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Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Series: Assessment Accommodations, April 2022

Assessment Accommodations April: Categories of Assessment Accommodations

For individuals with disabilities, accommodations make the difference between access to opportunities and being shut out of those opportunities. Accommodations, while vital, vary from individual to individual and depend on many different factors. Join the Bridges Helpdesk as we explore understanding, identifying, and advocating for accommodations in the area of assessments, including quizzes and tests, state-required tests, and tests required for college admission and for earning college credit.

Join us as we explore blind/low vision-related accommodations, from definition through their application on high-stakes tests.

  • April 5: Accommodations versus Modifications
  • April 12: Categories of Assessment Accommodations
  • April 19: Importance of Using Assessment Accommodations Consistently
  • April 26: Guides to Testing Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students in Maryland

In this second installment of our “Assessment Accommodations April” series, we discuss the different categories of accommodations related to assessments, including high-stakes testing. Understanding these categories helps one determine which accommodations are needed to provide both access and equivalent ease of use when taking assessments.

Categories of Assessment Accommodations

Presentation

Presentation refers to how you interact with the assessment. Examples of presentation accommodations include:

  • Braille (hard copy or on a refreshable braille display)
  • Enlarged print (hard copy or using a magnification tool)
  • Via a computer or tablet using screen reading or magnifying software
  • Tactile graphics
  • Human reader

Response

Response accommodations deal with the manner in which you provide your answers and include:

  • Embossing braille (typically with a brailler, your responses are then transcribed)
  • Handwriting (your responses are then transcribed)
  • Electronic entry (into a QWERTY or six-key keyboard or using another data entry device; your responses are then transcribed)
  • Human scribe (you verbally provide answers; your responses are then transcribed)
  • Tactile graphics
  • Human reader
  • Calculator

Setting

Setting accommodations refer to the environment where the testing occurs. Common setting accommodations include:

  • Small group testing setting
  • Individual testing setting
  • Alternate location (might include testing at home)
  • Special furniture/desks
  • Headphones to reduce environmental noise

Timing/Scheduling

Timing/Scheduling accommodations refer to alterations in the length of time for a portion of the assessment or for the assessment as a whole. Common timing/scheduling accommodations include:

  • Time of day
  • Extended time
  • Frequent breaks
  • Multiple test sessions
  • Testing over multiple days

Determining Which Accommodations You Need

In order to get accommodations, you must show that you need them in order to have access to the assessment and/or in order to have equivalent ease of access to the assessment. Accommodations do not give you an advantage; they merely attempt to counter disadvantages you face because of the inaccessibility of the “regular” assessment.

While too many accommodations can slow you down, you are entitled to all the accommodations you need. For example, you might be a braille reader who uses both tactile graphics AND print graphics. You do not have to choose which type of graphic you will use; you have the right to request and receive both – assuming that you need the accommodations as a result of a qualifying disability.

Also, you are entitled to all the accommodations you need to meet all areas of disability. For example, a student might be a braille reader but might also have a reading disability. That student might need both braille assessments and human reader support. The human reader is needed because the student cannot efficiently or accurately read text as a result of the reading disability. The braille is needed because the student can read braille even though it is difficult because access to the braille may help the student focus on certain words in the passage. Again, the focus is on the student’s individual needs created by the student’s disabilities, not on disability categories.

Reach Out to the Bridges Helpdesk

Deciding what accommodations you need can be overwhelming, but know that we are here for you. If you want to discuss these matters, including how to develop your own “Reasonable Accommodations Request,” reach out to us. We are ready, willing, able, and eager to help!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Series: Assessment Accommodations, April 2022

Assessment Accommodations April: Accommodations versus Modifications

For individuals with disabilities, accommodations make the difference between access to opportunities and being shut out of those opportunities. Accommodations, while vital, vary from individual to individual and depend on many different factors. Join the Bridges Helpdesk as we explore understanding, identifying, and advocating for accommodations in the area of assessments, including quizzes and tests, state-required tests, and tests required for college admission and for earning college credit.

Join us as we explore blind/low vision-related accommodations, from definition through their application to high-stakes tests.

  • April 5: Accommodations versus Modifications
  • April 12: Categories of Assessment Accommodations
  • April 19: Importance of Using Assessment Accommodations Consistently
  • April 26: Guides to Testing Accommodations for Blind/Low Vision Students in Maryland

In this first installment of our “Assessment Accommodations April” series, we define accommodations, compare them with modifications, and discuss the lifelong benefits of correctly identifying accommodations you need.

What are Accommodations?

The first step in understanding accommodations is knowing where the right to accommodations comes from. While accommodations can and are listed in a student’s IEP, the right to accommodations is not based on the law that governs IEPs, the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act).

Instead, the legal right to accommodations comes from two federal civil rights laws: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The IDEA focuses on providing both access and educational and instructional services for individuals with specific disabilities. In contrast, Section 504 and the ADA focus on access for all individuals with a great variety of disabilities.

Accommodations focus on access to programs, materials, etc. However, accommodations CANNOT change the nature of the program or activity. For example, using a computer with screen reading software on an assessment (test, quiz, etc.) is an accommodation, but using that computer with spellchecking software might NOT be an accommodation if spelling is part of the assessment itself.

How do Accommodations Differ from Modifications?

Defining modifications

Unlike accommodations, modifications change some portion of the program or activity. For example, on an assessment, having fewer questions per page is an accommodation while having fewer multiple-choice answers to pick from is a modification.

Modifications limited to K-12 school (IEPs)

Modifications are permitted and sometimes required in the IEP of a student in public school. Even on tests in school, modifications can be provided, even if they change the nature of the assessment. However, the right to modifications is limited to a student’s IEP. Individuals do not have the right to modifications outside the school arena; even extracurricular school activities do not need to make accommodations if the activity is competitive, such as a sports team that requires try-outs. Also, the school does not need to offer modifications that would fundamentally alter the nature of that extracurricular activity.  

The right to modifications is limited to public school attendance and the IDEA. Thus, once a student graduates from or otherwise leaves public school, the student no longer has the right to modifications.

Accommodations for a Lifetime

Accommodations are not tied to the educational environment or to school attendance. “Reasonable accommodations” are available to all individuals with qualifying disabilities in most environments, including in most public places and employment. There are some restrictions, and the “reasonableness” of a proposed accommodation is not always clear. Nevertheless, individuals of all ages with qualifying disabilities have the right to “reasonable accommodations” under both Section 504 and the ADA.

Defining the accommodations you need is important, even while you are in school. Designating these accommodations in an IEP as accommodations is an important transition planning step because you can request these reasonable accommodations after you leave school. Additionally, you will benefit from identifying modifications and developing a plan to move toward accommodations that you will have the right to request long after you leave school.

Reach Out to the Bridges Helpdesk

If you are unsure about whether you have modifications or accommodations or want guidance on how to transition toward accommodations, contact us. If you want to discuss these matters, including how to develop your own “Reasonable Accommodations Request,” reach out to us. We are ready, willing, able, and eager to help!

Check Out the Bridges Helpdesk Life After IEPs Series

Part 1: When Do Things Change, and Why?

Part 2: Changes in Rights to Instructional Services

Part 3: Changes in Rights to Accessible Equipment

Part 4: Changes in Rights to Accommodations and Modifications

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Employment Resources

Want to Be Your Own Boss? – #MomAndPopBusinessOwnersDay

Have you ever noticed just how many national and international celebratory days there are on the calendar? Join the Bridges Helpdesk this month to delight in some of our favorite themed days with us! Topics include:

  • March 1: International Zero Discrimination Day #ZeroDiscriminationDay
  • March 8: National Proofreading Day #NationalProofreadingDay
  • March 15: World Social Work Day #WSWD
  • March 22: National Goof Off Day #NationalGoofOffDay
  • March 29: National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day #MomAndPopBusinessOwnersDay

Today, we are privileged to present interviews with some fabulous blind small business owners. One dove right in as a young man and has operated several businesses, including restaurants, bars, and even a motorcycle shop. Another started her business slowly, while still working a full-time job and caring for her family. Another was a successful businessman who became blind recently; he got training, persevered, and is now looking to grow his very successful catering business.

Earl Smith has owned Smith’s Catering for 20 years. When he lost his vision in 2015, he did not give up his business; he took another road. With blindness training and his strong work ethic, Earl feeds our military troops at Fort Meade and provides jobs for our community.

Eileen Rivera Ley owns a successful consulting business, and Mike Bullis has started and run multiple businesses throughout his life. These two blind entrepreneurs guide us through their trials and tribulations and provide a fabulous roadmap for any aspiring small business owner.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Employment Resources

World Social Work Day #WSWD – Learning from Blind Professionals in the Field

Have you ever noticed just how many national and international celebratory days there are on the calendar? Join the Bridges Helpdesk this month to delight in some of our favorite themed days with us! Topics include:

  • March 1: International Zero Discrimination Day #ZeroDiscriminationDay
  • March 8: National Proofreading Day #NationalProofreadingDay
  • March 15: World Social Work Day #WSWD
  • March 22: National Goof Off Day #NationalGoofOffDay
  • March 29: National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day #MomAndPopBusinessOwnersDay

Today, we share great advice and insights from two blind social workers in our area. These talented professionals share their favorite aspects of their social work careers. They also discuss blindness-specific challenges they have faced and overcome. They then give their advice about a social work career, and we share information about how to contact the Free Bridges Helpdesk.

Laura Havard is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and she has more than thirty years of experience in the social work field. Her career has primarily concentrated on providing information and support to patients in healthcare settings.

Shawn Callaway is a Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW) who works in Washington. D.C. Shawn enjoys working as a head case manager for clients who are blind/have low vision, and he also serves as a regional and national leader as president of the National Federation of the Blind of the District of Columbia and as a member of the Board of the National Federation of the Blind.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

Categories
Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog

International Zero Discrimination Day – Tips for Self-advocacy and Self-determination

Have you ever noticed just how many national and international celebratory days there are on the calendar? Join the Bridges Helpdesk this month to delight in some of our favorite themed days with us! Topics include:

  • March 1: International Zero Discrimination Day #ZeroDiscriminationDay
  • March 8: National Proofreading Day #NationalProofreadingDay
  • March 15: World Social Work Day #WSWD
  • March 22: National Goof Off Day #NationalGoofOffDay
  • March 29: National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day #MomAndPopBusinessOwnersDay

Today, we will discuss International Zero Discrimination Day and the protective laws that this day celebrates.

**Please note that this post is a brief overview, and there are a variety of other laws which protect people with disabilities on the state and national levels. If you are unsure about your rights, please feel free to reach out to the Bridges Helpdesk, which is always confidential.

Why It Matters

If you attend a public school, then you likely have a 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). You might be getting class assignments in different formats than the rest of your peers so that you can access them. Public school students with disabilities are guaranteed by law a free appropriate public education (also called FAPE). High school is a great time to learn what access looks like for you and to develop your own productivity system, but the way you get accessible materials will change once you graduate.

When you leave high school, you will no longer have an IEP, but there are other laws that will protect you against discrimination. Sometimes in life, you will find that you have to be your own advocate or rely upon trusted mentors for guidance so that you can hold people accountable for the access to which you are entitled. In order to do this, it is critical that you understand what discrimination looks like and are aware of the laws that protect you as a person with blindness or low vision.

Federal Laws Prohibiting Disability Discrimination

The protections of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require the individual with a disability to provide proof of the disability and to affirmatively request disability-related accommodations.

These disability-related changes are called “reasonable Accommodations” and are changes you need in order to participate in and/or have access to the activity or service that you cannot access because of your disability.

  • Reasonableness depends on the circumstances. While you are free to request specific accommodations (such as hard copy braille), different accommodations (such as an accessible electronic document) may suffice as a reasonable accommodation. Also, the entity can refuse a requested accommodation if it would cause an “undue hardship” to the entity (this typically refers to cost and difficulty in light of the resources of the entity). Thus, a requested accommodation might be reasonable for a successful chain of restaurants but might be unreasonable for a small, local restaurant (though a different, lower-cost accommodation might be reasonable for that local restaurant).
  • Accommodations refer to what changes are needed. Accommodations cannot result in a “fundamental alteration” of the program or service; you are entitled to access but not to changes in the content.

State Laws

  • In the state of Maryland, disability is a protected class. This means that there are laws protecting people with disabilities from discrimination. If you feel you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.
  • Maryland White Cane Law (2010 Maryland Code, Title 7, sections 7-704 through 7-708) ensures
    • Right to use a white cane, both indoors and outdoors (Section 7-704)
    • Protections for individuals who use service animals (Section 7-705)
  • Maryland state law prohibits discrimination in employment (including the hiring process), housing, and public accommodations (including businesses open to the public).

To learn more, please contact the Free Bridges Helpdesk or visit the Disability Overview web page of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.

Dig Deeper

The first in a four-part series: Life After IEPs Series.

Please check out the Free Bridges Helpdesk’s Life After IEPs, a four-part series published in May 2021.

Part 1: When Do Things Change, and Why?

Part 2: Changes in Rights to Instructional Services

Part 3: Changes in Rights to Accessible Equipment

Part 4: Changes in Rights to Accommodations and Modifications

Conclusion

In the post-high school world, you have the responsibilities to (1) request accommodations, (2) provide documentation of your disability, and (3) collaborate about possible alternative accommodations. Some places of higher education or employers may choose to create a document listing your accommodations requests, and you should keep the written or electronic records of all of your correspondences regarding your accommodations.

Any documentation that the organization decides to have on file regarding your accommodations is not the same as an IEP or 504 Plan at school because it does not require regular check-in meetings. It will be your responsibility to raise your voice and advocate if you need accommodations, and this can be intimidating at first. Just remember that these are rights to which you are entitled, and refusals to provide requested accommodations may constitute discrimination under both state and national law. Please remember that the Free Bridges Helpdesk is always here to help you understand advocacy strategies and to support you.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.