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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has a document explaining requirements for testing accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

Federal and State Disability Laws

  • ADA – The Americans with Disabilities Act (1990, amended 2008) protects anyone with a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits ones major life activities.
  • IDEIA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (1997, amended 2004). Guarantees the right for students aged 3-21 with disabilities a free public education.  To be eligible for special education, students must be found to have a disability and need specialized instruction.
  • Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination based on a disability.

If a student discloses a disability, classroom and testing accommodations may be appropriate to implement.  Request documentation of their disability. Consider using PANDA’s Supplemental Disability Registration to help you gather additional information about the student and their learning needs, located here.  Ask students if they ever received special education services in school.  If so, request a copy of the Individualized Education Program/Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan for their file.  An Individualized Education Program/Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan are special education documents used in the K-12 schools and transition programs. Other types of documentation include a report from a mental health or medical professional.  Read the document to see what academic accommodations are recommended and if testing accommodations are appropriate.

What is an IEP and 504 Plan and How Does It Apply to ABE

Individual Education Program/Plan (IEP) is a K-12 school document which outlines special education services for students with disabilities until age 21, including transition services (IDEIA).

  • An extensive evaluation is completed by a team of school professionals to determine eligibility for special education services.  Students must be evaluated every 3 years.
  • There are 13 disability categories:  includes Specific Learning Disorder (SLD), Emotional Behavioral Disorder (EBD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Developmental Cognitive Disorder (DCD). For a full list of the 13 disability categories go to:
  • Students receive specialized instruction and accommodations, which may be a paraprofessional attending class with the student, one on one instruction in a separate classroom, small groups or a combination of these. The IEP helps students with disabilities make progress based on their individualized goals.

504 Plans (Section 504 of Rehabilitation Act) is a different K-12 document.

  • The student does not need specialized instruction (staff time) but does need accommodations (typically falls under “Other Health Disability (OHD)” category.  Often, is an ADHD diagnosis or could be physical impairment, such as broken limbs or illnesses). For more information go to:
  • Common accommodations include extended time, breaks, testing in a private room, preferential seating.

An IEP or 504 Plan are sufficient documentation for an ABE Program to implement classroom and testing accommodations similar to what K-12 schools recommend, unless the accommodation creates undue hardship for the program.  For more information about undue hardship examples:

Some students may be uncomfortable disclosing they have a disability or are unaware they may have a disability.  Particularly a hidden or non-apparent disability.  Examples of hidden or non-apparent disabilities include mental illness, ADHD, SLD, or TBI.

The following are common classroom accommodations:

  • Extra time on assignments.
  • Break assignments down into smaller pieces.
  • Modify assignments, such as reducing the amount of reading or problems.
  • Keep instructions limited to two at a time.
  • Allow breaks to help them rejuvenate and refocus.
  • Allow preferential seating.  For example, sitting at the front of the class helps reduce distractions.
  • Relate new material to what the student already knows.
  • Review what was learned before introducing new information.
  • Ask the student to rephrase what they heard to make sure they understand.
  • Allow books on tape and oral testing.
  • Use visual aids and hands on activities as much as possible.
  • Use multi-sensory instruction which accesses all parts of the brain and has been shown to increase learning. Click here for a handout on multi-sensory instruction.
  • PANDA can provide adaptive equipment, such as line readers, large print keyboards, adaptive mice, magnifiers, etc. (Contact PANDA about your students’ needs).

The following are common testing accommodations:

  • Extra time on tests (1.5x)
  • Testing in a private room
  • Breaks

See subcategories in this chapter for more information about specific test accommodation rules for TABE, CASAS, GED, or Citizenship.  See individual chapters for instructional strategies that are specific to the disability.

Disability Accommodations: A Video Guide for Students in Minnesota Adult Education

Click here to view the video or read the guide. Available in English, Spanish and Somali.

Please feel free to email PANDA with questions about students with disabilities and accommodation needs at