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Describing Images for Enhanced Assessments


The Utah, Colorado, and Kansas state education agencies have examined the use of description as an accommodation for students with visual and print disabilities in order to provide access to visual and complex images within state assessments.

The project tested image description with 302 students in grades 3-8, in three subjects English Language Arts, Math and Science. Of the 302 students, 182 had print disabilities and 120 had visual disabilities.

Based on the results of this study, image description appears to be an unbiased accommodation. We recommend that it be permitted on statewide assessments and urge state departments of education to include description as an allowable accommodation for assessment and for instruction.

Significant Findings:

  • Braille readers were more likely to select the correct answers when given image description without tactile graphics.
  • All other students in the study were equally likely to select the correct answer when given image description or not.
  • Image description is an unbiased accommodation.
  • Teachers reported strong belief in the potential effectiveness of image description.
  • Preliminary qualitative data suggest strong student preference for image description.

Learn More:

Funding for this project is from the U.S. Department of Education to the Utah State Office of Education under Grant Award #S368A090019. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations are those of the project team and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education.

Authors: Bryan Gould, Wendy Carver, Silvia M. Correa-Torres, Jennifer Johnson Howell, and Kay Alicyn Ferrell. 2012.