Assistive Technology Resource Guide

List of Resources

Accessible Educational Material (AEM) - SERC/CAST

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) Section 300.172 addresses access to instructional and educational materials in a timely manner by individuals who are blind or have other print-related disabilities through the establishment of the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) and the adoption of the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS).  

In order to ensure that educational materials in accessible formats are provided in a timely manner in Connecticut, all reasonable efforts will be made by the local education agency (LEA) to ensure that accessible educational materials (AEM) are provided to children with disabilities who need accessible formats of educational materials at the same time as other children receiving their educational materials.  

The PPT, cooperating with other qualified professionals as needed, is responsible for the identification of children requiring special education and related services based on the results of an evaluation, sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related service needs.  If a student is identified as having a print-related disability (e.g., blindness, visual impairment, physical limitations and specific learning disability in reading), which impacts the student’s ability to access the general curriculum, then the PPT may determine, as the competent authority, that the student qualifies to receive AEM produced in specialized formats as delineated on the IEP through an accessible media producer and/or the NIMAC.

For more information please go to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s website under the NIMAS/NIMAC, the State Education Resource Center (SERC) website CTAIM or the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) website.


Accommodations are changes in procedures or materials that increase equitable access during the Smarter Balanced assessments. The accommodations are available for students for whom there is documentation of the need for the accommodations in an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 accommodation plan. Assessment accommodations generate valid assessment results for students who need them; they allow these students to show what they know and can do - for more information refer to the Assessment Guidelines.

Who Makes Decisions About Accommodations? 

PPT/IEP teams and educators make decisions about accommodations. These teams (or educators for 504 plans) provide evidence of the need for accommodations and ensure that they are noted on the IEP or 504 plan. 

The IEP team (or educator developing the 504 plan) is responsible for ensuring that information from the IEP/504 plan is entered into the CSDE Accommodations Data Collection Website and in the Test Information Distribution Engine (TIDE) so that all designated supports and accommodations can be provided during testing. This can be accomplished by identifying one person from the team to enter information into the CSDE Accommodations Data Collection Website and in TIDE, or by providing information to the test coordinator who enters this information.

Assistive Technology (AT)

The Smarter Balanced Assessment has built-in universal design tools, designated supports and embedded accommodations ranging from text highlighting, color contrast and spell check to on-screen calculators etc., all which mirror the Assistive Technology (AT) tools students might use in the classroom. In some cases, the technology provided is insufficient and consideration should be explored relating to the student's individual AT needs. 

Definition: The federal definition of an assistive technology device is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities. AT supports and services are an integral component of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The standards recognize the significance of AT as supports and services for students with disabilities in meeting high academic standards to demonstrate their conceptual and procedural knowledge and skills in mathematics and language arts. 

Assessment:Students with disabilities often use a variety of technology ranging from low to high tech in instructional and assessment activities within the classroom. The use of AT for many students assists them with access, participation and progress in general education. For these students, ensuring that assistive technology is available is a critical part of leveling the playing field, allowing them to independently function at an academic level equal to their non-disabled peers. The technology is an integral part of their educational life and can be used as the student transitions to college and career environments. For children served under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the planning and placement team (PPT) must explore the continuum of AT when developing an Individualized Education Program (IEP). There should be a documented and reasonable plan, including timelines, on what the PPT/IEP team agrees in order to incorporate supports and accommodations, including AT devices and services to ensure access to the general education curriculum and the CCSS. For more information visit: Connecticut Assistive Technology Guidelines

Considerations: Consideration of AT is completed by a team (including the parents and caregivers) with the collective knowledge and skills needed to determine possible assistive technology solutions that address the needs and abilities of the student. The team explores the continuum of AT (from low- to high-tech) within the development of the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP), in order to establish the usefulness of devices that will be utilized during instruction and then later to be mirrored with formative, interim and summative assessments. There should be a documented and reasonable plan, including timelines, on what the PPT/IEP team agrees in order to incorporate supports and accommodations, including AT devices and services to ensure access to the general education curriculum and the CCSS. For more information visit: Connecticut Assistive Technology Guidelines.

Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)

Some children with disabilities have difficulty making their needs known verbally and may need augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), which is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language, such as a picture exchange communication system such as communication boards, vocal output communication systems, and assistive listening devices (including FM systems). A continuum of choices from simple to complex should be considered when trying to find the best possible assistive technology to use with a particular student or child for different tasks in different settings. AAC can be useful for many, and may be necessary for some. Augmentative communication incorporates strategies that augment or supplement speech as a strategy to increase communication skills. AAC includes the use of visual language systems such as visual icons or words representing specific communication units, which capitalize on strong visual processing of many children with autism. AAC provides a motorically simple way to communicate needs and may preempt the development of challenging coping behaviors (National Research Council, 2001).

According to the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) AAC as an area of clinical practice that attempts to compensate (either temporarily or permanently) for the impairment and disability patterns of individuals with severe expressive communication disorders (i.e., the severely speech-language and writing impaired). AAC incorporates the individual's full communication abilities and may include any existing speech or vocalizations, gestures, manual signs, and aided communication ( ASHA further defines an AAC system as an integrated group of components, including the symbols, aids, strategies, and techniques used by individuals to enhance communication. This definition of a system also emphasizes the use of multiple components or modes for communication. The term symbol refers to the methods used for visual, auditory, and/or tactile representation of conventional concepts (e.g., gestures, photographs, manual signs sets/ systems, pictoideographs, printed words, objects, spoken words, Braille). The use of gestural communication, including facial expressions, eye gazing, and body postures, in addition to hand gestures, falls within the overall definition of AAC. AAC can be unaided (sign language) or aided. Aided refers to a physical object or devices used to transmit or receive messages (e.g. communication book, board, chart, mechanical or electronic device, computer). (p. 10). 

AAC is truly multimodal, permitting individuals to use every mode possible to communicate. Research examining the impact of AAC on speech has found that the former does not impede the latter. To the contrary, AAC has been shown to facilitate speech in many cases (Millar, Light & Schlosser, 2006). Educators and Speech Language Pathologists (SLP) working with students who use AAC have a vast pool of options when selecting a device or an application (app). The most important aspect to remember is that it should meet the strengths and needs of the student. One must also remember that the ability to use AAC devices may change over time, although sometimes very slowly, the AAC system chosen today may not be the best system tomorrow. In any case, an AAC system is an integrated group of four components used by an individual to enhance communication. These four components are symbols, aids, techniques, and/or strategies.

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) ( - Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) is an educational research & development organization that works to expand learning opportunities for all individuals through Universal Design for Learning. The UDL Center is a website with free online collection of rich media presentations that help educators to build UDL understanding, implementation skills, and leadership ability.

Communicative Competence

Communication pervades all aspect of education (Calculator, 2009). Participation in educational activities (instruction and assessment) necessitates the use of spoken and written communication. Many children with disabilities may not be able to communicate via the traditional spoken and written modalities. 

There is evidence to suggest that up to 40% of students who may be taking the alternate assessment may not be able to communicate via traditional means and may require Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) (NCSC Wiki). These students may need AAC devices such as communication boards, vocal output communication systems, and assistive listening devices including FM systems. The Connecticut Alternate Assessment (CTAA) recognizes the importance of communication in instruction and assessment, and has established that communication competency prior to the third grade as the foundation for the CTAA. The National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) defines communicative competence as the ability to use a communication system that enables students to gain and demonstrate knowledge.

The NCSC system of curriculum, instruction, and assessment is built on a foundation of communicative competence, so that students have a reliable way to receive information from others and to show others what they know. Students must be able to communicate personal needs; and share information, ideas, questions, and comments about the daily events in their lives and the world in which they live. For students who have not yet developed communicative competence, this must be a priority objective for them now. With recent technology advances, there are many approaches to develop communication systems that allow students to participate in instruction and interaction throughout the day.

Connecticut Alternate Assessment/National Center and State Collaborative (CTAA/NCSC)

Connecticut Alternative Assessment

The National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC) is a project funded by the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and is led by five organizations and 24 states to construct an alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards (AA-AAS), aligned to the CCSS, for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities in Grades 3-8 and 11. The goal of the NCSC project is to ensure that students with the most significant cognitive disabilities achieve increasingly higher academic outcomes and leave high school ready for post-secondary options. Students with the most significant cognitive disabilities (approximately 1% or fewer of the student population), who meet the criteria for the mathematics alternate assessment based on alternate achievement standards, will take the Connecticut Alternative Assessment (CTAA).

Frequently Asked Questions 

Practice Site with Test Examples - Open soon

Connecticut Special Education Laws, Regulations and Explanation Related to Assessment

Connecticut has long advocated that, to the extent possible, students with disabilities should participate in both the general education curriculum and the standard administration of the state assessments; this has often not been the case nationally. It was only with the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA that having high expectations for students with disabilities became a national priority. The 1997 IDEA amendments required that these students be included in appropriately challenging curriculums and in districtwide and statewide assessments, and that states and school districts publicly account for the progress of these students. Clearly, two goals of IDEA are: 1) the participation of a high percentage of students with disabilities in standard districtwide and statewide testing and related accountability efforts, and 2) the availability of an alternate assessment for those few students who cannot appropriately participate in the standard assessment program.

Federal legislation, in the form of both the NCLB and the IDEA, state legislation in the Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-14, and relatively recent implementation of the Connecticut Core Standards is consistent in the vision that is being promoted, i.e., high expectations, uniform standards and public accountability for the performance of all students, including those with disabilities and limited English proficiency. Connecticut's statewide assessment program is just one component of an overall accountability system that is intended to assess the effectiveness of Connecticut schools and lead to greater success for all students.

Connecticut's special education laws and regulations essentially mirror the provisions of the IDEA. Notable exceptions are the use of the term planning and placement team (PPT) that is synonymous with individualized education program team (IEP team); the composition of the PPT/IEP team and member attendance requirements that supplement IDEA requirements; and the timelines for conducting activities related to referrals, evaluations, and implementation. 

CSDE Accommodations Form

2014 - 2015 Test Supports/Accommodations Form, which is incorporated into many districts computerized IEP systems, consist of this year's summative assessments designated supports and accommodations for students with an IEP or a 504 plan.

CSDE Assessment Guidelines

Assessment Guidelines: This document is intended to provide guidance for Connecticut school district personnel who must make decisions about testing special student populations on Smarter Balanced, CMT/ CAPT Science, Connecticut Alternate Assessments and CMT/CAPT Skills Checklist Science.

CSDE AT Consideration Checklist 

The following appendixes are part of the AT Guidelines to support teams when considering AT: 

Consideration Checklist Form (AT Guidelines appendix 7): This document was developed by the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology, a project of the Georgia Department of Education, Division for Special Education Supports. Permission to photocopy is granted for non-commercial purposes if this credit is retained. 

WATI Assistive Technology Consideration Guide (AT Guidelines appendix 8): WATI Assessment Forms Copyright (2004) Wisconsin Assistive Technology Initiative1Printed with Permission. Permission to photocopy is granted for non-commercial purposes if this credit is retained.

Assistive Technology Consideration Resource Guide Appendix (AT Guidelines 9): This document was developed by the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology. (Revised 03-12-08). Permission to photocopy is granted for non-commercial purposes if this credit is retained. 

CSDE Assistive Technology (AT) Guidelines

Guidelines for Assistive Technology: This document (updated in 2013) provides a framework for making decisions about the AT needs of students with disabilities. It outlines procedures for making initial consideration decisions, evaluation, documentation, implementation, and evaluation of effectiveness. An essential focus of this document is also to assist educators, parents, and advocates to understand the legislation and rights of students with a disability regarding the use and availability of technology. 

CSDE Eligibility Documents - ID, ASD, LD, etc.

The CSDE list of Eligibility Documents 

CSDE Language and Communication Plan for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

The CSDE Language and Communication Plan was a tool designed to assist the PPT in meeting the IEP requirement to address the special language and communication considerations for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Required Language and Communication Plan for Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students

Effective July 1, 2012, Section 11 of Public Act (P.A.) 12-173, entitled An Act Concerning Individualized Education Programs and Other Issues Relating to Special Education, requires that the IEP for any child identified as deaf or hard of hearing shall include a language and communication plan (LCP) developed by the child' s PPT. Any student with an identified hearing loss, regardless of the primary disability indicated on the IEP for the purposes of special education eligibility, should have an LCP, which documents the considerations and/or actions discussed by the PPT.

The Language and Communication Plan is a tool designed to assist the planning and placement team (PPT) in meeting the individualized education program (IEP) requirement to address special language and communication considerations for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Regardless of the amount of the student's residual hearing, the ability of the parent(s) to communicate or the student's experience with other communication modes, the PPT must provide educational opportunity and consider the language and communication needs of the student based on the student's primary language/communication mode. Through assessment, discussion or observation, the PPT must identify the primary communication mode of the student (Spoken Language; American Sign Language; English-Based Manual or Sign System or Other) with an identified hearing loss in order to inform the development of an appropriate IEP. Additionally the Language and Communication Plan requires other special considerations be discussed by the team to ensure that all necessary services, accommodations and or modifications are identified and incorporated in the development of a student's individualized program, including assistive devices/services, communication accommodations and physical environment accommodations.

Designated Supports

Designated Supports for the Smarter Balanced assessments are those features that are available for use by any student for whom the need has been indicated by an educator (or team of educators with parent/guardian and student). It is recommended that a consistent process be developed and used to determine these supports for individual students. All educators making these decisions should be trained on the process and should be made aware of the range of designated supports available - for more information refer to the Assessment Guidelines.

Who Makes Decisions About Designated Supports? 

Informed adults make decisions about designated supports. Ideally, the decisions are made by all educators familiar with the student's characteristics and needs, as well as those supports that the student has been using during instruction and for other assessments. Student input to the decision, particularly for older students, is also recommended. 

Documenting Accommodations on a Student's IEP

For students with disabilities served under IDEA, determining appropriate instructional and assessment accommodations should not pose any particular problems for IEP teams that follow good IEP practices. With information obtained from the required summary of the student's present level of educational performance (PLEP), the process of identifying and documenting accommodations should be a fairly straightforward event. The PLEP is a federal requirement in which IEP team members must state how the child's disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general education curriculum”the same curriculum as non-disabled children [Sec. 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I)].

Depending on the design and overall format of a typical IEP, there are potentially three areas in which accommodations can be addressed: 

1. Consideration of Special Factors [Sec. 614(d)(3)(B)]. This is where communication and assistive technology supports are considered;

2. Supplementary Aids and Services [Sec. 602(33) and Sec. 614(d)(1)(A)(i)]. This area of the IEP includes aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes or other education-related settings to enable children with disabilities to be educated with nondisabled children to the maximum extent appropriate; and 

3. Participation in Assessments [Sec. 612(a)(16)]. This section of the IEP documents accommodations needed to facilitate the participation of students with disabilities in general state and district-wide assessments. 

Individual Student Assessment Accessibility Profile (ISAAP)

The ISAAP tool is designed to facilitate selection of the accessibility resources that match student access needs for the Smarter Balanced assessments, as supported by the Smarter Balanced Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines. The ISAAP Tool is compatible with any version of Microsoft Excel from 2007 to the most recent version. When opening the file, please choose Enable Macros or other enabling prompt to view the recommended use language included for the different resources. The ISAAP Tool file is locked to prevent errant changes to the formulas that determine the functionality of the ISAAP Tool. While end users may change the naming convention of the file when using the Save As function, saving to another Excel file format, such as .xls, may result in corrupting or disabling many of the functionalities and features of the ISAAP Tool.

ISAAP Tool Instructions (DocX)


ISAAP Module

Modes of Communication

Communication is the activity of conveying meaning through a shared system of signs and semiotic rules which is the study of meaning-making, the philosophical theory of signs and symbols. Communication is how the student lets others know what he/she knows or understands. Assessment of a student's knowledge is demonstrated through the student's communication. Students' responses to assessment activities must demonstrate what they know about the concept in the standard/element/indicator. Receptive behaviors indicate engagement but do not communicate knowledge of concept, such as attending behaviors may indicate participation or listening, receiving information. While expressive communication is interpreted to measure assessment responses are observable behaviors that indicate a discriminative response and measurable and indicate understanding or knowledge of a concept.

The NCSC uses descriptors for early and exit stages of each proficiency level detailed across three Modes of Communication: Collaborative (engagement in dialogue with others); Interpretive (comprehension and analysis of written and spoken texts); and Productive (creation of oral presentations and written texts); and two dimensions of Knowledge of Language: Metalinguistic Awareness: The extent of language awareness and self-monitoring students have at the level; and Accuracy of Production: The extent of accuracy in production ELs can be expected to exhibit at the level; English learners increase in accuracy of linguistic production as they develop proficiency in English. Accuracy may vary within a level depending on context, such as extent of cognitive demand or familiarity of a task. 

Total Communication (TC) supports the use of all modes of communication and language as needed in differing contexts. This includes ASL and more English-based systems of signing (i.e., Signing Exact English, Sign-Supported Speech, and Conceptually Accurate Signed English), spoken English, mime, facial expression, and gestures. (

Modifications or Alterations vs. Accommodations

Accommodations do not reduce learning expectations. They provide access. However, modifications or alterations refer to practices that change, lower, or reduce learning expectations.

Modifications can increase the gap between the achievement of students with disabilities and expectations for proficiency at a particular grade level. Using modifications may result in implications that could adversely affect students throughout their educational career. Examples of modifications include:

  • requiring a student to learn less material (e.g., fewer objectives, shorter units or lessons, fewer pages or problems); 
  • reducing assignments and assessments so a student only needs to complete the easiest problems or items; 
  • revising assignments or assessments to make them easier (e.g., crossing out half of the response choices on a multiple-choice test so that a student only has to pick from two options instead of four); or 
  • giving a student hints or clues to correct responses on assignments and tests.

Providing modifications to students during classroom instruction and/or classroom assessments may have the unintended consequence of reducing their opportunity to learn critical content. If students have not had access to critical, assessed content, they may be at risk for not meeting graduation requirements. Providing a student with a modification during a state accountability assessment may constitute a test irregularity and may result in an investigation into the school's or district's testing practices.

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)

Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium 

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has developed a system of valid, reliable, and fair next-generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts (ELA)/literacy and mathematics for grades 3-8 and 11. The system includes summative assessments for accountability purposes, optional interim assessments for local use, and formative tools and processes for instructional use. Computer adaptive testing technologies are used for the summative and interim assessments to provide meaningful feedback and actionable data which teachers and other stakeholders can use to help students succeed. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Practice Site with Test Examples 

SBAC Usability, Accessibility, and Accommodations Guidelines

Assessment Guidelines

This document is intended to provide guidance for Connecticut school district personnel who must make decisions about testing special student populations on Smarter Balanced, CMT/ CAPT Science, Connecticut Alternate Assessments and CMT/CAPT Skills Checklist Science.

The below graphic from the Connecticut SDE (updated in 10/2014) demonstrates the connection of tools, supports and accommodations for students who will be taking the SBAC. 

Universal Tools for All Students

Smarter Balanced Resources and Practices Comparison Crosswalk (PDF) (DocX) *

State Education Resource Center (SERC ) - Professional Development and Learning Opportunities

The State Education Resource Center - SERC - is a quasi-public agency primarily funded by the Connecticut State Department of Education. SERC provides professional development and information dissemination in the latest research and best practices to educators, service providers, and families throughout the state, as well as job-embedded technical assistance and training within schools, programs, and districts.

Statewide and Districtwide Assessments and Accommodations

Individuals with Disability Education Act requirements:

a. The IEP is to list any individual appropriate accommodations that are necessary to measure the academic achievement and functional performance of the student on any statewide and districtwide assessments.

b. If the IEP Team determines that the student needs to take an alternate assessment, the IEP Team must indicate what alternate assessment is appropriate and why. 34 C.F.R.§300.320(a)(6).

Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss - Connecting Hearing Devices to Computers or Personal Devices 

The Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss website is for professionals and family members seeking more information about the learning and social issues of children with hearing loss and what you can do to better support the future success of these children. In particular the article addresses aspects of connecting hearing devices to computers and personal devices.

Typology of Accommodations

The typology of assistive technology products is a valuable tool for educators. It provides a list of assistive technology products that are commonly used for instruction and computer-based assessment, and provide descriptions of features found in these products. The typology can be utilized to align the built-in universal-design tools, designated supports and embedded accommodations with features of assistive technology products for instructional purposes. 

The Assistive Technology Typology document was designed to serve a variety of purposes, including: 1) to provide a categorized list of assistive technology products that are commonly used for instruction and computer-based assessment, 2) to provide descriptions of features found in these products, 3) to provide student characteristics and how they relate to product features, 4) to provide considerations for embedding versus 3rd party tools, and 5) to provide a structure for discussing the potential impact of specific product features on Construct Validity and Test Security/Integrity for the Smarter Balanced assessment. This document is not intended to compare the quality or relative effectiveness of the products listed herein.

Assistive Technology Typology (XLSX)

Universal Tools

Universal tools are available to all students based on student preference and selection for the Smarter Balanced assessments. Universal tools are access features of the assessment that are either provided as digitally delivered components of the test administration system or separate from it - for more information refer to the Assessment Guidelines.