ACCESS for ELLs Guidelines for Accommodating English Language Learners with Disabilities

Download the contents of this page: Guidelines for Accommodating English Language Learners with Disabilities

The following guidelines are divided into each of the four domains of the test - listening, reading, writing, and speaking - with indications of whether a particular accommodation is appropriate for the domain (Yes), inappropriate and therefore not recommended (No), or Not Applicable (N/A) because the "accommodation" is already incorporated into the test design (e.g., responding orally on the Speaking Test) or is irrelevant for the domain (e.g., use of a scribe for the Speaking Test which requires no writing).

The ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations recommendations for the 1-12 tests, are located at ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Test Prep Resources page.

Accommodation Assessment Domains
Test Directions Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Test "directions" refers to all text in the Test Administrator's Script that is provided to explain logistics of the test, including all practice items. Directions include only what is scripted in the Test Administrator's Script. For Speaking, the directions end just before the test administrator reads "Part A" and for Listening, the directions end just before the test administrator presses Play.
Translation of directions into native language Yes Yes Yes Yes
Signing directions to students Yes Yes Yes Yes
Explanation of directions in English and/or native language Yes Yes Yes Yes
Repeating directions Yes Yes Yes Yes
Use directions that have been marked by teacher in the Student Response Booklet Yes Yes Yes N/A

Presentation Format Listening Reading Writing Speaking
"Test" refers to test items (including introductory text and graphic support), but not scripted test directions (defined above).
Translation of test into native language No No No No
Translation of test into sign language No No No No
Oral reading of test in English No No Yes No
Oral reading of test in native language No No No No
Use of bilingual dictionary No No No No
Use of highlighters* (yellow only) by student in test booklet text only; must not be used in answer area Yes Yes Yes N/A
Use of marker to maintain place Yes Yes Yes N/A
Large print (student responses must be transcribed into a standard test booklet) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Low vision aids or magnification device Yes Yes Yes Yes
Audio amplification device or noise buffer Yes Yes Yes Yes
Student reads questions or responses aloud to self Yes Yes Yes N/A
Student reads questions or responses aloud and records with tape recorder No Yes No No
Oral reading of Recording Script Yes N/A N/A N/A

* The use of highlighters may be available to all students in some states. Please contact your state educational agency if you have questions about the use of highlighters.

Setting Format Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Test may be administered...
By trained personnel in non-school setting (e.g., home or hospital) Yes Yes Yes Yes
With preferential seating Yes Yes Yes Yes
In study carrel Yes Yes Yes N/A
In space with special lighting Yes Yes Yes Yes
In space with special acoustics Yes Yes Yes Yes
With special furniture for student Yes Yes Yes Yes
With equipment or technology that the student uses for other tests and school work (e.g., pencils adapted in size or grip, slant board or wedge) Yes Yes Yes Yes

Timing/Scheduling Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Flexibility with timing of test is permitted for students who require extra time or have limited attention spans as documented on their IEPs.
More breaks as needed by student Yes Yes Yes Yes
Short-segment testing (refers to administration of very brief sections of the test at a time, such as three or four items related to a common theme) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Extend testing time within same school day Yes Yes Yes Yes
Extend testing sessions over multiple days Yes Yes Yes No

Response Format Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Certain devices or practices may be used to facilitate testing for students who have difficulty with bubbling or writing in the correct area of the test booklet.
Braille writers N/A N/A No N/A
Computer, word processor, or similar assistive device (spell check, grammar check, and dictionary/thesaurus must be turned off) N/A N/A Yes N/A
Tape recorders for recording student responses N/A N/A No N/A
Scribes: all student responses must be transcribed verbatim, including spelling, punctuation, and paragraph breaks Yes Yes Yes N/A
Responses in native language No No No No
Answers are given orally or pointed to Yes Yes No N/A

Other Test Administration Considerations for All Students Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Certain practices can reduce testing anxiety for students. For example, test administrators may...
Provide verbal praise or tangible reinforcement to increase motivation Yes Yes Yes Yes
Administer practice test or examples before the administration date of the assessment Yes Yes Yes Yes
Be school personnel familiar to student Yes Yes Yes Yes
Be special education personnel Yes Yes Yes Yes
Administer the test in a separate room Yes Yes Yes Yes
Administer the test in a small group Yes Yes Yes No
Administer the test to students individually Yes Yes Yes N/A

Other Accommodations Not Recommended by the WIDA Consortium at this Time(See below for more information) Listening Reading Writing Speaking
Braille edition of assessment Possible Possible Possible Possible
Signing questions or answers No No No No

Additional Information about Braille

Based on a careful consideration of the implications of Brailling ACCESS for ELLs, including experience creating a Braille version of the assessment in a previous testing cycle, WIDA does not recommend that the assessment be given in Braille. We believe that to do so would change the nature of the test, seriously affecting the validity of ACCESS for ELLs scores. One of the most important reasons for this is
the fact that a student's proficiency in Braille confounds the assessment of English language proficiency. Furthermore, many of the test items cannot be translated into Braille as they are currently written, particularly the heavily graphics-dependent Listening and Speaking items, because this changes the test.

However, in the unusual circumstances that an IEP team determines that it is in the best interest of a student to make the test available in Braille, WIDA will provide the Tier B version of the Reading and Writing tests in Braille. The following guidelines should be followed:

  • The student must be Braille proficient so as not to confound English language proficiency with proficiency in Braille;
  • Braille graphics must be included as this is a graphic dependent test;
  • If the Braille graphics are also verbally described by the test administrator, such descriptions should be made in the student's native language so as not to confound with English language listening skills;
  • The student's responses should be transcribed verbatim, including spelling, punctuation, and paragraph breaks, by a school staff member into a regular ACCESS for ELLstest booklet for scoring; and
  • The writing assessment should be transcribed verbatim into the test booklet by a school staff member.
  • All test materials, including the test booklets translated into Braille, must be returned to MetriTech, Inc.

Additional Information about Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Deaf and hard of hearing students, including those for whom American Sign Language (ASL) is their first language, can generally participate in the Reading and Writing sections of the test with few or no accommodations necessary. Lip-reading with spoken responses for those students who possess these abilities may be possible for the Speaking Test. IEP teams should make such determinations on a case-by-case basis. Translating the listening and speaking prompts into sign language is equivalent to translating into another spoken language, such as Spanish or Arabic, and therefore is prohibited as it changes the construct (i.e., assesses proficiency in a language other than English) and invalidates the test.

Additional Information About Oral Reading of Recording Script

This accommodation may be used in the event that an IEP team determines an oral reading of the Listening Test rather than use of prerecorded audio would be a necessary accommodation. During the IEP team meeting, IEP teams may consider the following when determining appropriate

  • a student needs to hear a familiar voice
  • a student needs to have visual support by having the test administrator reading the text

In order to provide this accommodation when administering the Listening Test, test administrators will need the following test materials:

  • Test Administrator Script
  • Recording Script booklet*
  • Student Response Booklet(s)
  • The Recording Script booklet contains a transcript of all the recorded Listening Test items, which is no longer available in the Test Administrator Script.

The Recording Script booklet will not be included in the test materials ordered. In the event that this accommodation needs to be provided in place of the media-delivered Listening Test, district test coordinators may request a copy of the booklet from MetriTech, Inc., by phone at
(800) 747-4868, by fax at (217) 398-5798, or by e-mail at This booklet should not be requested to be used for general test administration.

Accommodations in Unusual Circumstances

In the event that a student has an injury, for example, his/her writing hand is broken, the test administrator should do the following:

  • Transcribe the student's responses and have the student spell every word (if a student uses a word multiple times, it is not necessary to have the student spell that word every time) and indicate where to provide punctuation and new paragraph breaks.
  • Have the student type (if injury allows) his/her responses with spell/grammar check, autoforms, and template wizards turned off in the word processor program.
  • After testing is complete, mark on the back of the student's test booklet that he/she used a scribe, and put a note on the front of the booklet that the student has a broken wrist/arm or any other injury that prevented him/her from being able to write.

Alternate ACCESS for ELLs

The Alternate ACCESS for ELLs assessment is intended to serve the needs of the most significantly disabled ELLs. The test is available for the 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12 grade clusters. Participating criteria for Alternate ACCESS for ELLs can be found in the Alternate ACCESS Test Administration Manual.

Alternate ACCESS for ELLs is based on Alternate Model Performance Indicators (AMPIs), which expand the existing WIDA standards in a way that allows students in this population to demonstrate their English language proficiency in all four domains (Listening, Reading, Speaking,

For further information, including details on how to order the test, please see the Alternate ACCESS page.

Important Note:
Alternate ACCESS for ELLs is a separate test and is only intended for ELLs who participate in their state's alternate content assessments. Students who can be served with the accommodations described previously should continue to take the ACCESS for ELLs assessment.