Title: Assessing the ability of blind and partially sighted people: are psychometric tests fair?

Author: Stuart Atkins, Publisher: RNIB, Year of publication: 2012


Psychometric or standardised tests are assessments that measure knowledge, abilities, attitudes and personality traits. They are used in education and recruitment and can consist of written, online or oral tests. RNIB is often approached by teachers and parents concerned about the use of standardised/psychometric testing in education and whether these tests can be suitably adapted or are relevant to blind and partially sighted children. This literature review was therefore undertaken to investigate the use of psychometric testing with blind and partially sighted people and the potential issues of accessibility and appropriateness of test content.

Key findings    

  • Tests developed for sighted individuals are not always appropriate to use with blind and partially sighted people.    
  • Non-verbal reasoning tests are more problematic than verbal reasoning tests as they often use pictures and images which are inaccessible to blind and partially sighted people.      
  • Psychometric tests are often used to test innate ability, but the skills being assessed for a blind or partially sighted person may differ from the skills being assessed for a sighted person.             
  • Blind and partially sighted people often read at a slower rate than sighted people, but the difference in reading speed will vary from person to person depending on sight condition and format of test. Standard time extensions for tests may give some individuals an advantage and others a disadvantage depending on their sight problem.        
  • Due to the problems faced by blind and partially sighted people when completing these tests they may be disadvantaged in selection processes for employment, school, college or university places that use psychometric tests.        
  • Tests developed for blind and partially sighted people are useful on an individual basis to assess a person's academic progress or understand learning needs. However, due to a lack of validation they are less useful for comparing performance against others.       
  • The advancements in the use of technology (such as computers and tablet devices) in administering tests could potentially provide more accessible options for blind and partially sighted candidates.