Accessibility & Accommodations

About Accessibility and Accommodations

WIDA is committed to providing an assessment that best measures academic English language proficiency which corresponds with college- and career-ready standards and are reflected in the WIDA English Language Development (ELD) Standards. WIDA recognizes that the validity of the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 suite of assessment results depends upon every eligible ELL participating in the assessment and that each student, including those with disabilities, must have appropriate access to the assessment. WIDA’s approach to assessment is rooted in the understanding that ELLs are diverse; all ELLs are capable of making progress toward English language proficiency; and ELLs must acquire discipline-specific language practices that enable them to produce, interpret, and effectively collaborate on content-related grade-appropriate tasks.

WIDA provides guidelines for appropriate supports for students on the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 suite of assessments. WIDA guidelines do not replace or amend state specific policies of English language proficiency tests. Please refer to your state’s page of this website.

Universal Design

Universal Design refers to an approach to producing products that are inherently accessible to the broadest range possible of people.

ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 universal design influences item development and embedded features of the test that are intended to support all students and promote their best performance. The goal of Universal Design is to ensure the standard version of the test meets the needs of a broad range of students. This way, there is less need to have add-on accessibility supports and accommodations.

  • The test begins with modeling of the tasks.
  • Test directions are provided in plain language.
  • Test items are presented using multiple modalities.
  • Item prompts are supported with graphics.

Administrative Considerations

Administrative considerations are changes to standardized administrative procedures, which allow for individualization and provide flexibility to a district or school in determining the conditions under which ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 can be administered most effectively. Administrative considerations may not compromise test security or change what the test items are designed to measure or the way test scores are interpreted.

Through administrative considerations schools and districts have increased flexibility. Respect for students is emphasized as the testing environment, personnel, and timing is personalized.

Administrative considerations may include:

  • Alternative microphone
  • Familiar Test Administrator
  • Frequent or additional supervised breaks
  • Individual or small group setting
  • Monitor placement of responses in the test booklet or onscreen
  • Participate in different testing format (paper vs online)
  • Read aloud to self
  • Specific seating
  • Verbal praise or tangible reinforcement for on task or appropriate behavior

See the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement for more information.

Universal Tools

Universal tools are available to all students. These tools are designed to mirror learning tools used during daily instruction. Most of these tools are embedded in the online test, but a few are provided by Test Administrators during testing. Provided that students have become familiar with the availability and appropriate use of universal tools, these should reinforce students’ abilities to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Ensuring students have opportunities to practice using the tools in an online environment helps students determine when a tool may be appropriate and useful.  Practice tests provide educators an opportunity to make connections between learning strategies used during instruction and similar universal tools available on the assessment. For example, while demonstrating the online assessment to students, talk about when they have used a highlighter during instructional activities, and demonstrate using it in the online test engine.

Some of the embedded supports, such as color contrast settings, may be novel to students, and the students may want to experiment with them. Using the available practice test items will provide students an opportunity to play and decide if these are helpful.

Universal tools include:

  • Audio aids
  • Color contrast
  • Color overlay
  • Highlighters, colored pencils or crayons
  • Keyboard navigation
  • Line guide or tracking tool
  • Low-vision aids, or magnification devices
  • Sticky notes
  • Scratch paper

See the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement for more information.

Questions to support selecting accommodations

  1. Does the student use the accommodation on a regular basis to address his or her learning challenge in the classroom during instruction and testing?
  2. Does the accommodation address the challenge faced by the student?
  3. Is the accommodation allowable for ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 ELP testing?
  4. Does the accommodation adhere to your state policies for the accommodation of ELLs with disabilities on language proficiency assessments?


Accommodations are allowable adjustments to the test presentation, response method, timing, and setting in which the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 suite of assessments are administered. Accommodations are intended to not changes to what the test measures nor affect the validity or reliability of the interpretation of the scores for their intended purposes.  Appropriate accommodations provide comparable test results to those students who do not receive accommodations.

Accommodations are available only to ELLs with disabilities as indicated in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan, and only when the student requires the accommodation(s) to participate in the assessment. IEP teams and 504 plan committees make decisions about accommodations. These educational teams must not select accommodations that invalidate the assessment. Accommodation decisions may not be made unilaterally by a teacher or other school employee outside of the IEP process described in IDEA (34 CFR §§300.320 through 300.324.4). Decisions about accommodations should be based on the needs of individual students, rather than based on the disability type.


Accommodations may be embedded within the online test platform or be delivered locally by a Test Administrator.  Embedded accommodations must be preselected in order to be activated within the test engine.  Sometimes students with disabilities require non-digital accommodations to access the assessment.  Special paper-based test forms (e.g., large print, braille) must be pre-ordered prior to testing. Check with your state assessment office as to how, whether, and which accommodations information should be uploaded, and how to order accommodated test forms.

See the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement for more information.

ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations FAQs

Each state provides guidelines on when paper-based testing is allowable, and on the process for making that determination.  Check your state’s page on the WIDA website at

No. Accommodations available on the different formats are not identical due to the nature of online testing. They are very similar, but there are more accommodations available on the paper-based assessment.  For example, the Human Reader for Items accommodation is only available on the paper-based assessment since the online assessment has a pre-recorded human voice. The third and fourth column on the accommodations tables in Section 2.4 of the Accessibility and Accommodation Supplement indicate the availability of the accommodation based on test format.

Content assessments and English language proficiency assessments do not measure the same thing, so accommodations available may not be the same.  IEP teams should consider accommodations for ACCESS for ELLs separately from accommodations for content assessments (e.g., mathematics, science, English language arts, etc.). Some accommodations may be similar to both types of assessments; however, an implementation may differ.  Additionally, test procedures differ; thus, an accommodation the content assessment might be part of the general administrative procedures for the ACCESS for ELLs. For example, ACCESS for ELLs allows redirection of students to the assessment, while for some other assessments this is an accommodation.

IEP teams must follow to their SEA state policy related to English language proficiency assessments and choose accommodations that will support the student without invalidating what the assessment measures.  IEP teams should refer to the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement, as they consider what supports an EL with a disability needs.

No.  Federal law requires all students identified as an English language learner be assessed annually in the language domains of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening.  IEP and 504 teams may make determinations on how a student will participate, not if the student will participate. Each state provides guidelines on rare instances in which alternative testing or exemption from specific language domains may be allowed and the process for making that determination.  IEP teams must follow the SEA policy. Check your state’s page on the WIDA website at

WIDA provides ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 tier B, grades 1 -12 in the language domains of Reading, Writing and Listening. 

Grades 1 – 5 are available in both uncontracted and contracted UEB.  Grades 6 – 12 are available in both uncontracted and contracted EBAE.

The Speaking domain is not available in braille format. 

The use of screen reader software is not currently available for the online testing platform.

This paper-based assessment must be given only to students who are proficient in English based braille.  If the student is not proficient in braille, it is not possible to ascertain if the ACCESS for ELLs is measuring the student’s English proficiency or braille proficiency.  Thus, the resulting score is not a reliable measure of the student’s English language proficiency.  Check with your SEA on how to assess students who are not braille proficient.

Refer to Section 1.3 of the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement.

WIDA recommends students practice taking the online sample items to see if the embedded magnification tools with or without a large screen computer are a good fit.  If the embedded supports do not meet the needs of the student, then the IEP team should consider either a large print test or a regular test with a familiar magnification device such as a CCTV.

Refer to Section 1.3 of the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement.

WIDA recommends that students who use a manual communication system or lip reading as their primary mode of receptive communication or a sign system as their expressive communication take the assessment in the paper-based assessment.  The paper-based administration allows the student to access human reader accommodations. Even with additional supports provided through accommodations, some domains may not be accessible to students who are deaf/hard-of-hearing. 

American Sign Language (ASL) may not be used for items or answer choices on the ACCESS for ELLs assessment, as it violates the construct of the assessment. Only directions may be provided in ASL.

Refer to Section 1.3 of the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement, and FAQ question 5.

Reading of test items and answer choices in the Reading domain is not permitted, even if written in the student’s IEP.  If the reading test is presented auditorially, it becomes a listening test, changing what is being measured and results in an invalid score. 

For the Speaking, Listening and Writing domains a pre-recorded human voice delivers the test items to all students taking the assessment on a computer. This embedded support should provide access for most ELs with a print disability. 

Additionally, are 3 types of reading aloud accommodations offered with ACCESS for ELLs. It is important to think about which type of reading aloud the student will need, as they provide different levels of support to meet different types of needs. For example, manual control of audio is recommended for students who need additional time for language processing while human reader for items is recommended for students who read lips.

The following table provides a brief overview of the types of reading aloud accommodations.  Please refer to the Section 2.4 of the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement for complete information. 

Accommodation Online Paper Condensed Description
Manual control of item audio Yes Yes Online: the student selects a play button on each screen to hear the audio recording.  Paper: the student is asked if he/she is ready prior to the test administrator playing the audio recording.
Human Reader for Items N/A Yes Online: Items are already presented using a recording of a human voice. Paper: test administrator reads test questions to the student.  Two test administrators may be needed for dialogue.
Human Reader for Response Options (Listening) Yes Yes Online and Paper: the test administrator reads answer choice text exactly as it appears on the screen or in the test booklet. Graphics are not read or described. Available in Listening only.

If native language translation of directions is permitted by your state, after hearing the directions in English, a student may have the directions repeated and/or clarified in their native language.  (See Test Items Dos and Don't in the Test Administrator Manual.) Interpreters may help students become familiar with test logistics and test directions. 

Directions refer to administration logistics, test directions, and practice items provided prior to the first test item.  (Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement – Interpreter signs test directions in ASL.)

Check with your testing coordinator or State Education Agency if you have a question regarding test directions.

Yes. Standard testing procedures also allow test administrators to monitor students are in the correct place in the test booklet or onscreen. A Test Administrator may NOT prompt a student regarding the correctness or completeness of his or her response. (See Test Items Dos and Dont’s in the Test Administrator Manual.)

Your state may have specific policies related to student monitoring.  Test administrators must follow their SEA policy regardless of WIDA guidance. Check with your testing coordinator or State Education Agency prior to test administration.

Planning space is provided in the writing test booklet in grades 1 - 3. For grades 4 – 12, students will receive one piece of scratch paper as part of the general test administration. Writing on scratch paper is not scored.  Based on state policy, the used scratch paper must either be securely destroyed by the school after the test administration or returned with testing materials.

WIDA recommends additional scratch paper be available to students upon request.

Scratch paper can be a blank sheet, grid paper, wide-ruled paper, braille paper, raised-line paper, bold-lined paper, raised-line grid paper, bold-line grid paper or colored paper.  Students may alternately use an individual, erasable whiteboard as scratch paper for notes and responses.

Graphic organizers may not be provided.

Scratch paper may be used with either online or paper-based testing.

Refer to Section 2.3 Universal Tools of the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement.

Scribing is the process of recording student answers at the time of testing.  Students may indicate answers verbally, by pointing or gesturing.

Transcribing usually happens after the testing session is completed.  An adult writes the work a student-produced using a word processor, braille writer, braille note taker, or another keyboarding devices (e.g., AlphaSmart).  Transcribing may also happen for a severely damaged test booklet.

The exception to an adult transcriber is when the student uses a recording device, where the student transcribes his/her own answers at the time of testing.
If you are unable to find your answers in the Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement follow your State communication process.  Usually, this means contacting your local Test Coordinator or State Educational Agency.