Accommodations vs. Modifications

An accommodation is an alteration of the environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks. Accommodations allow students with disabilities to pursue a regular course of study. Since accommodations do not alter what is being taught, teachers should be able to implement the same grading scale for students with disabilities as they do for students without disabilities.

An accommodation can be made for any student, not just students with a Section 504 plan or an IEP. An accommodation does not alter what the student is expected to learn. An accommodation makes learning accessible to the student and allows the student to demonstrate what they know.

Federal laws, No Child Left Behind 2001 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), require the participation of students with disabilities in standard-based instruction and assessment initiatives. Schools are held accountable for the academic achievement of students. Accommodations are needed to facilitate student access to grade-level instruction and state assessments.

Examples of Accommodations (not limited to these):

  • Sign language interpreters for students who are deaf;
  • Computer text-to-speech computer based systems for students with visual impairments or Dyslexia;
  • Extended time for students with fine motor limitations, visual impairments or learning disabilities.
  • Large print books and worksheets for students with visual impairments;
  • Change in classroom, preferential seating, physical arrangement of the room, reducing/minimizing distractions, cooling off periods;
  • Emphasizing teaching approach (visual, auditory, multi-sensory), individual/ small group, demonstrating/modeling, visual cues, manipulatives, pre-teaching, graphic organizers;
  • Highlighting material, note taking assistance, notes provided by the teacher, calculator, word processor;
  • Directions given in small group, sequential steps, copying from book/paper, length of assignment shortened, format of assignment, testing format changed (multiple choice vs. fill in the blank)

A modification is a change in the curriculum. Modifications are made for students with disabilities who are unable to comprehend all of the content an instructor is teaching. For example, assignments might be reduced in number and modified significantly (easier reading content for example) for an elementary school student with cognitive impairment that limits his/her ability to understand the content in the general education class in which they are included.

Modifications are generally made for students with significant cognitive or physical disabilities. A modification alters content knowledge expectations as well as assessment administration practices.

Prior to the re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) “modifications” referred to changes in the delivery, content, or instructional level of district-wide or state-wide tests for any student receiving special education services. The federal No Child Left Behind Act 2001 requires that students with specific learning disabilities be tested using the same standards as those used for non-learning disabled students.

Examples of Modifications (not limited to these):

  • Presentation of curriculum is modified using a specialized curriculum which is written at a lower level of understanding.
  • Materials are adapted, texts are simplified by modifying content areas—simplifying vocabulary, concepts and principals.
  • Grading is subject to different standards than general education, such as basing on IEP goals.
  • Assignments are changed using lower reading levels, worksheets and simplified vocabulary.
  • Testing adaptations are used, such as lowering the reading level of a test.

Note: It is important to note that accommodations level the playing field, where as modifications change the game entirely.

504 VS IEP