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Some assessment designs make it difficult for students with disabilities; applying universal design principles can improve tests in a variety of ways. For example, more accessible tests may provide a more accurate understanding of what students know and can do. In addition, universally designed general assessments may reduce the need for some testing accommodations. Universally designed tests can have a positive impact upon all students.

  • Amenable to accommodations
  • Simple, clear, and intuitive instructions and procedures
  • Maximum readability and comprehensibility
  • Maximum legibility

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) means a scientifically valid framework for guiding educational practice that — (A) provides flexibility in the ways information is presented, in the ways students respond or demonstrate knowledge and skills, and in the ways students are engaged; and (B) reduces barriers in instruction, provides appropriate accommodations, supports, and challenges, and maintains high achievement expectations for all students, including students with disabilities and students who are limited English proficient.

Checklist for Universal Design of Tests

  1. Standard format, point 14 with sans-serif font, left justified, with no more than 12 words per line.
  2. White space – Include enough white space for easy visual interpretation on the test/response form (e.g. line spacing at minimum “space and a half”). Make it easy to separate documents by having margins at least 1 inch wide.
  3. Do not use a novel format for a high stakes assessment, for example, ensure that the format of a ‘Final’ is consistent with the format used for mid-term tests.
  4. Alternative Format/Large print – Available in large print format for students with low-vision or who process better when less information is presented at once (recommended minimum 16 point with sans-serif font).
  5. Alternative Format/Audio – Except for tests of visual interpretation, handwriting or keyboard the test can be delivered to the student in a spoken format. Allow for different response styles (e.g. spoken, typed, large handwriting). In audio format, (e.g. foreign language, music) student can control pace, volume, and pitch of audio, except when testing rate of interpretation.
  6. About content – Test is not about ability of the student to figure out unusual formats or response methods or ability to interpret language (e.g. story problems for math skills, not a test of reading skills.)
  7. Answer spaces – Keep answer spaces near the test items, and clearly associated with just one test item (e.g. items line up to response blanks, line spacing clearly separates questions.
  8. Test takers informed of time – and have a means of tracking the time expended.
  9. Left-aligned – Helps students process the questions.
  10. Alternative text descriptions – Provide alternative text descriptions for tables, graphs, or pictures (except where graphic interpretation is being tested).
  11. Questions are clearly numbered, page are numbered and ‘END’ marks the end of the test.
  12. If test is to be administered by a test center responsible for testing accommodations, provide the test in a digital format amenable to the accommodation modifications necessary i.e. in an editable format.