, teachers typically are the ones to determine when accommodations are needed to ensure fair and equitable testing for students with special needs. They also are often charged with selecting appropriate accommodations for individual students and need to have a basic understanding of assistive technologies available to provide accommodations.

Assistive technologies are those that support students with disabilities, of which a total of 6.5 million were being served in 2002 through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1997 (President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, 2002). IDEA defines an assistive technology device as "any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability" (IDEA, 1997).

Assistive technology may be virtually any device that increases, maintains, or improves a functional capability of a student with a disability. A list of assistive devices arranged in order from lower to higher technology is available at a Web site developed by the Technology and Media Division of the Council for Exceptional Children and the Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative. NCREL's Pathways to School Improvement Web site features a Critical Issue on enhancing system change and academic success through assistive technologies. Another research-based article explores how technology use can improve the literacy skills of students with disabilities.

When selecting or reviewing technology for assessment accommodation purposes, Rose and Meyer (2002) explain the importance of focusing on the goal of the assessment and separating out the tangential variables of the technology and its supports. They claim it is more accurate to include a learner's daily support as an accommodation during assessment when the goal of the assessment is not undermined by the technology (e.g., using a speech-to-text application when assessing students' conceptual science knowledge). Examples of types of specialized software that are available for assessment accommodation purposes are as follows:



Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997, 20 U.S.C. 1401. (1997). Retrieved September 6, 2020 , from

President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education. (2002). A new era: Revitalizing special education for children and their families. Retrieved September 6, 2020 , from

Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the Digital Age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved September 6, 2020, from


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