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Creating accessible assessments IRD Accessible Resources

Creating accessible assessments

Posted in Accessible Resources

Ask Yourself

  • Do you know if your assessment tasks and exams are accessible?
  • Do you know your students preferred file format?


The format and delivery of assessments tasks can sometimes confuse, misinform, or exclude students from accessing the material. Consider some of the following issues when setting assessment tasks and exams.


  • Does the language of the exam/assessment use a large number of abbreviations?
  • Do you provide a list of commonly used abbreviations for your subject?

Sometimes abbreviations are a necessary part of the assessment and cannot be avoided. If they are not necessary, include full written words, as many assistive technologies have difficulty with the pronunciation of abbreviations.

Provide text description of images and diagrams

  • Are images/diagrams a necessary part of the exam/assessment?

If they are required, provide a text description of necessary images so students can clearly identify content and context. It will also ensure that graphical information can be accessed by assistive technologies.

If any images/diagrams are not necessary, don’t include them.

Consistent delivery

  • Will the assessment task be consistent with practice exams and papers students have used to prepare?

Changing established methods of assessment, or introducing new concepts, will not only confuse your students, it will create additional barriers for students with disabilities.

Having prepared and configured their assistive technologies in specific ways in order to understand and navigate the structure of previous assessment tasks, introducing a new format will create additional stress and difficulties.

Alternatives to multiple choice questions

To assist students who use screen readers to navigate assessments, instead of asking students to circle the correct answer, provide the alternative to write the correct letter after the list of possible answers.

Feedback alternatives

  • How accessible is your feedback?

Writing on exam papers and essays will mean your feedback can only be used by students that can see the paper and if the paper is lost or destroyed your feedback is gone as well.

Providing feedback electronically means you can easily retain a copy of your feedback. It will allow you to easily identify common errors and feedback that you are providing.

Take-home exams/assessment tasks

  • Are they in an accessible format (Word document, HTML) as opposed to an image PDF or an embedded webpage?
  • How are the students expected to submit their work?

Sometimes it may be necessary to provide an adjustment to standard assessment practice in order to provide equal opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. (Contact Equity and Diversity for further advice)

Alternative assessment should aim to simultaneously respect the student’s learning needs, defend academic integrity, and promote equity and consistency for all.

It may be necessary to:

  • vary procedures for conducting assessment (allow extra time for exams and assignments)
  • provide assistive technology, amanuenses, readers and other support in examinations

It is usually possible to make adjustments for students with disability to undertake the same assessment tasks as other students.

In some cases it may be appropriate to offer alternative assessment methods to prevent a student being “substantially disadvantaged” and to ensure academic rigour is maintained.

La Trobe Resources and References

Undergraduate Curriculum Design Policy has a section on Accessibility and Inclusive Curriculum.

External Resources and References

Guidelines for Accessible Assessment (2011) by Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities.
Assessment and Exams by Australian Disability Clearinghouse on Education and Training (ADCET).


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