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“Aimee’s Story: Testing Barriers” Video

Video Description:

Text insert appears: Aimee’s Story, Testing Barriers. Screen fades out to reveal a heads and shoulder frame of a woman with light skin and long dark brown curly hair. She wears a bright red blazer over a black scoop neck top and a black and white patterned bottom. Behind her are pastel blue and green arm chairs and love seats arranged in a circle arm to arm. A slate fireplace is embedded in the bamboo wood-paneled wall. Carpet is light blue with thin stripes in varying shades of the same blue.


Written tests were a real challenge. While I had native fluency in my first language, ASL, my parents were simple Deaf folks who didn’t even graduate high school. We used ASL at home, so of course, my access to English was seriously limited. Even now, when I’m writing in English, I may have a word I’m not sure how to express in my second language, so how would that test my abilities or intelligence?

I know how to express the concept in ASL, but not English. A written test doesn’t do justice to my intelligence. When testing, I compose my answer in my mind in ASL, but then have to do the work of translating, unsure of my English word choice and meaning. It’s a real challenge.

As far as adapting exams…. It’s common for high schools and universities to test primarily in English. Tests require strong English skills.

How could you modify that approach so that it’s more equitable to the Deaf community, the signing community? Instead of having to  complete tests in written English, we should be allowed to use ASL. The test questions should be posed in ASL, translated by someone who has that particular skill.  It’s an unfair burden for me to have to translate. Not everyone has developed the skill of translating between languages. So that’s the first point.

The second is, interpreters should be provided. An interpreter can read the English questions, then interpret them into ASL so I can answer more easily. Then the interpreter could be an English specialist of sorts, to ensure I have expressed my thoughts accurately in English. This would be more of a bilingual approach. The current standard is a monolingual approach, which doesn’t always meet the needs of bilingual people.

There were a variety of supports that could be used during tests. I remember I had extended time on standardized tests, I may have been be given 2 hours when the class was typically allotted one hour. That extra hour gave me time to work through each section and get my answers down in writing. I didn’t have any other supports, that I was aware of. No one ever informed me of available supports, including extended time. I did not know my rights. I just didn’t know them.

Video Description:

NDC Logo appears above text, black lettering on a white background:

“This video was developed under a jointly-funded grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) #HD326D160001. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the federal government.”

Next to it, three logos appear. The first reads “IDEAs that Work” with an arrow drawing a circle from “IDEAs” to “Work” and the words “U.S. Office of Special Education Programs”. The second logo shows a red-and-blue star with text next to it that reads “TA&D”. The third logo shows a blue circle around a tree. In the blue circle are the words “U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.”

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