What matters to you.

Results and Conclusions

Student Results
After analyzing the data obtained from the students’ interviews, three themes clearly emerged: (1) students’ self-confidence, (2) subject preference, (3) better access and understanding. Within the students’ self-confidence theme, the overwhelming majority of participating students (over 82%) expressed that they did good or better than good in the assessment. Most students also shared that the assessment they took as part of this study was equal to or easier than the exams they take at school and that it took them less time to complete than the tests at school.

In the area of subject preference, the majority of students in this study believed they performed better on the math and science questions than the English Language Arts (ELA) ones. Students also identified math and science to be their favorite subjects in school and preferred questions about science and math in the assessment because of that.

In terms of better access and understanding, a large majority of students expressed preference for audio description over the regular print, large print, or braille questions. Participating students in this study indicated that listening to the questions rather than just reading them helped them to better understand the content and the questions they were asked. Many of them indicated that because they didn’t have to spend time trying to figure out what they were reading, they were able to concentrate on the questions to provide the right answer.

Teacher Results
The participating teachers in this study were asked a series of open-ended questions about the students they provide services to and the current access to print accommodations they provide to these students. As we analyzed the data, four equally exclusive themes emerged that we were able to use to classify all participants' responses across all the questions. The four equally exclusive themes were (1) importance of equal access to curriculum, (2) collaboration with general education teachers, (3) time, and (4) resources.

Participants identified equal access to curriculum as the biggest benefit when providing students with access to print accommodations. The majority of participants suggested that having the academic curriculum in a format accessible to their students “levels the playing field,” and provides the students with the same opportunities as their non-disabled peers. This was true for students with a print disability and students with visual impairments or blindness.

One of the biggest challenges encountered by the teachers in this study when providing access to print accommodations was communication and collaboration with general education teachers. Participants expressed that getting materials in a timely manner is often a challenge and prevents them from adapting the materials and making them accessible to the students. Teachers also talked about the uncertainty over whether students were getting the necessary accommodations in their classrooms when they were not present.

Many teachers talked about the time it takes to adapt materials to make them accessible to their students with print disabilities. The majority of the participating teachers talked about the size of their caseload. They also addressed the amount of time they have to devote to individual accommodations, and identified the lack of time as a challenge when providing accommodations and meeting the needs of their students.

Shortage of human resources, lack of material resources and technology were often identified by teachers as major challenges when providing access to print accommodations for students. Under this theme participants identified funding as the reason for the absence of these resources and pinpointed this to be challenging when making print materials accessible to their students.

Braille readers in this study were more likely to select the correct answers when given image description without tactile graphics. All other students in this study were equally likely to select the correct answer whether given image description or not, regardless of disability category. In addition, the majority of students expressed a strong preference for questions that included image description, stating that they felt image description improved their understanding of the question. Students with visual disabilities who were print readers had a greater proportion of correct responses when compared to braille readers or to students with print disabilities.

On average, braille readers required 1½ to 2 times longer to complete each question, supporting the accommodation of increased time when assessments are administered in braille. Large print readers required almost the same amount of time as regular print readers, although in some cases the time difference was as much as 1½ times longer. However, in both cases, the comparison was made to students who had print disabilities and who already had extended time as an assessment accommodation. Thus, the amount of additional time required may actually be longer for a typical test administration.

Students expressed strong preferences for science and mathematics questions, even though they were less likely to respond correctly to questions in those content areas. This incongruency between preference and performance is an area that requires further investigation.

Teachers who participated in project workshops and who were interviewed following the test administration to their students reported strong belief in the potential effectiveness of image description. They stressed the importance of equal access to the curriculum that image description could provide, but also expressed frustration with the time and resources needed to provide individualized accommodations for their students.

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.

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.