Shirley and Test Taking: A Case Study on Accommodations for Blindness

Date Updated


My name is Shirley. I am a graduate student in psychology and I'm blind.

Access Issue

In one of my courses, I wanted to take my exams using a computer and adaptive technology rather than using a reader and a scribe. I explained to my professor that while using a reader and a scribe provides access to my exams, this accommodation can be cumbersome and time consuming, especially for essay exams. This accommodation also does not allow me to take an exam without the assistance of a sighted person. With a computer, screen reading software, a speech synthesizer, and an exam in electronic format, I can take a test independently. My professor was reluctant to allow this accommodation because he was concerned about test security.


I worked with my professor, the campus student disability resource center and the testing center. We decided I would take my exams in the computer access lab in the university's disability resource center. The professor delivered the exam to the testing center at least two days before the exam. Then, the adaptive technology specialist prepared the electronic version of the exam using a scanner and optical character recognition software. She also proofread the exam, saved it on a disk and kept the disk in a locked file in her office for test security. During each exam I was monitored by the adaptive technology specialist or a student assistant.


This case demonstrates:

  1. How accessible computer technology can increase the independence of students with disabilities during exams.
  2. How computer technology and test proctors can be used during exams without compromising security.
  3. How coordinated efforts between faculty, students, and disability support services can lead to accommodations that are acceptable to all parties.