Accommodations/Modificationsfor People With Disabilities

Your goal in providing accommodations when testing a person with disabilities is to measure the intended construct rather than the irrelevant effects of a test taker’s disability Your task is to “remove construct-irrelevant barriers that otherwise would interfere with examinees’ ability to demonstrate their standing on the target constructs” (AERA et al., 2014, p. 67, Standard 3.9). Sometimes a modification is necessary that alters the intended construct. The topic of when and how to provide accommodations/modifications is complicated, has become highly politicized and is likely to involve litigation.

Unless you have specialized knowledge of testing people with disabilities, you will not be able to deal with accommodations/modifications on your own. Provide appropriate accommodations/ modifications by doing the following.

  • • Assemble a panel of experts in testing people with disabilities, including legal counsel familiar with applicable laws and precedents.
  • • With the help of the panel, document rules for identifying who is qualified for an accommodation. (Generally people who qualify for accommodations in school or at work should qualify for similar accommodations in testing, but other people may qualify as well.)
  • • Provide an accommodation for a test taker with a documented disability that is not related to the construct being measured.
  • • Standard 3.9 is explicit that “accommodations must address individual test takers’ specific needs” (AERA et al., 2014, p. 67). With the help of the panel, tailor the accommodation to the individual needs of the test taker. Do not assume, for example, that all test takers who are blind will prefer a Braille test form. Some may prefer a human reader, and others may prefer computer voicing.
  • • Providing a modification is more complicated. Flagging a score as nonstandardized “can be a controversial issue and subject to legal requirements.” Furthermore, “there is little agreement in the field on how to proceed when credible evidence on comparability [with standardized scores] does not exist” (AERA et al., 2014, p. 61). Therefore, if a modification would interfere with measurement of the intended construct (e.g., a request for a written script for a listening-comprehension test), have the panel, including legal counsel, decide whether to deny the modification, to provide the modification and flag the score as nonstandard or to provide the modification and not flag the score. Standard 3.9 (AERA et al., 2014, p. 67) does allow modifications that change the construct that the test is measuring, but states that “the modified assessment should be treated like a newly developed assessment that needs to adhere to the test standards for validity, reliability/precision, fairness, and so forth.”
  • (For more information on testing people with disabilities, see AERA et al., 2014, pp. 57—62; Elliot & Kettler, this volume; Kopriva & Albers, 2013; Koretz & Barton, 2004. For information about the legal issues involved, see Borecca, Cheramie & Borecca, 2013.)
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