News, Curriculum

Accommodations 101

Why do we have Accommodations for students with disabilities?

It is our responsibility to ensure that all students receive quality instruction. It is the expectation that students with disabilities will receive the same quality of instruction and participate in the general education classroom as well as district and state level testing to the greatest extent possible in accordance with both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Students with disabilities contend with barriers to learning and challenges which make it difficult for them to access materials and show what they know. 

Students with disabilities may encounter barriers in any of the following areas of testing and/or instruction:

  • The way information is presented to students
  • The way students are expected to demonstrate knowledge
  • The educational environment or setting in which instruction or assessments are delivered 
  • The timing and scheduling of instruction or assessments 

What is an Accommodation?

Accommodations are adaptations or changes to educational instruction and/or environments which aim to remove barriers and help students overcome the challenges that come with their disability. It is important to note that students with disabilities are still expected to receive the same quality and level of instruction as their peers without disabilities, the accommodations are put in place to improve their access to the information, not to change the information itself. Students are expected to be provided with the same grade level content and demonstrate mastery of standards but the way in which they access the content and show what they know may be different. Accommodations address the barriers students with disabilities face in order to give them equal access to the material they need to succeed. 

Some common accommodations for students with visual, auditory, or orthopedic disabilities include: text to speech/read aloud options to change the way information is presented to students, speech to text for students who need options with how they respond, response masking for students who need reduced answer choices, closed captioning or written transcripts for videos, the ability to change font size and text color. 

For students with disabilities such as ADHD where focus is a barrier, accommodations to the learning or testing environment may be made such as one on one or small group settings, as well as allowing for frequent brain breaks, and reminders to stay on task.

What is NOT an Accommodation?

Accommodations aim to remove barriers for students and may alter How a student is instructed or assessed but does not change What the student is expected to learn and demonstrate. Accommodations may alter how information is presented, however, it is the same grade level material that is expected to be learned by students without disabilities. They may also change how students demonstrate their understanding but not what they must understand. Learning expectations and requirements are to remain unchanged when accommodations are in place. 

Modifications, on the other hand, may change What students are expected to do and learn. Modifications would include things such as providing students with an alternate assignment, allowing them to produce a shorter report than their peers, complete fewer questions on an assignment or test, or to read or work at a lower level.

Instructional intervention strategies may be used by teachers to address knowledge deficits with their students. This is not to be confused with accommodations but may be used in conjunction with them. Some instructional or intervention strategies include mnemonic devices, self-monitoring for behavior, and cooperative learning groups.

For more examples and deeper explanations of the differences between accommodations, modifications, and instructional or intervention strategies and to test your own knowledge of them, see this article from the IRIS Center. For another explanation of the difference between accommodations and modifications, see this chart from

Accommodations in an Increasingly Digital Learning Environment

As we continue to move forward in an increasingly digital world, the need for accommodations and accessibility in all learning environments has become apparent. Support is available for instructors when it comes to identifying the needs of their students that may be different based upon whether they are in an in-person classroom setting, virtual classroom, or hybrid learning environment. For additional information, see these helpful tips from the Center for Teaching Innovation. One key factor is assessing the needs of our students with disabilities and surveying students and families to determine the key areas of need based on their different learning environments. For example: providing noise canceling headphones for students working at home, or showing students how to utilize virtual backgrounds to minimize distraction may be a new identified need. 

One key benefit of an increase in digital learning is many key accommodation tools which can be easily accessed while using technology and online learning resources and tools. For example: speech to text and text to speech options can easily be turned on in many online learning programs, as well as adjusting size and color of text, for students with disabilities. Many programs also offer teachers the ability to easily turn certain accommodations on or off for individual students so they may access the same educational materials while being provided the tools they need. 

Built-In Accommodations

Progress Learning supports the work of educators by providing built-in accommodations settings which can be easily accessed to make learning accessible to all students. 

Accommodations which can be easily turned on in settings include: text to speech and language options, notepads and drawing options, and directions for assignments with text or audio. 

We also offer response masking for students who require fewer answer choices. Teachers also have the option of giving students videos as instruction and text and video notes can also be easily provided. 

In addition to offering built-in accommodations, the Progress Learning platform provides a number of instructional and intervention strategies to teachers in support of all learners. Video explanations accompany every single question in our Liftoff intervention program as well as 20 second brain break game rewards for questions answered correctly on the first try. Teachers also have the ability to assign different grade level content to individual study plans and assignments for students. 

It is our mission to provide a high quality, standards-based solution to help all students access and master the content they are expected to know. See our Accommodations Guide for further details on how to access and utilize our built-in accommodations. We are also committed to making education equitable and accessible and to understand the importance of the incorporation of personalized instruction and Universal Design Principles in our instructional design. 

To learn more about how we address accommodations on our platform, Request a Demo. 

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