Programs providing group orientations about program activities and services should ensure that all information and materials presented are in accessible formats as needed or requested. Programs should take steps to ensure that primary information and materials to be presented are available in alternative formats in advance of the scheduled orientation. Make sure there are a sufficient number of program team members to assist people who have disabilities. At orientation, the following may facilitate a smooth process:

  • Offer to assist with the forms and application materials
  • If assistance is provided and confidentiality is of concern, move to a private room or area
  • Present information in a multi-sensory manner (both visually and orally), use color for forms and materials (the blue application form, the green schedule, etc.), explain information clearly and slowly, and allow enough time for questions
  • Present information about student rights, non-discrimination policies and equal opportunity
  • Provide information about services for students who have disabilities and some of the general accommodations provided
  • Provide a list (in print and verbally) of the auxiliary aids and services available for individuals who need them

It is common for students and prospective students not to recognize that the difficulties encountered in previous education and training settings is possibly the result of a non-apparent disability (learning, brain injury, attention, mental health, etc.). Therefore it is important that adult basic education programs have baseline knowledge of the common elements associated with non-apparent disabilities. They include:

  • Previous history of special education services or extensive extra help
  • History of prior accommodations being granted
  • Extremely low performance on basic skills placement assessment
  • Student talks about the possibility of having a non-apparent disability
  • Observation of difficulties in the enrollment/application process
  • Family member or significant friend states a belief about the prospective student having a non-apparent disability


Programs using testing as a method for placement must ensure that appropriate, non-discriminatory principles and procedures are in place. The processes used must accommodate the limitations of the disability of the student or prospective student, but not compromise the integrity or standards of the process used. In order to ensure discrimination does not occur when determining educational placement, programs are encouraged to implement protocols such as:

  • Advance notice to all students and prospective students that placement testing is one measurement used in the determination of appropriate educational programs and services
  • Clear procedures that outline the major allowable accommodations (e.g., calculator, extra time, audio format, etc.) for requests from students and prospective students who have disabilities
  • Recognition of what to do if a request for accommodations would fundamentally alter the effectiveness or outcomes of the test, or result in undue burden to the program administering the test
  • The use of valid and sustainable placement measurements whether accommodations are requested or not
  • Requests for testing accommodations should be accompanied with documentation, per the adult basic education program requirements, as validation for the request
  • Requests for testing accommodations should be responded to in a timely manner

Instructional Procedures and Methodologies

In an effort to ensure that students with disabilities receive adult basic education services that appropriately utilize accommodations and modifications, programs are encouraged to explore professional development that is specifically geared toward adult students who have disabilities, particularly non-apparent disabilities.

Adult basic education programs must make instruction decisions about students and prospective students who have disabilities based on objective evidence, state of the art skills and knowledge of student needs and preferences. Decisions to accommodate cannot be made based on administrative convenience, generalizations, stereotypes, fear or lack of knowledge.

While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not prohibit special or segregated programs designed just to meet the needs of students who have disabilities, programs should be extremely careful to implement the best, most effective ways of serving students with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does allow for specially designed programs, but also cautions that students with disabilities have a right to participate in any programs and services for which he or she is eligible. Separate programs are not the best way to meet the intent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which promotes a foundational value of integration of individuals with disabilities into mainstream society. When students leave adult basic education they need to be prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, training and work environments. Integrated programs universally provide all students the opportunities needed to succeed at the next levels.

The framework for instructional procedures and methodologies when working with students with disabilities, especially non-apparent disabilities, has been researched and provided in many formats. Overall, methods should take a three-pronged approach that looks equally at the strengths of the student, the limitations created by the disability and the weaknesses or deficiencies that are a result of a lack of accommodations during past remediation attempts. Using this approach, programs should ensure the following:

  • Promotion of classroom routines
  • Understandable expectations and encouragement
  • Stability in lesson structure and approach
  • Utilization of a variety of learning techniques and methods
  • Practice
  • Feedback
  • Periodic reviews

Materials, Products and Resources

Programs have a responsibility under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act, Section 504 and Section 508 to ensure that all materials and resources are accessible to students with disabilities in the same manner as students who do not have disabilities. If pre-emptive or advance actions are put into place, then materials and resources should already be available in alternative formats.

Programs should conduct accessibility reviews when any ABE materials and resources are replaced. This will ensure continuation of access for students with disabilities. The following are essential in the review:

  • Having a format suited to adults
  • Appropriate for a variety of cultures
  • Can be altered for accommodation purposes
  • If the product was field tested, students with disabilities should have comprised a representative sample in the test
  • Videos and DVD/CDs are closed-captioned
  • Large print versions are, or can be, easily made available
  • Alternative electronic formats are available
  • Materials and books are in e-text, audio, or CD formats
  • Changes and upgrades in computer and electronic technology allow use of assistive technology and software
  • Audiovisuals come with printed script
  • Web-based materials, systems and tools are accessible

Adult basic education providers, contractors and partnering agencies are required to ensure that referrals, especially those with separate physical locations from the programs, are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, Sections 504 and 508, the Workforce Investment Act, the Civil Rights Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.