Accommodations

In primary and secondary education, "accommodations are changes that are made in how the student accesses information and demonstrates performance" (Rule 6A-6.06411(1)(a), Florida Administrative Code). According to Beech (2010), "Accommodations make it possible for students to work around the effect of their disabilities. Accommodations are not the same as instructional interventions for academics or behavior. They help students access information and show what they know and are able to do" (p. 3-4). 

The provision of accommodations is governed by several federal and state laws:

  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) which covers eligible students with specified disabilities up to age 22 in the public schools;
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which covers anyone in a program, activity, or service funded by the federal government in schools or elsewhere;
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 which covers everyone in the processes of hiring, employment, promotion, training, and other programs.
  • Florida state laws and regulations such as those for K-12 course modifications, statewide assessments, graduation test requirements, and equal access to educational programs (Beech, 2010).

Accommodations commonly found in school and work settings vary for each individual and each setting. Accommodations can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Presentation – How the student will access information
  • Response – How the student will demonstrate competence
  • Setting – Where the student will be instructed and assessed
  • Scheduling – When the student will be instructed and assessed (Beech, 2010, p. 19)

A comprehensive list of common accommodations can be found in Accommodations: Assisting Students with Disabilities (pdf). A sample list of accommodations is as follows:

  • Assistive technology such as pencil grips, color coding, talking calculators, word prediction software for computers and tape recorders
  • Assessment and instructional aids such as books on tape, study guides, organizers, extra time with the teacher, sign language, word processors, raised line drawings, note-takers, oral and written directions, additional time, flexible scheduling, study guides and a quiet area to take tests 
  • Changes to the learning or work environment such as behavior management techniques, accessible facilities, appropriate lighting and adjustable furniture
  • Job accommodations such as voice output software, spell and grammar check software, large screen displays, time management and organization aids, to do lists, job coaches, training or counseling, ergonomic workspaces, flexible hours and personal assistants

Accommodations for the Statewide Standardized Assessments

All Florida students participate in the state's assessment and accountability system. Most students with disabilities will participate in the general statewide assessment program. Students who have an individual educational plan (IEP) can be authorized to receive accommodations that have been identified on the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan and must be based on current instructional accommodations and accessible instructional materials used regularly by the student in the classroom. The Florida Standards Alternate Assessment (FSAA) is designed for students who cannot participate in the general statewide assessment program using accommodations.

Some students may need unique accommodations that are not approved in one of the five categories described above. If so, the district must submit a request to the Commissioner of Education using the FCAT Unique Accommodations Request Form accompanied by a copy of the student’s IEP or Section 504 plan containing proper documentation of the accommodation requested. Both the district assessment coordinator and the exceptional student education director must sign the request form (Beech, 2005b, pp.20-21).  

Accommodations Not Allowed on Standardized Assessments

Accommodations that change the reliability or validity of the standardized assessments are not permitted. According to the Technical Assistance Paper: Statewide Assessment for Students with Disabilities, "If a student with a disability is provided with accommodations in the classroom that are not allowed as accommodations for statewide standardized assessments, the school district must inform the parent in writing and provide the parent with information regarding the impact on the student’s ability to meet expected performance levels. A parent must provide signed consent for a student to receive classroom instructional accommodations that would not be available or permitted on a statewide standardized assessment and acknowledge in writing that he or she understands the implications of such instructional accommodations."

Resources

Accommodations for Florida's Statewide Student Assessments (pdf)  
This guide provides information on the participation of students with disabilities in the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test, allowable accommodations, and a decision-making process for determining accommodations.

Accommodations and Modifications for Students with Disabilities - What Parents Need to Know (2003) (pdf)   
This guide explains educational accommodations and modifications to parents including who is eligible, working with teachers, and monitoring results.

Acomodos y modificaciones: Lo que los padres tienen que saber (revisido en 2003) (pdf)
This is the Spanish language version of the accommodations and modifications guide for parents.

Accommodations and Modifications for Students with Disabilities in Career Education and Adult General Education (pdf)
This four-page brochure identified accommodations and modifications that students in secondary and postsecondary career education and adult general education programs may need. 

Accommodations and Modifications for Students with Disabilities in Career Education and Adult General Education (pdf)
This 95-page guide contains information that will assist school district personnel when making decisions about the use of accommodations and modifications by students with disabilities in instructional situations including the following:

  • Educational programs and available supports; legal requirements, eligibility considerations, decisions about accommodations and modifications, and student responsibilities
  • Effective instructional strategies and assessment practices for diverse learners
  • Types of accommodations and related student characteristics in typical instruction situations, and learning and work environments, including accommodations on the job
  • The potential impact of modifying program outcomes and the process and purpose of modified occupational completion points
  • Implementing and monitoring the effects of accommodations and modifications, and
  • Appendices containing a list of relevant Florida Statutes, rules, and resources that provide additional information

Agreement for the Transfer of Assistive Technology (MOA)
This Memorandum of Agreement describes the arrangements between several state agencies to ensure that assistive technology will be available to children and youth with disabilities as they progress from home to school to post-school life.

Making the Move to Managing Your Own Personal Assistance Service (PAS): A Toolkit for Youth with Disabilities Transitioning to Adulthood 
This resource from the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth and its partners discusses a number of Personal Assistance Service (PAS) issues such as the difference between job-related and personal PAS, individual readiness, identifying needs, covering costs, awkward moments, and more.

References

Beech, M. (2010). Accommodations: Assisting students with disabilities. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Department of Education, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services and Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Education. Available at http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/ 7690/urlt/0070069-accomm-educator.pdf 

Florida Department of Education. (2015). Technical assistance paper: Statewide assessment for students with disabilities. Retrieved from https://info.fldoe.org/docushare/dsweb /Get/Document-7301/dps-2014-208.pdf