Standardized tests can cause young students significant stress and anxiety. Thorough preparation and a solid study regimen can help ease fears and prepare students for success. This requires, of course, access to practice tests and other preparatory materials. The family of a blind student has recently reached a settlement agreement with an organization that creates these types of standardized tests after filing a lawsuit that alleged the group discriminated against students with vision impairments. The organization now must provide additional materials to help blind and vision-impaired individuals prepare for the organization’s standardized tests.
The plaintiffs had claimed that the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which is a non-profit organization that receives significant sums of federal grant money and provides assessment tests for high school students throughout eighteen states, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to accommodate the needs of blind students. Specifically, the parents of the student allege that none of the organization’s practice tests are available in Braille or with text-to-speech software. This, the family claims, is a clear violation of the ADA because it places blind students at a significant disadvantage to their vision-enabled counterparts when they take any of the PARCC’s mandatory standardized tests.
As part of the settlement agreement, the PARCC must begin providing practice tests for blind students by Spring 2014 via a trial program. The PARCC has plans to continue a wider rollout of tests accessible to the blind as time goes on. The tests will be available in both Braille hard copies and electronic copies with text-to-speech capabilities. The other terms of the settlement agreement have not been made public.
Advocates for the blind, such as the National Federation for the Blind, have declared this settlement a victory. The Federation believes that changes such as this will enable blind students to excel and represents progress toward closing the gap of educational opportunities between the blind and those with full sight.