by Kathleen Kosobud, volunteer, LDA of Michigan
|Is accessible text "reading"? Or do we need to re-define what we mean|
when we measure comprehension of the written word?
The Learning Disabilities Association of America and NCLD are working on statements to address current research and policy in the area of "read-aloud" accommodations on standardized tests. We've all thought a great deal about this because "reading" has been changed so much through the use of assistive technologies. Most of us can read a variety of materials on the web in a variety of ways. This blog is automatically converted to audio through Odiogo technology. My MacBook has built-in text reading capacity, and I can customize both voice and rate. Thanks to a cooperative endeavor between colleagues at MSU and a number of organizations around the world, we can now carry a flash drive with a suite of tools to customize any PC to many of our needs.
|Highlighted text is converted to audio. For some, this is reading.|
Take a look at the currently posted list of accommodations for the MEAP, MI-Access (Sped. 1%), ELPA (ELL proficiency), and NAEP. From pages 5 to 10 are all of the listed standard and non-standard accommodations.
Among the people I know who access text through text readers, they regard the currently imposed limits of access to text for the reading comprehension tests (e.g. not allowing a text reader on the content) as a form of discrimination. If I "read" all or most of curricular materials by using a text-reader then that is, for me, reading. It is most analogous to limiting people who are profoundly visually impaired (blind) to using large print as their only form of accessing text, or requiring that the Deaf read lips as their sole form of accessing the spoken word.
Although those in the business of test development argue that accessible text readers invalidate the construct of a test of reading comprehension, perhaps it is time to re-think whether, or in what ways, a test of reading comprehension has importance in our rapidly changing world of assistive technology. If tracking knowledge and skills is a worthy value in educational policy, then perhaps users of accessible text should be assessed for their literacy in both written and read-aloud formats. I hesitate to suggest this, though, because it imposes an added barrier for people with print disabilities--they have to prove that they are unable to read text in the "eyes to print" way in order to validate their need for accessible text.
|For a person with dyslexia, is this "reading"?|
This is one of the undue burdens imposed on folks with learning disabilities in all manners of settings in the adult world. No one asks a wheelchair user to demonstrate that they cannot walk without their assistive device--a wheelchair. Why is a print disability regarded with so much more skepticism that one must have documentation of print disability that is (in most cases) no more than 5 years old? It assumes, at best, that those using accessible text readers are lazy; or at worst, that they are liars. All in all, I would be happy if my peers who are challenged in this manner would stand up to policymakers and assert their rights to be appropriately accommodated without the endless burden of having to re-demonstrate their differences.