Cadmus Inclusive is a SEND advisory and behaviour service in Walsall which provides a holistic range of support to educational settings to help them meet the needs of vulnerable learners. Beccie Hawes, Head of Service, and Emma Cardinal, Vision Impairment Lead at Chuckery Primary School in Walsall, share their top tips for schools on making assessment accessible for pupils with vision impairments.
Chuckery Primary School is a mainstream two-form entry school with its own Nursery situated in the heart of Walsall in the West Midlands. Our mission statement is “Working Together” and our motto is "What have you done today to make you feel proud?". To embody this, we all strive to provide a happy, secure environment where all children can thrive and develop intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically. Our school has a diverse community which includes a number of pupils with vision impairments. One of the challenges we face as part of our inclusive approach is making assessment accessible for this group of pupils so that they have every possible opportunity to achieve to the very best of their potential.
As we have developed our approach to assessment we have worked in partnership with Cadmus Inclusive to set up Cadmus Vision, a service designed to support other schools in meeting the needs of learners with mild to moderate vision impairments. Here are what we consider to be the potential most common barriers to assessment for pupils with vision impairments and the top tips that many of our schools find helpful in making assessment accessible.
Potential barriers to accessibility:
- The presentation of questions – especially if they are too “wordy”. This can result in too much visual information to scan through, especially when learners work with large print or braille. This can make locating the key information that is required to answer the questions more challenging and tiring.
- Lack of experience of the world in a visual sense. This means that diagrams and pictures can lack meaning if the pupil has had no real life experience to support understanding.
- Visual fatigue – reading for a prolonged length of time or in timed conditions is tiring when it is difficult. It is worth noting that braille users can also experience fatigue, although this isn’t technically visual fatigue.
- Producing written responses – this is tiring for pupils who are already fatigued from the reading that is expected of them.
- General modifications to the presentation of test materials are not always exactly appropriate to the individual as all children with vision impairments have different types and levels of need.
Our top tips:
- Offer carefully timed rest breaks during completion and, in line with examination guidance for public examinations, allow extra time. Remember that each pupil will have a different level of time that they can sustain working before performance is impacted upon.
- Provide real life objects and tactile experiences as much as possible, to allow the pupil to recall their experience and knowledge of the world. This will give them context to aid successful recall and anchor their answers in their personally meaningful experiences of the world.
- Read questions to them where this is allowed. It is good to support learners to become independent in requesting when to ask to have questions read to them as standard day-to-day practice. This is especially important if there is an adult who is less familiar with the pupil offering support in an assessment scenario.
- Deploy the usual method that the learner uses to record work and, if appropriate, scribe for them in order to reduce the amount they have to do and thus reduce their fatigue.
- Before the assessment takes place, make sure that you have all of the learner’s specialist equipment that they would usually use set up, working and ready to go.
- For public examinations, ensure you apply for early opening to prepare and personalise modifications when necessary.
- Consider the learner’s preferred background colour, font size and spacing.
- Ensure learners understand their own needs and can self-advocate for what works for them.
- When completing online/computer-based assessments, consider the use of accessibility features such as voice recognition and text-to-speech options.
Cadmus Inclusive is one of our Centres of Assessment Excellence.
If you require support for using any of assessments with visually impaired pupils, or have any questions, please contact us and we'll be happy to advise you: [email protected]