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Access (Accommodation) Services and Academic Success Services - Students with Disabilities

Roles and Scopes of Access and Academic Success Services for Students with Disabilities


This access service is typically approved in post secondary when technological alternatives, such as screen readers or text-to-speech programs, are not feasible.

A reader may be approved for students who have:

  • Worsening vision loss, or newly diagnosed cognitive or brain injury disabilities who are not yet sufficiently familiar with adaptive technology to use during exams.
  • Permanent vision loss or cognitive disabilities taking exams where adaptive technology is not feasible (e.g., math or foreign language exams).
  • Permanent vision loss or cognitive disabilities who cannot reasonably acquire familiarity with adaptive technology sufficient for its use during exam (e.g., due to other disabilities).

A reader reads the test, quiz, exam and/or assignment materials verbatim and does not interpret the text. The reader does not restructure or paraphrase the sentences, nor does the student discuss the course content. A student who is eligible for a reader may also want the written product read back before finishing the test or assignment.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Reader services require a private testing space for quizzes, tests and exams. For these, readers are college employees who work for the Centre for Accessible Learning.
  • This accommodation cannot be used if it compromises an essential course objective.
  • For certain courses, a specialized reader may be necessary (i.e. language or technical courses with specialized vocabulary or courses or classes in which content may be difficult to pronounce).
  • In many courses, content can be read independently via a screen reader program (Kurzweil 3000).

Readers must be able to:

  • Read aloud in a clear, audible and steady voice
  • Properly convey aloud all punctuation conventions
  • Read text exactly as it is written without rephrasing or changing tone of voice to suggest hints or answers
  • Reread text exactly as written without change in tone of voice when the student requests it and as many times as it is requested
  • Sit quietly while the student process or complete their answers
  • Work with students comfortably and compatibly without creating unnecessary pressure, expectations, or distractions

Reader Expectations:

  • Readers should silently read the entire exam before reading aloud to the student
  • Read text aloud exactly as it is written
  • Stop and resume reading as requested by the student
  • Correctly observe all punctuation when reading aloud
  • Spell aloud words when requested by students with vision loss
  • Read at the speed and in the order as requested by the student
  • Refrain from rephrasing or explaining the meaning of words, phrases, or exam questions
  • Refrain from assisting the student in any way by suggesting when to move on, using tone of voice to suggest answers, or repeating text without being instructed to do so

Do's and Don'ts for Readers


  • Do - ask the student if they have worked with a reader previously. Find out their likes and dislikes and come to an agreement as to how you will work together. Explain to the student that you are there to facilitate the test or assignment and if they need you to speed up, slow down, skip or repeat questions, just let you know.
  • Do - take short breaks to talk about trivial things and allow the student to "talk out" their responses (remember not to comment).
  • Do - respect the student's personal space.

Do Not...

  • Don't - tell the student how this exam or assignment is going to go or how it is going. Avoid comments like "You are doing great."
  • Don't - use the time as a counselling session.
  • Don't - give the student advice on their test writing during the exam time. Avoid making statements, such as "You are answering the questions too quickly!"
  • Don't - take in a lot of personal supplies (for example, only take in a book, phone, drink and any test or exam or assignment instructions), in order to maintain a distraction reduced setting for the student.