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FAQs About Testing

Deaf students are a highly diverse population with a broad range of language and cultural backgrounds. They do not have full access to language with instruction in English-based classrooms, even with accommodations. These issues create obstacles to fair and equitable testing; accommodations may help reduce barriers encountered in test accessibility. To learn more about deaf students and testing,  NDC Learn offers two free Testing Equity self-paced online courses.

The Department of Justice’s resource Testing Accommodations states the following:

  • Tests should be fair and equitable for deaf individuals.

  • Private and public entities are required to ensure tests are accessible.

  • Auxiliary aids and services, known as accommodations, allow deaf individuals the opportunity to demonstrate their true abilities.

It is important to consider the following in determining appropriate test accommodations:

  • The learning and communication background of the deaf student

  • What the test is trying to measure, such as its purpose, the goal and design

  • Test security and how accommodations support the integrity of the test

Utilizing the interactive process, the team of the student, instructor and disability services professional should work to match accommodations that allow the student to show their true ability and knowledge without impacting what the test wants to measure. 

Yes, the use of sign language interpreters for exams may be a reasonable accommodation, allowing the student to demonstrate content knowledge while reducing barriers to the test. To determine if the use of a sign language interpreter is appropriate, review the accommodation request with the instructor and student on a test-by-test basis.

Deaf students have unique linguistic and educational experiences, which can result in an inaccurate measurement of the student’s knowledge and abilities during exams. Test Accessibility: What Professionals Need to Know mentions several factors contribute to the barriers for deaf test-takers, including:

  • Limited access to English language for deaf students means tests may have terms they are unfamiliar with.

  • Language style and test structure is usually different than everyday English, and will be in a different language for ASL users.

Online courses pose unique challenges for deaf students as the content is heavily text-based. Accommodations, such as extended test time, allows deaf students to access English-based text.

Consult with the student and disability services professional to determine how extended time can be applied to tests and other online course content. Additional testing accommodations are also discussed in Why Test Accommodations Are Important for Deaf Students.