Taking the SAT or ACT as a Student Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired
Students who are college bound need to become familiar with the requirements of most colleges and the colleges of interest to them in particular. Among these requirements is taking standardized tests used by schools as part of their admissions criteria. The most common of these tests is the ACT, a group of tests from the American College Testing program, and the SAT, formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test, from the College Board. In addition to becoming familiar with these requirements and tests, students who are visually impaired need to prepare for and arrange test-taking accommodations as they gather information about the tests they need to take. If your child is taking the SAT or ACT tests, you and your child need to consult with the guidance counselor and teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI) about arranging, well in advance, for special accommodations available to students with disabilities.
Your teenager is eligible for accommodations if unable to take the SAT in the standard paper-and-pencil format and has documentation demonstrating a disability on file at the school. Accommodations for the PSAT, SAT, and AP programs are overseen by Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), which is part of the College Board, the major nonprofit organization that sponsors pre-college and college admission tests.
For students who have a documented disability, the College Board provides an SSD Student Eligibility Form that must be filled out by both the student and the school and signed by the parent or guardian. Your teen’s school should have this information; you can also find it online at www.collegeboard.com.
In addition, there is a Coordinator Form that has to be filled out by the assigned school administrator—often your child’s guidance counselor—who serves as the contact person with the College Board to arrange for appropriate test accommodations. That form also needs to be on file with the College Board.
The SSD administrator at your teen’s school should submit all the SSD eligibility forms and documentation during the term before your teen plans to take the test so that all arrangements can be completed well ahead of the test date. The documentation about your child’s disability must be current and comprehensive. Once both forms are filed, you can expect an eligibility letter sent to both your teen and the school indicating the specific accommodations that have been approved. If the eligibility letter has not been received by eight weeks after filing, you or the SSD administrator should contact the College Board to make sure the appropriate arrangements have been made.
Types of Accommodations
There are several types of accommodations available at national test centers for students who are blind or visually impaired, including:
- Enlarged-format (14-point type) examination and answer sheets
- Additional testing time—for example, if large-print format is required, your child can expect 50 percent more testing time
- Extra/extended breaks
Some accommodations that may only be provided at the student’s school are:
- 100 percent extended time
- A personal reader
- A writer
- A braille version of the test
- A computer to record written responses
The ACT offers slightly different options. If your teen plans to take the ACT and is able to take it with adaptations that can be accommodated at standard testing sessions, your child can use the regular application form. Examples of the adaptations that fall into this category are:
- Large-print (18-point) format
- Ability to mark answers in the large-print test booklet
If your child needs extra time, the ACT Assessment Application for Extended Time National Testing will have to be completed. If your child requires additional accommodations, such as braille or a personal reader, your child will have to fill out the Request for ACT Assessment Special Testing. For more information, your teen can check with the school’s guidance office. The forms include information that has to be completed by the school and, again, should be submitted during the term before planning to take the test.
For more information see College Bound: A Guide for Students with Visual Impairments by Ellen Trief and Raquel Feeney.