Accessibility & Accommodations

About Accessibility and Accommodations

WIDA is committed to providing an assessment that best measures academic English language proficiency that corresponds with college- and career-ready standards and is 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 people without disabilities and people with disabilities.

The base of the WIDA Accessibility and Accommodations Framework is Universal Design, or the 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.

ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 incorporates Universal Design principles in order to provide greater accessibility for all ELLs.

  • The test items are presented using multiple modalities: students see them and hear them.
  • Test items include supporting prompts with graphics.
  • Test items have embedded scaffolding.
  • Tasks broken into chunks and modeled using task prototypes and guides.

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. However, test security may not be compromised. Additionally, administrative considerations may not change what the test items are designed to measure or the way test scores are interpreted.

Through administrative considerations schools have increased choices and options. Schools have increased flexibility through deciding on testing environments, group size, and selection of Test Administrators. Adults have the freedom to redirect students to the test and provide verbal praise or tangible reinforcements. Respect for students is emphasized as the assessments are self-paced, students may take breaks, and test directions can be explained and clarified in a student’s native language.

Depending on state policy students can be matched to the best testing format, either on the computer or on paper.

Some possible administrative considerations include:

  • Adaptive and specialized equipment or furniture
  • 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
  • Short segments
  • Verbal praise or tangible reinforcement for on task or appropriate behavior
  • Verbally redirect student’s attention to the test (English or Native Language)

For more information on administrative considerations for ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 refer to the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement above.

Universal Tools

Universal tools are available to all students; however, only a few students will need them to address their individual accessibility needs. 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.

Educators must ensure that students have opportunities to practice using the tools selected for them and must help students determine when a tool may be appropriate and useful.  Practice tests or sample items provide ELLs an opportunity to become familiar with the format, item types, how to mark answers, and other procedural aspects of test taking before the test administration. This builds students’ confidence and ensures that the test measures their English language proficiency and not their proficiency with testing.

Practice tests also 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

For information on universal tools available on ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 refer to the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement above.

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 changes in procedures or materials that increase equitable access for a student by mitigating the effects of a disability while participating in the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 suite of assessments. Accommodations are intended to provide testing conditions that do not result in changes to what the test measures, and that do not affect the validity or reliability of the interpretation of the scores for their intended purposes; these accommodations provide comparable test results to those students who do not receive accommodations.

Accommodations are available only to ELLs with disabilities when specified in the student’s IEP or 504 Plan, and only when the student requires the accommodation(s) to participate in the assessment meaningfully and appropriately. Sometimes students with disabilities require non-digital accommodations (i.e., accommodations delivered by a Test Administrator instead of by the online test).  For those students, administering the assessment in a paper-based format should be considered. 

Decisions about accommodations appropriate for all four domains of the ELP assessment – Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing – should be based on the needs of individual students, rather than based on the disability type. 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 be a teacher or other school employee outside of the IEP process described in IDEA (34 CFR §§300.320 through 300.324.4) Testing accommodations must be listed in a student’s active IEP or 504 plan.

Accommodations may be embedded within the online test platform or be delivered locally by a Test Administrator.  Embedded accommodations must be pre-selected in order to be activated within the test engine. 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.

For information on accommodations available on ACCESS for ELLs 2.0, refer to the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement above.

ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations FAQs

WIDA and member states have created the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement that applies to all tests in the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 suite of assessments. The names used to describe the accessibility support may have changed. Some accommodations were combined, and names adjusted. Training tutorials have been updated.

Yes, the WIDA Accessibility and Accommodations Framework has been applied to all assessments in the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 suite. The Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement includes information for each assessment.

Each state provides guidelines on when paper-based testing is available and on the process for making that determination. Paper-based test forms are available for grades K – 12. Check your state’s page on the WIDA website.

Each state provides guidelines on when paper-based testing is available and on the process for making that determination. Paper-based test forms are available for grades K – 12. Check your state’s page on the WIDA website.

No. Accommodations available for the different formats are not identical, due to the nature of online testing. They are very similar, but there are more accommodations available for the paper-based assessment. For example, the Human Reader for Items accommodation is only available for the paper-based assessment, since the online assessment has a pre-recorded human voice. The third and fourth column on the accommodations tables in the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodation Supplement indicate the availability of the accommodation based on test format.

English language proficiency tests and content area assessments each measure different things, so all of the same accommodations may not be available. Some accommodations are the same on both the content assessments and ACCESS for ELLs 2.0, while others differ. For example, a bilingual word-to-word dictionary is not allowed on ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 because that would provide inappropriate English-language support.

Additionally, accommodations with the same name may vary between each assessment. For example, extended time on a content assessment may mean time-and-a-half, while on ACCESS for ELLs, it may mean doubling the time allowed for speaking responses.

Please review your state's ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 checklist and/or contact your state education agency for state policy related to English language proficiency assessments.

No. Federal law requires all students who are identified as English language learners to 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 in the assessment, but not if the student will participate in the assessment. Each state provides guidelines on situations in which alternative testing is allowed in specific domains and on the process for making that determination. Check your state’s page of this website for more information.

WIDA provides ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 in braille for Tier B, Grades 1–12 in the language domains of Reading, Writing and Listening. Grades 1–3 are available in both uncontracted and contracted UEB. Grades 4–12 are available in both uncontracted and contracted EBAE. This paper-based assessment must be given only to students who are proficient in English-based braille. If a student is not proficient in braille, it is not recommended that ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 be used to measure their English language proficiency. Please check with your state guidelines on your state’s page of this website.

WIDA recommends that students take the online practice items to familiarize themselves with online ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 testing and 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 a large print test or a regular test with a familiar magnification device, such as a CCTV, should be considered.

There are three types of read aloud accommodations offered with ACCESS for ELLs 2.0. It’s important to consider which type of read aloud the student needs, as they provide different levels of support to meet different needs. For example, manual control of audio is recommended for students who need additional time for language processing, while a human reader for test items is recommended for students who read lips. Human readers, rather than the pre-recorded audio, are accommodations intended for students with the most intensive needs. 

Reading of test items and answer choices to a student taking the Reading domain is not permitted, even if written in the student’s IEP. If the reading test is presented auditorily it changes what the test measures and results in an invalid score. 

The following table provides a brief overview of three read aloud accommodations. Please refer to the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement for complete information.

Accomodation Online Paper Condensed Description
Manual Control of Item Audio Yes Yes

Online: the student selects a play button on each screen to listen to the audio recording. 

Paper: the student is asked if he/she is ready prior to listening to an audio recording played by the Test Administrator.

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 student.  Two Test Administrators may be needed for dialogue.

Human Reader for Response Options Yes Yes

Online and Paper: the Test Administrator reads the 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.

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 paper-based assessment. A paper-based test administration allows the student to access human reader supports.

ASL is not allowed on any test items, only general directions.

After listening initially to the directions in English, a student may then have general directions repeated and/or clarified in their native language though a native speaker. These interpreters may be used to help students become familiar with test logistics and test directions. Interpretation includes ASL for students who use this language as their primary expressive and receptive mode of communication. The test examiner or person who is translating the directions must be fluent or a certified interpreter to ensure the directions are translated correctly and appropriately.

Please check with your testing coordinator or state education agency if you have questions regarding test directions.

Please note that test items, including questions and responses, can never be translated to the student’s native language.

Yes, this is an allowable support for all students. Standard testing procedures allow for Test Administrators to monitor to ensure students are locating test questions and placing responses in the correct area of the test booklet or onscreen. Information is also provided in the Test Administrator Script on how to redirect students to the test. A Test Administrator may NOT prompt a student regarding the correctness or completeness of his or her response.

For grades 1–3, blank space for planning is provided in the writing test booklet. For grades 4–12, scratch paper may be used and should be available for distribution by the Test Administrator. Scratch paper will not be scored and must either be securely destroyed by the school after the test administration or submitted with the test, depending on state policy. Scratch paper may be used with either online or paper-based testing.

No. Students may recreate their own graphic organizer on the scratch paper provided, but they may not use a pre-printed organizer.

Extended time is an accommodation, thus it is available to students with an IEP or 504 plan who have the accommodation documented in their current plan. Please consult your state’s policy prior to planning extended time for any test administration to a student. WIDA recommends the extended time accommodation be used to support students with cognitive, language processing, physical, or communication disabilities who need additional time to complete one or more test sections.

Generally speaking, extended time for ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 means each domain must be completed within the school day in which it was started. In rare cases, and with approval from the state education agency, a domain may be extended across multiple days. However, individual domains have different modalities to provide this accommodation.

Online testing also allows for the test to be paused for up to 30 minutes should the student require a break. Additionally, individual items are not timed, so students may take as much time as needed to process and respond to test items.

The online speaking test requires that the extended speaking test response time (ES) accommodation be indicated in WIDA AMS prior to starting the test. In this case, the student is given twice the recommended time to record his/her response. Students may not need extended speaking response times if they have the opportunity to practice formulating their answers on practice items before they select the “record” button.

The paper-based testing domains of Speaking and Listening have pre-recorded audio files which require Test Administrators to pause the recording while students formulate and respond to test items when using the extended time.

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

Transcribing occurs after the test session is completed. An adult transfers the responses a student produced. Responses are produced using a word processor, or another keyboarding device (e.g., alphasmart, braille writer, braille notetaker), written on either blank paper or in a test booklet. Transcribing may also be used if a test booklet is severely damaged.

If a student recorded responses using an electronic or digital recording device, the student transcribes his/her own responses onscreen or in a test booklet. In this case, the transcription must occur at the time of testing.

You should begin by contacting your local Test Coordinator or state education agency. Guidance on the details of specific accommodations or accessibility tools can be found by referencing the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Accessibility and Accommodations Supplement and by contacting the WIDA Client Services Center at

DRC Customer Service may be contacted for questions related to assigning accommodations in WIDA AMS at 855-787-9615,