Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Examining the Accessibility of a Computerized Adapted Test Using Assistive Technology

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

Examining the Accessibility of a Computerized Adapted Test Using Assistive Technology

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study examined the accessibility barriers of a computerized adapted test called the Measure of Academic Performance. The results showed that as magnification increased, time on the test increased and students required visual efficiency skills. Students who used refreshable braille displays were faced with several obstacles.


Computerized adapted testing (Reckase, 1988) is becoming a widely adopted tool in many educational venues as a way of measuring accountability and progress. A computerized adapted test is designed to respond to a test taker's ability by providing subsequent test questions that are based on the test taker's individual performance, thereby leveling and individualizing the difficulty of each item (Northwest Evaluation Association, NWEA, 2006a). Scores achieved from ongoing adjustments generate a report of a student's abilities in several subskills within a content area and across several grade levels. The advantages of the computerized adapted test include immediate test results, computerized tracking of progress over time, comparative data on performance, large centralized databases for normative sampling, and disaggregated scores for specialized populations (Latu & Chapman, 2002). With the increase in the prevalence of computerized large-scale assessments in school settings, attention needs to be paid to their accessibility and design features for individuals with visual impairments.

Experts in the field of education have embraced the concepts of universal design. These principles, originally conceptualized by the architectural field, are defined as "the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design" (Connell et al., 1997). Guidelines for creating educational curricula, materials, assessments, and online content, based on the concept of universal design, were established by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST; Dolan & Hall, 2001). Educational experts at CAST contend that the individual needs of students are met if the following three guiding principles are applied: "(a) multiple means of representation, (b) multiple means of expression, and (c) multiple means of engagement" (Dolan & Hall, 2001, p. 23). Burgstahler (2007) initiated Universal Design for Education, which used similar standards for the design of computerized content and other educational materials. Thompson and Thurlow (2002), who applied the concepts of universal design specifically to assessment, stated that tests should be developed with every student in mind and that accessibility considerations must be regarded from the onset of the test's development. In a Delphi study sponsored by the National Center for Educational Outcomes (NCEO) (Thompson, Johnstone, Anderson, & Miller, 2005), participating experts agreed that large-scale assessments must be respectful of and sensitive to the diverse population taking the test, have valid measurements that reflect the intended constructs, include multiple media formats (such as large print and braille), be accessible to screen readers, and have the ability to enlarge the font sizes.

During the 2005-06 school year, Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB) adopted the Measure of Academic Progress (MAP), a computerized adapted test developed by NWEA (2006a), as a standardized assessment to measure academic growth in reading, language, and mathematics. However, given the advanced technology required to access the test and the visual representations of specific test items, several accessibility barriers were found for students who used alternate media, such as braille and screen magnification.

The purpose of this article is to disseminate information on computerized adapted tests for students who read braille and large print. The secondary purposes are to discuss accessibility options for students who need alternate media and to examine the adaptive technology that is necessary to make these tests viable for students who read in braille. …

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