Guideline 1: Provide options for perception that enhance clarity and accessibility of directions (what is expected of students) and stimuli (assessment materials).

In order to gain an accurate view of students' understanding, assessments must present information in ways that are perceptible to all students. It is impossible to respond to items that are imperceptible to the learner, and difficult to respond when items are presented in formats that require extraordinary effort or assistance. To reduce barriers to assessment, therefore, it is important to ensure that key information is equally perceptible to all students by (1) providing the same information through different sensory modalities (e.g., through vision, hearing, or touch); (2) providing information in a format that will allow for adjustments by the user (e.g., text that can be enlarged, sounds that can be amplified). Such multiple representations not only ensure that information is accessible to students with particular sensory and perceptual disabilities, they also make it easier for many others to access. When the same information, for example, is presented in both speech and text, the complementary representations enhance comprehensibility for most students.

1.1 Options that customize the display of information

In print assessments, the display of information is fixed, permanent, one size fits all. With digital assessments, the display of the same information is malleable and can easily be changed or transformed into a different display, thus providing great opportunities to customize it. For example, the font size of a test item could be enlarged, the colors used could be changed to provide more or less contrast, or images could be enlarged. Such malleability provides many options for increasing the perceptual clarity of information for a wide range of students, and adjustments for the preferences of others. While these customizations are difficult to make with print materials, they are commonly available automatically with digital materials.

Informational resource for "Effective Color Contrast" - useful for teachers when creating materials, particularly for students with low vision: http://www.lighthouse.org/accessibility/design/accessible-print-design/effective-color-contrast

Resources on "American Printing House for the Blind" (APH) Guidelines - see this informational website for teachers: http://www.aph.org/edresearch/lpguide.htm

Resource on "Win Zoom" - see the website on this commercial software for teachers and students: http://www.getwinzoom.com/

The "National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials" (AIM), a resource for teachers on guiding the provision of accessible instructional materials for students. http://aim.cast .org/

1.2 Options that provide alternatives for auditory information

Although sound is not often a part of assessments, it is important to consider the barriers that auditory information may present should it be included in a test item. Information conveyed solely through sound is not equally accessible to all students, and it is especially inaccessible for students with hearing disabilities, for students who need extra time to process information, or for students who have memory difficulties. To ensure that all students have equivalent access to learning, options should be available for any information, including emphasis, that is presented aurally.

1.3 Options that provide alternatives for visual information

Graphics, animation, or video is often included in assessments, especially when the information is about the relationships between objects, actions, numbers, or events. But such visual representations are not equally accessible to all students, especially students with visual disabilities or those who are not familiar with the graphic conventions employed. To ensure that all students have equal access to that information, non-visual alternatives should be available that use other modalities, such as text, touch, or audition.

Small toy dinosaur paired with text.

An adaptive keyboard and custom overlay designed with eight cells providing points of entry to write a sentence. The user may touch and make audio or printed output for communication.

Text is a special case of visual information. Since text is a visual representation of spoken language, the transformation from text back into speech is among the most easily accomplished methods for increasing accessibility. The advantage of text over speech is its permanence, but providing text that is easily transformed into speech accomplishes that permanence without sacrificing the advantages of speech. Digital synthetic text to speech is increasingly effective but still disappoints in the ability to carry the valuable information in prosody. However, digital synthetic speech is preferred over a human reader in assessment situations to ensure that the human reader does not unintentionally give away any information in the tone or emphasis of his or her voice that may lead a student to the correct answer.

Informational resource for teachers on "Guidelines for Describing STEM Images" (e.g., images, tables, and graphs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics content areas): http://ncam.wgbh.org/experience_learn/educational_media/stemdx/intro

"Art Beyond Sight" - an informational website for teachers on making visual art accessible for students with visual impairments and useful in supporting all students in gaining information from works of art: http://www.artbeyondsight.org/

Resources for "Learning Though Listening" - see this informational website for teachers and students: http://www.learningthroughlistening.org/

Resources on "Math Markup Language" - see this informational website for teachers: http://www.w3.org/Math/