Assessment Support for Disabled Students: DDSS Guidance during Covid 19
Some students may require further support with the change to remote forms of assessment due to the Covid 19 pandemic. This guidance has been produced by the Disability and Dyslexia Support Service (DDSS). For more information and guidance in supporting disabled students, please visit their webpages:
DDSS conducted a survey with disabled students at the end of the last academic year, to find out what their experiences had been with digital teaching and assessment. DDSS developed further guidelines based on this work.
Advantages of remote assessment for disabled students
As students are expected to use their own computers, individuals may have access to their own assistive technology - e.g. voice-to-text software, screenreading software, ergonomic equipment, screen magnification software.
Inclusive time periods
Longer submission times (e.g. 24 or 48 hours) are likely to include sufficient time for students who would usually have extra time or rest breaks - so this should be considered at the design stage, along with ways of communicating this to disabled students (see Accessible Online Assessment below).
As students will be using their own devices in their own study space, it is likely that this will avoid regular issues such as anxiety about large exam halls, maintaining a low profile when taking rest breaks, or concern that their own assistive software (e.g. dictation software) may distract others.
You can find out more about what disabled students valued about remote assessment in the DDSS report:
Challenges of remote assessment for disabled students
As students are working at a distance they may not have easy access to support - e.g. from an invigilator - if they encounter problems. Technology-related issues may limit the effectiveness of assistive technology.
You can find out more about the challenges disabled students faced with remote assessment in the DDSS report:
Supporting students with pre-identified exam adjustments
Many disabled students have specific exam support requirements, and access to exam adjustments (e.g. extra time, rest breaks) in formal exams. Where DDSS have referred a student for exam adjustments, these will have been detailed in a memo which will have been shared with both the central Exams Team and the Exams Officers in the departments the student is undertaking modules in during the year the referral was made.
Departments should consider how disabled students’ exam support requirements will be replicated/accounted for when online assessment is set.
Some adjustments are unlikely to require additional work to implement when exams move online – e.g.
- a disabled student’s requirement to ‘use a PC’ or for ‘individual exam accommodation’ in exams is likely to be met by the alternative way in which the assessment is being conducted. In other instances, disabled students’ support requirements will require more careful consideration, though – for example in the case of adjustments to the time allowed for an exam.
- if students are given similar amounts of time to complete remote exams as they would be in an standard invigilated exam, disabled students who have exam arrangements in place which relate to time (i.e. extra time and/or rest breaks) should be permitted to access these adjustments.
- if students are permitted 24 hours or more of working time to complete an exam – during which time they are expected to take breaks, sleep, etc – and they are given a clear sense of what they should produce for submission (e.g. a 2000 word essay), time-related exam adjustments may no longer be necessary to ensure that disabled students are not disadvantaged as a generous time allowance has been factored in for all candidates.
Principles and guidance for accessible remote assessment
Wherever possible design issues should be addressed in the initial course design phase. Please refer to the University’s guidance on digital accessibility.
Further recommendations can be found in the DDSS report:
Guidance for students
Students may be able to make simple changes on their own devices to increase accessibility. See Abilitynet for more information.
Students who are concerned about the compatibility of their own assistive software with the format of the online assessment should contact the Digital Learning Team.
Students who are concerned as to how their usual arrangements will translate to online assessment should contact their department in their first instance. More complex issues should be directed to DDSS.