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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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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources

National Proofreading Day – Tips for Accessible Proofreading

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, join us as we discuss accessible proofreading for National Proofreading Day.

Individual Proofreading

When you turn in assignments or professional documents, proofreading will keep all of your content as error-free as possible. Proofreading is a critical skill and is one of the keys to advanced writing. Here are some suggestions for proofreading your documents:

Braille Technology

  • If you have a Braille display, you can read exactly what is written on the computer in your document rather than listening to it with a screen reader.
  • This can help you catch spelling and grammar errors that you may not have noticed when listening.
  • You could also choose to use hard copy Braille by utilizing an embosser to create almost instantaneous copies of your text.

Spelling and Grammar Checks

  • Microsoft Office and other programs have built-in spelling and grammar checks which are accessible with screen readers. The layout of the menus for these features will depend on the version of Microsoft you have as well as the length of your document.
  • For all checks, however, the proofreading starting key is F7. Here is a link at which you can learn more about Microsoft Editor features, which is available in newer versions of Word. If you have another version of Word and would like document proofing tips, the Bridges Helpdesk is here to help!

Screen Reader Settings

Collaborative Proofreading

Proofreading your own work is important, but many assignments will require you to offer revision suggestions on others’ work and receive edit suggestions on your work in return. In our increasingly virtual world, both blind and sighted individuals are relying more heavily upon track changes and comments in documents rather than the old method of red pen and X marks to make revision recommendations. There are two different types of virtual edits with which you can interact: comments and track changes.

  • Comments offer written remarks on a document and can be placed within the document, at the end of the document, or in a separate document.
  • Track changes are a copy-editing tool which allows a person to make wording, punctuation, or other small revisions on the document.

Comments

  • To add a comment in a document, move to the location in the document where you wish to add the comment.
  • Press the APPLICATIONS key to open the Context menu. Arrow down until JAWS says “new comment”.  You can then type your comment and press ESCAPE when finished.
  • To view comments made by others in a document or to review your own comments, press WINDOWS+; and choose “Comments”. You can then use your arrow keys to navigate through the comments. You can edit or delete a comment by pressing the APPLICATIONS key when focus is on the comment on which you want to take action.

Track Changes

  • Turn track changes on and off by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+E.
  • To navigate through a preexisting list of track changes, press INSERT+Z. Use the letter R to move through the list of track changes. The APPLICATIONS key will give you the option to reject or accept each track change.
  • More information on Tracking Changes with JAWS

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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Bridges Blog Educational Resources Information Resources

Maryland School for the Blind Virtual Tour

You don’t want to miss this inclusive virtual tour of the Maryland School for the Blind! This tour offers audio description throughout the tour. There is also a text document of the tour transcript, including embedded audio files and pictures with alt text, and there is an option to start the tour with audio navigation.

In this tour, you’ll hear about the wonderful facilities at the Maryland School for the Blind. You’ll also hear descriptions of inclusive design, including library bookcases that are positioned to ensure that all individuals, including those who use wheelchairs, can browse the available materials.

Explore at your leisure. You might even get some great ideas to use at your home or school!

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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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Employment Resources Series: Resolutions for Resilience, January 2022

Resolutions for Resilience: Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

January always ushers in a new year, and many take the opportunity to develop New Year’s Resolutions during this month. While Resolutions can take many forms (including diet, exercise, etc.), the Free Bridges Helpdesk offers some tips for helping you get the access you need with Resolutions for Resilience.

  • Coaching Your Teachers on Accessibility
  • Controlling the Chat in Online Classes
  • Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible
  • Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

In this fourth installment of our “Resolutions for Resilience” series, we share some tips to help you access text on inaccessible PDFs.

Why It Matters

PDFs are everywhere; PDF accessibility is not. To complicate matters, the ability of PDFs to be accessible is widely misunderstood; some have the mistaken belief that PDFs cannot be made to be accessible for blind individuals and thus prevent blind students from having the opportunity to learn how to interact with accessible PDFs and how to remediate inaccessible PDFs.

Navigating PDFs

Even if a PDF is accessible, you need to know how to use your accessible assistive technology to access it efficiently. Here is a quick “cheat sheet” from Freedom Scientific, the creator of JAWS screen reading software, to get you started: Prevent Document Frustration: JAWS and PDFs Guide, and check out Elizabeth Whitaker’s APH Access Academy presentation Prevent Document Frustration JAWS and PDFs. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk with any questions.

Accessing Text on Inaccessible PDFs

Often, when a PDF is inaccessible, it has been saved as a graphic. Even though text might appear on the screen, the screen is actually showing a PICTURE of text. The computer only recognizes the picture; it cannot recognize the text.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) can be the answer to this problem. As its name implies, OCR software scans the picture and attempts to recognize portions of the picture as alphabetical or numerical characters (letters or numbers). As discussed in last week’s Bridges Blog post, “Resolutions for Resilience: Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible,” the widely-used screen reading software JAWS has built-in OCR capabilities with its tool called Convenient OCR.

OCR Inaccessible PDFs

Sometimes people share PDFs that they have scanned into the computer as image files. Many times, they might not realize what they have done; they are just using the default settings of their scanners. Convenient OCR is a great tool to provide you immediate access to these PDFs! Here are the steps to perform this Inaccessible PDF Hack:

  • Open the PDF and use Convenient OCR:
    • JAWS key and spacebar at the same time (you’ll hear JAWS announce “space”)
    • Then the letter O (you’ll hear JAWS announce “O; OCR”)
    • Then the letter D (you’ll hear JAWS announce “Document OCR started”)
  • JAWS will open up another window that contains the text from the inaccessible PDF and will begin reading it.
    • In that new window, there is a link called “Open in Word…” You can quickly navigate to that link by:
      • Type “U” for unvisited link
      • Use JAWS key plus F7 to display Links list
      • Tab to the “Open in Word…” link
    • Open the link, and you have a new Word document with accessible text from the PDF.
  • Name and save the file, and you now have access to that text anytime you want!

OCR Saved Screen-shares

Screen-shares are a perfect example of an inaccessible PDF.

Last week’s blog discussed using Convenient OCR to access screen-shared text in real-time, but you might also want to save the screen-shared information for later reference. To do this, you can take screenshots during the presentation, save them, and use OCR on them after the presentation to create your own accessible document. Here are some steps that can make this process easier:

  • First, open a blank Word document and give it a name. This document will be the place you store all of your screenshots.
  • When you want to capture a screen during the presentation, take a screenshot. Most laptops have keys or key combinations to perform this function. When you take a screenshot, the image will automatically be saved to your clipboard.
  • Tab over to that blank Word document and paste your screenshot (Control plus V is the paste command). Save the document (F12 or Control plus S), and jump back to the shared screen.
  • Continue taking screenshots, pasting them into your new Word document, and saving the updated document.
  • At the end, save as a Word document AND save as a PDF (F12, then change document type to PDF).
  • Open the PDF and use Convenient OCR:
    • JAWS key and spacebar at the same time (you’ll hear JAWS announce “space”)
    • Then the letter O (you’ll hear JAWS announce “O; OCR”)
    • Then the letter D (you’ll hear JAWS announce “Document OCR started”)
  • JAWS will open up another window that contains the text from the inaccessible PDF and will begin reading it.
    • In that new window, there is a link called “Open in Word…” You can quickly navigate to that link by:
      • Type “U” for unvisited link
      • Use JAWS key plus F7 to display Links list
      • Tab to the “Open in Word…” link
    • Open the link, and you have a new Word document with accessible text from the PDF.
  • Name and save the file, and you now have access to that text anytime you want!

Note: Convenient OCR “is only available in JAWS and Zoomtext Fusion, it is not available in Zoomtext Screen Magnifier” and it “requires an active internet connection.” From New Features of JAWS and Zoomtext Fusion 2021.

Continue Advocating for Accessible Documents

Tools like Convenient OCR are great, but they are not perfect. Convenient OCR provides you text, but it cannot create headings or other text features (including tables). Also, poor-quality PDFs may keep Convenient OCR from providing you accurate text, and, while Convenient OCR is quick, it does take a bit of time to perform.

Know that there are federal laws that require most schools and businesses to provide “reasonable accommodations” that you request, and accessible files (whether PDFs, Word, or PowerPoint) are examples of reasonable accommodations.

The Free Bridges Helpdesk is here to help with you what you need, whether it’s technical help, advocacy, or anything else. Remember, all Bridges Helpdesk help is private and confidential, and we are here for 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.