What Do We Need to Do to Make All of Our Exams Accessible?
Testing organisations frequently contact the Pearson VUE Accessibility Services department with one question: “What do we need to do to make our exams accessible?” The reasons why they may need to ask this question vary considerably.
A blog by Matt Robinson, Ed.S., CPACC, Manager, Pearson VUE Accessibility Services
Most often, we are contacted for assistance on accessibility because they are in a crisis. They haven’t yet considered the accessibility of their exams and now a candidate for their license or certification programme has requested to take an exam with assistive technology. Not knowing how to respond to the candidate, they reach out inquiring what to do with this specific request. Other organisations may have initially offered alternative accommodations, but the candidate has appealed the decision, or has discussed their accommodation decision with a legal representative, an advocacy group, or a government representative.
Alternatively, we are contacted when they have initiated an effort to ensure the exams they create are accessible. As you might imagine, the level of stress associated with a calculated accessibility initiative is considerably lower than responding to an accessibility crisis.
Regardless of the reasons for seeking consultation for an accessibility project, whether due to a crisis or a calculated initiative; the approach to how to make an exam accessible is relatively the same. However, there are a variety of topics that testing entities need to consider in order to create accessible exams.
Firstly, understand that the depth of knowledge of accessibility principles varies across testing organisations, and therefore they need to define the following in terms of their relevance to their organisation and test:
- What is accessibility?
- What is assistive technology?
- And how does the accessibility of our exams impact a candidate’s ability to use assistive technology?
Secondly, they need to further consider the various components of exam delivery required to deliver an accessible testing experience to candidates. These may be an accessible registration system, or an accessible exam delivery driver, however to achieve a true accessible exam experience for the candidates, a comprehensive review of the testing process must be done with “accessibility” in the forefront.
Finally, testing organisations need to review the accessibility of the exam forms. At the core of creating accessible exams is understanding the construct of your exam: having a firm understanding of what you are and are not measuring. This will aid your content development team in selecting item types that do not introduce additional constructs into your exam, thus impacting the validity of your test. Having a thorough understanding of your exam construct will assist in your accommodation (and assistive technology) decisions.
For those new to the concept, accessibility can seem like an insurmountable task. Obviously, while this article will certainly not move you from novice to expert in accessibility for assessments; its aim is to provide you with a broader perspective and appreciation for the topic of exam accessibility, and an understanding that there are testing partners with extensive experience and expertise to assist you in achieving your test accessibility objectives.