Title: Summary report on international systems of exam access for visually impaired pupils.

Author: Graeme Douglas, Steve McCall, Sue Pavey and Paul Nisbet, Publisher: Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research (VICTAR), University of Birmingham and CALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh for RNIB, Year of publication: 2009.


This report presents the findings from two related studies:   

  • an online survey carried out in relation to accessibility of public examination systems for blind and partially sighted pupils 
  • a case study of Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) adapted digital questions papers and their accessibility for blind and partially sighted candidates.

The survey gathered information from ten countries beyond England and Wales: Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Scotland and Sweden. Data was gathered in relation to specific access arrangements available in each country. In particular:   

  • strategies in relation to hardcopy large print   
  • braille   
  • the use of scribes   
  • content modification   
  • electronic versions of the examination.

Key findings    

  • The survey highlights that providing visually impaired students with access to examinations is challenging across all the surveyed countries.    
  • A range of common approaches is used across most of the surveyed countries (albeit to differing degrees), eg hardcopy large print, braille, content modifications, extra time allowance, and use of scribes. These are similar to those approaches used in England and Wales.    
  • The availability of electronic versions of examinations is relatively common across the surveyed countries. In apparent contrast, the use of electronic versions of examinations in England and Wales has been cautious to date.    
  • Where electronic versions do not exist (or their format is restrictive), visually impaired students’ access to examinations appears to be threatened because the range of formats they require is difficult to provide. Therefore, the importance of electronic versions of examinations seems a crucial approach to enable students to gain access to their preferred format.    
  • Sweden in particular appears to prioritise the provision of electronic versions of examinations over hard copy large print (and provides visually impaired students with appropriate access technology and training).    
  • Examination content modification appears to be implemented in all countries surveyed.