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developed by
Diane Spence, Director, Braille Services
Region IV Education Service Center
Houston, Texas

The Interim Standards Committee for the Convention of Graphics and Test Item Adaptations met from November 1993 through February 1994 to make decisions on the appropriate adaptations for brailling test items from the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) tests. All grade levels and subject areas were carefully reviewed and decisions made by the committee were based upon teacher input, student braille-reading needs, test protocol, and national standards for brailling test material.

Standard national formatting guidelines were followed for the majority of the print test transcription. The committee made specific decisions on individual test items. These decisions and other basic concepts are outlined as follows:

Order of Presentation

The decision was made to maintain the print order of presentation as much as possible, question-graphic-answer choices. This was done in an effort to provide consistency for the student throughout the test. Previous versions of the test had been brailled showing the questions, followed by the answer choices, ending with the graphic. There was a concern that the answer choices were not always the last item presented on all questions and that this might cause some confusion to the student. 

Picture Descriptions

The committee members felt very strongly that if the test included pictures, these pictures should be described for the student. If pictures were being used as a focusing technique or to set the stage for the upcoming passage or question, the braille-reading student should have the same information. There was a great deal of discussion about the additional reading that would be required of the braille student as compared to the sighted student because of the added picture descriptions. The decision was made to include a copy of all picture descriptions in the test administrators specific braille instructions and instruct the student that they could either read the picture descriptions themselves or the teacher would read it for them.

Boxed Material

The committee decided that if material was boxed in print, it should be boxed in braille. They felt the setting of boundaries around material was very important, even if it meant the question and answer choices pertaining to the boxed material had to be moved to a new page.

Special Instructions to the Student

Some test items referred to tables of information or graphics that were placed on one page and the question(s) on another page. In this situation, either the directions or the question was modified to tell the student where the graphic was located. For example:"...Use the graph below to answer question 13 on the next page."

Graphic Preferences

The committee had specific opinions about the types of graphics prepared on the braille test. A clear distinction was made as to the types of graphics that could be done using the computer graphics method and the ones they wanted drawn by hand. The embossed computer graphics method was appropriate for simple shapes such as, squares, triangles, bar graphs, etc. This method was not appropriate for more complex graphics requiring multiple textures, circles, angles, X-Y coordinate planes, maps, shaded groupings, etc.

Scanning Tasks Simplified

There were several test items that involved scanning tasks. In reading passages, words were underlined and the students asked, for example, "...the underlined word XXX in the passage means..." In braille, the paragraphs containing underlined words were numbered. The test item was modified to tell the student: "In paragraph (3), page a24, the word XXX means ..."

General Test Item Adaptation Recommendations:

  • If sample questions are unnumbered in print, the braille sample test item will begin in cell one with no number.
  • The running head for all tests will include the abbreviated acronym for the test in all caps followed by the initial cap grade level and the grade number. In all literary tests, the grade number will be in literary braille. If the math test is bound with a literary test, the running head grade number will be in literary braille. If the math test is transcribed in a volume by itself, or bound with other material which is transcribed using the Nemeth braille code, the grade number will be in Nemeth braille. (i.e.TAAS Grade 3)
  • Tables and charts that are boxed in print will be boxed in braille, even if this causes the question and answers to fall on another page.
  • STOP will appear in all caps at the margin when shown in print. There will be a skip line before the word stop and the next section of the test will start on a new page.
  • Whenever possible put questions and answers on the same braille page. If, and only if, a graphic is so large that it takes up one entire braille page, then and only then should the question and answer be moved before the graphic. Whenever possible follow the print order of presentation: Question, graphic-table-chart, answer choices. If the question has two parts and only the first part of the question and the graphic, table-chart, will fit on one page, move the second part of the question with the answer choices to a new page.
  • Modify the directions and/or the questions to tell the student where to look for the graphic or question. Add a transcriber's note if necessary. (i.e. Use the graph on the next page to answer question 5.; From the table on the previous page, which of the following best describes..., Transcriber's Note: Use the graph below to answer the question on the next page.)
  • When a picture is used as a focusing technique and is randomly placed on the page, place the picture description after the centered heading of the story.
  • All picture descriptions should be enclosed in "TN" note symbols and placed in cell 7 with runovers in cell 5.
  • If picture descriptions are included in a test, the following note should be placed on the transcriber's note page: "When a test item contains a picture, the picture has been described in braille. If you wish to have the description read aloud, ask your teacher."
  • All words that are double capped or bold faced to show emphasis will be italicized in braille.
  • Keep charts and tables on one page, even if this means leaving large empty spaces on the previous page.
  • Keep short passages and questions with answer choices on the same braille page. Never separate the passage from the question and answer choice, even if this means leaving large empty spaces on the previous page.
  • Place periods after all question numbers and answer choice letters even if there are no periods in print.
  • The word "DIRECTIONS" will be capped as in print and centered in braille.
  • The words "SAMPLE A, B, C" etc. will be capped as in print and centered in braille.

Subject Area Information: READING

  • When a reading passage contains underlined words, the word should be italicized in braille. Insert a paragraph number enclosed in parenthesis at the margin before the paragraph containing the underlined word. Skip a line before the paragraph number in all instances except when a cell 5 heading precedes the numbered paragraph. In this case present the cell 5 heading, followed on the next braille line by the number enclosed in parenthesis, followed on the next line by the cell three paragraph entry.
  • An underlined (italicized) word should fall on the same braille page as the number of its paragraph.
  • If a reading question refers to an underlined word in the passage, modify the question to reflect the paragraph number and the page containing the word. (i.e. In paragraph (3), page a24, the word ...)
  • If the reading selection contains a table, chart, or graph, be sure that the entire table, chart or graph fits on one braille page. Modify the question referencing the table, chart, or graph to say: On page a53 the table ....
  • Directions to the student will be blocked in cell 5.
  • Questions begin in cell 1 with runovers in cell 5.Answer choices begin in cell 3 with runovers in cell 7.

Subject Area Information: MATH

  • If the math test is placed in a separate volume from the other tests, use a Nemeth number in the running head for the grade level. If the math is bound with literary parts such as reading, writing, etc., maintain the literary number throughout the test.
  • Directions to the student will begin in cell 5 with runovers in cell 3.
  • Questions begin in cell 1 with runovers in cell 5.Answer choices begin in cell 3 with runovers in cell 5.If the question contains two parts, the second part of the question will begin in cell 7 with runovers in cell 5.
  • Displayed expressions within questions will begin in cell 7 with runovers in cell 9 with no line skipped before or after the expressions.
  • All answer choices need letter signs and punctuation indicators (i.e. ;,A_4).
  • If answer choices are to be displayed in 4-corner style on an page, they should be in the following order: 
    A. B. 
    C. D.
  • If the 4-corner style of placing answer choices is used, consider drawing lines separating the four areas on the braille page.
  • All right angles on graphics need the right angle notation.
  • In brailling tables where the full braille cell "=" is used to represent an amount for counting, place one braille space in between each full braille cell.
  • If the print table contains a key: "Each ? represents 10 puppies.", substitute the braille equivalent "=" for the print symbol and move the key under the title of the table/graph and place in cell 5.If the print does not include this statement, enclose the statement in \\tn symbols and place in cell 7 with runovers in cell 5.
  • When tally marks are used for counting, use underscore marks in braille "_" with no space in between them unless they are shown in groups of five in print. If that is the case, place a space in between each set of 5 tally marks.
  • Number lines in tests for grades 3-5 will be done on foil.
  • Number lines in tests for grades 6 through exit level will be done on computer using the mathematical number line designations. If only one or two number lines appear in a test, insert the number line transcriber's note explaining all the symbols used, just before the question where the number lines are presented. If several number lines are found throughout the test, place the number line transcriber's note and symbol descriptions on a special symbols page.
  • Test items showing base ten blocks with shaded squares will be hand drawn with raised dots showing the shaded areas.
  • All number lines are to be considered as spatial and will have a blank line before and after them.

Subject Area Information: WRITING

  • When a writing passage contains underlined words with question numbers, the words will be italicized in braille and the question number will be placed in the right margin on the line where the underline (italics) begins.
  • A note on the transcriber's note page will be included to say: "Numbers without number signs appear in the right margin on the line in which numbered items begin."
  • All underlined words are transcribed in grade two braille unless the item is specifically asking about spelling and then the underlined words are presented in uncontracted, grade one braille.

Omitted Items

If a print item is not adaptable in braille, it will be omitted on the braille test. A list of omitted test items is included in the specific braille instructions to the test administrator and referenced on the braille test.