University of Edinburgh

Language and Accessibility Issues in Curriculum and Assessment plus workshops in Art & Design, Modern Languages, Environmental Studies

Presented in November 2005

Update on accessibility arrangements for deaf pupils

Patricia McDonald, SQA


Disability Discrimination Act

Schools (Part 4)
Colleges (Part 4)
Trade Organisations and Qualifications Bodies (Part 2)

Part 4 of the Act (Education) aims to prevent discriminating against disabled people in their access to education.

Part 2 of the Act (Employment) is based on the principle that disabled people should not be discriminated against in employment or when seeking employment. A person's employment prospects may be affected by his ability to obtain a professional or trade qualification.

What is discrimination?

When a responsible body treats a disabled person less favourably for a reason relating to the person's disability, than it treats (or would treat) a person to whom that reason does not (or would not) apply and the treatment cannot be justified.

When a responsible body fails to make a reasonable adjustment when a disabled student is place, or likely to be placed, at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with a person who is not disabled.

Linguistic choice in the assessment process

Accessing assessment through BSL
Accessing assessment through English

Assessments in BSL

Deaf candidates able to take all assessments, except those relating directly to specific languages, in BSL.

All assessments (eg; examination question papers) should be presented in BSL.

Responses should be given in BSL (more English-based forms of signing also accepted).

All National Qualifications external question papers presented in standard format in BSL.

Overview of SQA's policy

1999 – specialist working group set up to consider SQA’s policy on assessment arrangements in relation to deaf candidates.

2000 – extension of SQA arrangements for deaf candidates to include signing of question papers in external examinations.

2001- specialist working group set up to consider the signing of candidates’ responses.

2003 – extension to arrangements to allow deaf candidates to sign their responses.

Key Issues from the review exercise

Practical/technical issues
Candidate preparation
Filming the whole event
Transcriber using discretion in terms of what is actually transcribed onto

Assessments in English

Many deaf candidates will wish to access assessments in English

  • For some, English will be their first and preferred language.
  • For others English, will be the only language they have been exposed to but they may not have full competence.
  • There will be deaf candidates whose first language is BSL and who may want to access assessments in both BSL and English.

Issues for discussion

  • Developing consistency in the use of sign in assessments.
  • Signing skills of communicator – must have appropriate signing qualification.
  • Modification of the language of assessments to ensure accessibility - use accessible English.
  • National assessments should have a national standard format in BSL.

Accessibility Arrangements for Deaf Pupils

Before the Examination

Spreadsheet/application in writing, video consent form home and copied, Inform Principal Invigilator of examination timetable for deaf candidates, times for collecting papers. Video cassettes labelled, technicians notified, video cameras checked, SQA jiffy envelopes and labels.

Preparation of Candidates

Known signer, known examination format, practice examinations, past papers, assertiveness, dress code, camera technique, mind maps/mnemonics.

The Examination

Collect papers, signing preparation, signing in examination, video footage.

The Transcription

Prepare transcription
Submit within one week
SQA pick up or recorded delivery

Deaf Reviewers’ Group

Videos moderated, comments to Centres.