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FAQ: Need for Accessible Formats

The following questions and answers are provided to support teams as they navigate the three options under Step 1, Determination of Need.

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What already-existing data and information can be used to decide among the three options?

Some of the specific types of information that can be used to help teams decide a student’s need for accessible formats include but are not limited to:

  • Sensory abilities
  • Physical abilities
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Reading level, including formal and informal reading diagnostic information
  • Indications in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan
  • Academic achievement scores and grades
  • Curriculum-based assessments
  • Statewide and districtwide assessment participation and proficiency

What methods can be used to gather additional information?

Some of the methods used to gather additional information include:

  • Trials with materials in accessible formats
  • Formal measures conducted by a psychologist, a reading specialist, an audiologist, a vision teacher, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, etc.
  • Learning media assessments conducted by vision specialists

Could a student without an identified disability benefit from using an accessible format?

Yes. Many students without disabilities may prefer and could benefit from multiple formats of materials; however, the provision of accessible formats for those students is not required by law.

What information or data would indicate that a student can read and access information from the same text-based educational materials in the same format used across the curriculum by all students?

If a student is making adequate progress and spending a reasonable amount of time on tasks that require obtaining information from text-based educational materials, then the team can determine that there is no need for accessible formats. Data and information can be collected through any of the following:

  • Informal observations by teachers and parents
  • Interviews with students, parents, and teachers
  • Classroom-based assessments
  • Curriculum-based assessments
  • Academic progress
  • Statewide and districtwide assessment results

What are some questions a team may explore to determine if a student may not be able to make effective use of text-based educational materials?

There are many reasons why a student may have difficulty using text-based educational materials, whether print or digital. Examples of questions a team might explore include:

  • Can the student see the material well enough to read the information?
  • Can the student physically manipulate the material without undue effort?
  • Does the student have the necessary physical stamina (e.g., sitting upright, alertness) to read for extended periods of time?
  • Can the student decode letters and words at or near grade level?
  • Can the student read with fluency at or near grade level?

Is there a general indicator that a student could use or learn to use an accessible format effectively?

A primary indicator would be that the student understands the content of the educational materials when the information is presented in another format. For example, when the material is read aloud to the student, the student understands the content and can use the information.

What if the team knows that the student already uses one or more accessible formats?

If accessible formats are currently being used by the student, the team can indicate that the student needs one or more accessible formats and can justify the decision by noting a continuing need for the accessible formats currently provided. The student’s use of the formats should be monitored over time to consider whether currently used formats are sufficient or if additional or different formats are needed.

What is the difference between an accessible format and a modified or alternative material?

An accessible format includes exactly the same content as the original material. The accessible format does not change the content, only the way in which the content is presented to the student. The accessible format neither adds nor changes any information. An alternative material may address the same goals, but the content of the material is modified or changed in some way (usually made less complex) so that it can be understood by the student.

What are some indications that a student may require modified content or an alternative material?

If content typically presented to a student has to be changed or modified for this student to understand the information, it is possible that the student would not be able to make use of the material in an accessible format.

What sources of information can a team use to determine that a student is currently unable to master the same content as provided in the general curriculum?

Sources of information or data may include:

  • Trials with materials in accessible formats using the same content and trials using alternative or modified materials
  • Reading diagnostic information
  • Informal observations by teachers and parents
  • Indications in an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 plan
  • Formal measures conducted by a psychologist, psychological associate, or educational diagnostician
  • Determination by the IEP team that the student requires alternative statewide or districtwide assessments
  • Determination by the IEP team that the student requires an alternative educational curriculum
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