By: Carmen Willings
It can be difficult to perform developmental, educational and psychological assessments on students who are blind or visually impaired using the standard tools. This is because the test must be adapted to make it accessible which can sometimes take away the validity of the test. The appropriateness of a test given to a student who is blind or visually impaired is dependent not only on the ability to adapt the test, but on the characteristics of the tests and if the questions are dependent on a students ability to reference or call upon visual information. Simply adapting a written test into a large-print, braille, or audio format or a computer CD-ROM does not in itself make a test accessible.
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The test must first be in a format that the student uses. For example, if a student who is blind has not yet learned contracted braille, a reading test for the student needs to be in uncontracted braille. A student who has never taken a test using an audio format would be at a disadvantage if the test was provided only in an audio format. If a test is computer generated, as many tests are, a student needs to have some previous experience with the kind of software the test uses. If they use a screen reader or screen magnification software, care needs to be taken to ensure the software is compatible with the testing program. In some tests, complex items may not be convertible to an accessible format. In such a case, a similar question needs to be developed that measures the same skill as the original item. If an item is complex and cannot be adapted, it should be omitted, and the scoring of the test will need to be modified.
In Foundations of Education, Second Edition: Volume II Instructional Strategies for Teaching Children and Youths with Visual Impairments, Co-Author, Toni Heinze identifies the following guidelines that all formal tests should adhere to:
She points out that typically, students with visual impairments are not in the standardized population, and since the tests may need to be significantly modified, it could jeopardize the tests validity. The team must decide the purpose of the test and weigh the advantages and disadvantages to using any tool.
Tests Adapted for Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired
The Brigance Diagnostic Comprehensive Inventory of Basic Skills, a criterion-referenced inventory that assesses, on an individual basis, a student's strengths or weaknesses in specific skill areas, is available in Large Print and Braille from APH.
Oregon Project for Visually Impaired and Blind Preschoolers (OR Project) is available through the Southern Oregon Educational Services District. It is a comprehensive assessment and curriculum designed for use with children birth to six who are blind or visually impaired. In the 6th edition, it was significantly updated with the addition of 200 skill areas. Skill areas include: cognitive, language, compensatory, vision, self-help, social, fine motor, and gross motor.
Woodcock-Johnson III: Tests of Achievement
is available in a full-color large print and braille edition from APH. It is one of the most widely used diagnostic tests for ages 2 and up. It is commonly used to identify learning disabilities and for gathering details on individual strengths and weaknesses in preparation for educational planning.