Inclusivity in Assessments - Challenges, Solutions and Recommendations

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6 Accessibility Challenges and How to Solve them

Students today face a variety of challenges, ranging from the obvious challenges of online exams to the more subtle challenges of online learning. From motivation to the lack of comprehensive, real-time feedback, students are challenged daily to meet rigorous academic demands. This is doubly true for special needs students. We, as educators, have to make sure that we provide a multitude of accessibility features to accommodate all our students.

There are two broad categories of students at varying levels of development who may have difficulty with online tests. First, those students who are typically considered disabled people with low to moderate cognitive impairments or learning disabilities. Second, students who may have Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

LEP students must have a functional literacy in the language of the assessment. In English-language testing, the test should be available in the students’ primary language. Many LEP students have difficulty understanding written English instructions and often need some help to read the text. If your institution is unfamiliar with the content of the online exam, you should provide information in the student handbook regarding strategies for handling special needs students on exams.

The following are common barriers that students with disabilities may face.

  • Students with low vision or impaired fine motor skills may have difficulty with computer mouse use.
  • Students with learning disabilities, especially dyslexia, and
  • students with attention deficit disorders often do not complete the task instructions.
  • Students with low numeracy skills (e.g., they cannot understand how to perform mathematical operations) may be at risk of misunderstanding the number of questions and their scoring options.
  • Students with emotional disorders may be at risk of anxiety or other emotional difficulties.
  • Students with cognitive impairments may have difficulty determining the sequence of tasks in an exam, or they may have difficulty learning material from the assigned textbook.
  • Students with low language proficiency may have difficulty following directions or may not understand the material presented.
  • Students with a low motivation to succeed may find the online exam to be boring or stressful.
  • Students with visual impairment or limited dexterity may be at risk of dropping out.

You have probably heard the expression “One size doesn’t fit all.” A student who has trouble with math, science, or English has challenges in any online environment, whether the test is on paper or on screen. It is important for you to consider all the ways your students can perform in an online environment and know how to best help students who struggle in that way.

When you think about the design of an online assessment, you need to think about students’ strengths and needs. Students who struggle with taking an assessment online may have an issue with working through materials independently, or in a group setting. The teacher may not have the opportunity to help a student if they are having difficulty.

One general way to help students is to create separate profiles for each. In each such profile, the instructor can distinguish the learning ability of each student. By doing so, the instructor can know what accessibility features they should provide in their exams in order for them to be optimized for the students

SwiftAssess is created with accessibility & inclusivity in mind. Whether for students with disabilities, or students who want to personalize their test experience - SwiftAssess offers different features to accommodate all of them.


Here are six ways that may help when designing an online test or assessment:

Second Chances: Do not give feedback in the format of “wrong.” Feedback should be in the form of “next.” Make sure that students can move forward and back. When moving forward, provide space for student to work. If a student clicks the “next” button too soon, offer them the option to go back. Allow your students to skip questions and answer “I don’t know.”

Time Constraints: If your test or assessment needs to have multiple parts, and they cannot all be completed at once, you need to ensure that students can skip parts with which they may struggle. This is especially important if your test or assessment is long or has multiple pages. Another way to help students is to provide a student with a timer to give them more time for a section of an assessment or when the time ends.

Reading Problems: We are aware that some students are facing difficulties while reading questions during online exams. This can arise from multiple factors such as LEP or having issues like Dyslexia. If your students struggle with reading, there are a few options to help them. You can have an attribute that makes the question be read aloud to students. Another option is to ensure that the question format is concise and to the point.

Colour Schemes: Students with colour blindness (achromatopsia, deuteranopia, protanopia, and tritanopia) can face difficulties in using computers. Colourblind students find it difficult to solve equations and other mathematical tasks in a computerized environment. That is because of the way they look at the monitor in the online tests. Since their eyes do not have the same experience with colours as people with normal vision, they will need more time to distinguish the colours. To ensure the exam is accessible to such students, exam authors should adjust the themes and colour scheme of the exam environment to fit the students’ needs.

Question Format: Students with low attention spans such as those with ADHD, visual impairment, and students with LEP could face issues reading a question in an online exam. Try to get the tests in a different format. Readable questions usually have a bigger font size and bold text, especially for the keywords. It is also helpful to make the text readable by increasing the font size and by using different types of text: bullets or numbers larger letters capitalize the keywords

Language: For many students, English is not their first language. When taking an online assessment, a student may find themselves understanding the subject but unable to understand the questions presented to them. This is especially critical when it comes to mathematics and science assessments. One way to address this is by providing a multilingual interface or a translating service integrated into the online assessment.

Here at SwiftAssess, we can help improve performance for special needs students and make sure they can achieve their academic goals by creating tests with clear instructions and a user-friendly interface. You will get clear answers to questions, the time limit, and the amount of time for answers will be clearly defined. Our experienced team of developers created the platform you need. You can design exams with several types of disabilities that students with special needs might have, like dyslexia, specific learning disabilities or mental or physical conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).