Bruce, S. M., Luckner, J. L., & Ferrell, K. A. (2018). Assessment of students with sensory disabilities: Evidence-based practices . Assessment for Effective Intervention , 43 (2), 79–89.

Journal Article

Bruce, S. M., Luckner, J. L., & Ferrell, K. A. (2018). Assessment of students with sensory disabilities: Evidence-based practices. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 43(2), 79–89.


Elementary; Hearing impairment (including deafness); High school; K-12; Middle school; U.S. context; Visual impairment (including blindness)




Assessment practices, including accommodations, were explored in this review of literature seeking information about academic assessment needs of students with sensory disabilities. Accommodations are specified in the Findings section. [The current study was reported to be an update, extending to 2014–2016, and included previous findings on information published during the period 1990–2013.]


This review of literature on assessment incorporated research published during the period 1990–2016. The materials reviewed, from more than 80 sources, were to apply to the context of elementary and secondary education in the U.S., and the resulting summary was intended for the Collaboration for Effective Educator Development, Accountability, and Reform (CEEDAR) Center, a U.S. national technical assistance and dissemination (TA&D) center. The search terms used, applying to students with sensory disabilities, were: deaf, hard of hearing, hearing impaired, blind, visually impaired, visual impairment, deaf-blind, deaf and blind, deaf-blind, deaf blind, and dual sensory impairment.

Dependent Variable

This literature review applied a rubric from the CEEDAR Center for discerning standards of evidence by levels: strong, moderate, limited, and emerging. These evidentiary levels were reported to be "based on the Council for Exceptional Children’s (CEC) Division of Research Recommendations, CEC’s Classifying Evidence Manual, and a special edition of Exceptional Children (published in 2005)" (p. 81). Documents included policy documents, professional literature, and research studies on assessment. The studies employed various methodologies, including correlational, experimental or quasi-experimental, qualitative, and single case designs. Assessments have generally addressed English language arts, mathematics, reading, science, and other academic content. The expository description provided recommendations for practices.


The researchers identified specific accommodations for students with various sensory disabilities after noting several factors and individual characteristics of the learners including the nature of their specific disabilities. They characterized the evidence as reaching emerging to moderate levels across disability groups, noting that evidence taking into account specific disabilities was higher than more generalized research. For students who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing, accommodations commonly used during assessments have been extended time, reading test items aloud, student signs response, and small group administration. On state assessments the most common and allowable accommodations have been digital or electronic formats (including computers), extended time, frequent breaks, individual testing, large print, marking answers in test booklets, oral delivery of items (also called "read-aloud"), sign language interpretation for directions or items, and testing in a separate room. For students who are blind or have visual impairments, accommodations commonly used during assessments have included: breaks during testing, extended time, additional lighting to prevent visual fatigue, and administration on multiple days. Additional accommodations can include a brailler, electronic notetaker, handwriting guide, recording responses in text booklet or tape recorder, scribe, typewriter, and word processer. For students who are deafblind, the researchers emphasized that evidence for assessment practices were concluded to be at the emerging level, due in part to the relative low-incidence of the disability and the broad heterogeneity of skills and the manner in which the disability expresses itself.