Accommodations Toolkit

Noise Reduction: States' Accessibility Policies, 2021

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National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)

This summary of states’ accessibility policies for noise reduction is part of the Accommodations Toolkit published by the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO)[1]. The toolkit also contains a summary of the research literature on noise reduction.

Accessibility policies often have several tiers of accessibility features: universal features, designated features, and accommodations.[2] Figure 1 summarizes how states included noise reduction in their accessibility policies for students with disabilities in 2021. Figure 2 summarizes how states included noise reduction in their accessibility policies for English learners in 2021. Table 1 shows how noise reduction was included in the policies, while Table 2 contains additional details and specifications.   

There is wide variation across states’ policies in how noise reduction is described and what the accessibility feature might look like in practice. Noise reduction can take many forms, such as being in a separate setting, reducing distractions, or using earmuffs or headphones to block out noise. Additionally, noise reduction is not always classified as its own accessibility feature but rather is one part of broader accessibility features. For example, in Florida, noise reduction is part of the accessibility feature of changing locations, as doing so can decrease background noise, but changing location can also be used to increase physical access, such as facing the student when speaking or speaking to the student and not to the interpreter.

Figure 1. States’ Accessibility Policies for Students with Disabilities for Noise Reduction, 2021

Reading/ELA/Writing

  • Universal Features (U): 16 States
  • Designated Features (D): 22 States
  • Accommodations (A): 10 States

Math

  • Universal Features (U): 16 States
  • Designated Features (D): 22 States
  • Accommodations (A): 10 States

Science

  • Universal Features (U): 16 States
  • Designated Features (D): 22 States
  • Accommodations (A): 10 States

Figure 2. States’ Accessibility Policies for English Learners for Noise Reduction, 2021

Reading/ELA/Writing

  • Universal Features (U): 16 States
  • Designated Features (D): 22 States
  • Accommodations (A): 2 States

Math

  • Universal Features (U): 16 States
  • Designated Features (D): 22 States
  • Accommodations (A): 2 States

Science

  • Universal Features (U): 16 States
  • Designated Features (D): 22 States
  • Accommodations (A): 2 States

Table 1. Accommodations Policies for Noise Reduction by State, 2021

U = Universal Feature, D = Designated Feature, A = Accommodation, ELA = English Language Arts, X = Allowed, SD = Allowed for Students with Disabilities, E = English Learners, P = Prohibited, Blank cell = no policy found, N = Notes in Table 2

State

Reading/ELA/Writing

Math

Science

Notes

(See Table 2)

U

D

A

U

D

A

U

D

A

Alabama

Alaska

X

X

X

N

Arizona

X

SD

X

SD

X

SD

N

Arkansas

California

X

X

X

N

Colorado

X

X

X

N

Connecticut

X

X

X

N

Delaware

X

X

X

N

District of Columbia

X

X

X

N

Florida

SD

SD

SD

N

Georgia

SD

SD

SD

N

Hawaii

X

X

X

Idaho

X

X

X

N

Illinois

X

X

X

N

Indiana

X

X

X

N

Iowa

X

X

X

N

Kansas

Kentucky

SD

SD

SD

N

Louisiana

X

X

X

N

Maine

X

X

X

N

Maryland

X

X

X

N

Massachusetts

X

X

X

N

Michigan

X

X

X

N

Minnesota

X

X

X

N

Mississippi

Missouri

X

X

X

N

Montana

X

X

X

N

Nebraska

X

X

X

N

Nevada

X

X

X

N

New Hampshire

X

X

X

N

New Jersey

X

X

X

N

New Mexico

X

X

X

N

New York

SD

SD

SD

N

North Carolina

X

X

X

N

North Dakota

X

X

X

N

Ohio

X

X

X

N

Oklahoma

SD

SD

SD

N

Oregon

X

X

X

N

Pennsylvania

SD, E

SD, E

SD, E

N

Rhode Island

X

X

X

N

South Carolina

X

X

X

N

South Dakota

X

X

X

N

Tennessee

X

X

X

N

Texas

X

X

X

N

Utah

SD

SD

SD

N

Vermont

X

X

X

N

Virginia

SD

SD

SD

N

Washington

X

X

X

N

West Virginia

SD, E

SD, E

SD, E

N

Wisconsin

X

X

X

N

Wyoming

X

X

X

N

Total (Students with Disabilities

16

22

10

16

22

10

16

22

10

Total (English Learners)

16

22

2

16

22

2

16

22

2

Note: Blank cell = no policy found

Table 2. Details and Specifications: States’ Noise Reduction Accessibility Policies

State

Details/Specifications

Alaska

Universal Feature:

Audio Tools:

A tool that the student can use to amplify or diminish sound. Audio aids include amplification devices, noise buffers, or white noise machines (provided by the school or student).

  • The student uses amplification devices typically used during instruction.
  • The student uses a noise buffer (e.g., headphones, earbuds) to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing. Any noise buffer must be compatible with the requirements of the test (i.e., allow the student to hear listening items).
  • The student uses a white noise machine typically used during instruction or assessment.

Online test: Noise cancelling headphones or ear buds may be connected to the computer. Headphones needed for testing may not be compatible with some personal audio amplification devices (i.e., hearing aids, cochlear implants). In these situations, the student may participate in online testing by playing the sound through the computer’s speakers or external speakers. Students using speakers must be tested in a separate setting in order to not disturb or distract other students.

Paper-based test: Noise cancelling headphones, earplugs, earphones, or other noise buffers not connected to an audio device may be used during paper-based testing for Reading, Writing and Speaking. For the Listening test, students may need to use the noise buffers connected directly to the device used to play the Listening and Speaking CD. Noise buffers may not be compatible with some oral presentation accommodations such as the Human Reader accommodations.

Arizona

Universal Feature (Universal test conditions):

Wearing noise buffers after the scripted directions from the Test Administration Directions manual have been read.

Accommodation:

Settings accommodations: These accommodations change the physical location or the conditions under which a student engages with classwork or assessments. Location choices may include a different room, a different seating location within the room, small group instruction, or a study carrel. Conditions may include the use of sound-blocking headphones or allowing “whisper reading” as long as others are not disturbed.

California

Designated Feature:

Noise buffers are ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds.

Colorado

Designated Feature:

Noise cancelling headphones, earplugs, or other noise buffers not connected to any audio device are allowed. Note: Check noise buffer compatibility with auditory presentation modes (e.g., text-to-speech) prior to testing.

Connecticut

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, whisper phone, and/or other equipment may be used to block external sounds. A student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may use these supports if they are regularly used during instruction. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Delaware

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds.

District of Columbia

Universal Feature:

Student uses headphones or noise buffers to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing. If headphones are used only as noise buffers, they should not be plugged into the student's device.

Florida

Accommodation:

Change location to increase physical access (e.g., minimize background noise, face student when speaking, speak to student and not to interpreter, and increase wait time for interpreter to finish).

White noise/sound machines or music that are approved by district/school coordinators may be used to reduce auditory distractions. During testing, machines and music players must be controlled by the test administrator or proctor.

Georgia

Accommodation:

Presentation accommodation: Audio amplification noise buffers and cancelling devices, headphones or other listening devices.

Setting accommodation for students who are deaf or hard of hearing: Change location to increase physical access (e.g., minimize background noise, face student when speaking, speak to student and not to interpreter, and increase wait time for interpreter to finish).

Idaho

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Illinois

Universal Feature:

The student uses headphones or noise buffers to minimize distraction, access embedded text-to-speech, or filter external noise during testing (in addition to when headphones are required for the ELA/literacy assessment). If headphones are used only as noise buffers, do not plug them into the testing device.

Indiana

Universal Feature:

Headphones or Noise Buffers: Used to block out distractions. (No music is allowed to be playing or plugged in. This is for sound dampening only.) No Bluetooth features are allowed unless requested to IDOE in advance with a fidelity assurance form.

Iowa

Universal Feature:

The student uses approved noise buffers to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing.

Kentucky

Accommodation:

Assistive technology:

Noise buffers (Noise-canceling headphones)

Louisiana

Universal Feature:

Students use headphones or noise buffers to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing. If headphones are used only as noise buffers, they should not be plugged into the testing device.

Maine

Designated Feature:

Distraction reduction:

Noise buffers, place markers, carrels, whisper phones, or calming music, etc. may be used to minimize distractions for the student.

Maryland

Universal Feature:

Headphones or Noise Buffers:

A student uses a noise buffer to minimize distraction or to filter external noise in order to maintain focus. The student uses headphones or noise buffers to minimize distraction, access embedded text-to-speech, or filter external noise during testing (in addition to when headphones are required for the ELA/literacy assessment). If headphones are used only as noise buffers, do not plug them into the testing device.

Massachusetts

Designated Feature:

Noise buffer, such as noise-canceling earmuffs/headphones or white noise (Note: music or other recordings may not be played, unless granted as a unique accommodation by the Department. See pp. 14-15.)

Michigan

Designated Feature:

Noise Buffers (ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment to block external sounds):

Noise buffers are appropriate for the small number of students who need to wear equipment to reduce environmental noise. Students may have this support if they regularly use such equipment in the classroom. Students will need headphones for this support unless they are tested individually in a separate setting.

Minnesota

Universal Feature:

Music and noise buffers provided by the district may be used, but only by students who have used them in instructional or other assessment settings. Noise buffers (white noise) reduce noise distractions for the student taking the test. Noise buffers may include individual study carrels, headsets, earplugs, and individual portable buffers set on the student’s desk, or an audio player that generates white noise or instrumental music. Note: A white noise accessibility feature is available for the online MCA; see Tools in online assessments above.

  • Noise buffers or instrumental music are provided at an individual level, not to an entire group on the assumption that all will benefit. The noise buffer or instrumental music can be accessed through headphones or in an individual setting.
  • Individuals must be able to control on/off and volume.
  • Audio players must be school owned, and the audio must be provided by the school.

Missouri

Universal Feature (Administrative Consideration):

Noise Buffers (Earmuffs, white noise, etc.)

Montana

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Nebraska

Universal Feature:

The student uses noise buffers to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing. Any noise buffer must be compatible with the requirements of the test. Any headphones may be used but may not be plugged into a digital source.

Nevada

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

New Hampshire

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

New Jersey

Universal Feature:

The student uses headphones or noise buffers to minimize distraction, access embedded text-to-speech, or filter external noise during testing (in addition to when headphones are required for the ELA assessment). If headphones are used only as noise buffers, do not plug them into the testing device.

New Mexico

Designated Feature:

Headphones used to access audio in CBT or to minimize distraction, filter external noise. Headphones used as a noise buffer may not be plugged in.

New York

Accommodation:

Special acoustics (e.g., minimal extraneous noises)

North Carolina

Designated Feature:

Noise-Cancelling Headphones and Ear Plugs

  • Headphones and ear plugs reduce unwanted ambient and low frequency sounds.
  • Headphones must not be connected to any device (e.g., Bluetooth/wireless).

North Dakota

Universal Feature:

The learner may use noise buffers to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing.

Ohio

Designated Feature:

The student uses headphones/earbuds or earplugs to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing. If students use headphones/earbuds as noise buffers, they should not be plugged into a device.

Oklahoma

Accommodation:

Use of assistive technology (AT) devices or supports (e.g., color overlays, magnifier, pencil grips, auditory amplification devices, noise buffers, wedge for positioning, and multiplication table/chart).

Oregon

Designated Feature:

ELA/Mathematics:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Science:

Auditory amplification devices, hearing aids, external speakers, noise buffers: The student adjusts the volume control beyond the computer’s built in settings using headphones or other non-embedded devices. Students may use amplification assistive technology (e.g., headphones, FM System, noise buffers, white noise machines) to increase the volume provided in the assessment platform. Use of this resource may require a separate setting. If the device has additional features that may compromise the validity of the test (e.g., internet access), the additional functionality must be deactivated to maintain test security.

Pennsylvania

Accommodation:

Noise Canceling Headphones or Ear Buds:

Some students benefit from wearing noise buffers to minimize distraction and maximize concentration. The headphones/earbuds may not be connected to Bluetooth or any other connection that may allow for information to be conveyed to the student during the assessment. “Other” is bubbled for this accommodation.

Rhode Island

Universal Feature:

Auditory supports:

Volume control, amplification device, FM system, noise buffer, noise-cancelling earmuffs/headphones, white noise machine.

South Carolina

Universal Feature:

Audio aids:

A tool that the students can use to amplify or diminish sound. Audio Aids include amplification devices, noise buffers, non-Bluetooth headphones, noise canceling headphones (non-Bluetooth) or ear plugs.

  • The student uses an amplification device typically used during instruction.
  • The student uses a noise buffer (e.g., headphones, earbuds, ear plugs) to minimize distraction or filter external noise during testing. Any noise buffer must be compatible with the requirements of the assessment.

South Dakota

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. For use by students who are distracted by external noises in the testing environment. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Noise buffers used during testing should not interfere with the testing of other students. Headphones may be needed unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Tennessee

Universal Feature:

Universal test administration conditions include:

  • wearing noise buffers after the scripted directions have been read.

Texas

Designated Feature:

Accessibility features include:

  • giving permission for a student to use tools to minimize distractions or to help maintain focus (e.g., stress ball, noise-reducing headphones, or instrumental music [no lyrics] played through an individual student’s headphones or ear buds.

Utah

Accommodation:

Minimize distractions:

Some students need help reducing distractions and/or maintaining focus while they are accessing and interacting with information presented during instruction or assessment. A student may wear noise buffers, such as earphones, earplugs, or headphones, to reduce distractions and improve concentration. Study carrels may also be used.

Vermont

Designated Feature:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Virginia

Accommodation: 

A student with a disability may wear noise dampening headphones, ear muffs, or ear plugs to reduce distractions while taking an [Standards of Learning] assessment.

Washington

Designated Feature:

 Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting. This option should be based on a student’s individual needs and should not be applied on a group basis.

West Virginia

Accommodation:

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use noise buffers will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Wisconsin

Designated Feature: 

Ear mufflers (e.g., noise cancelling headphones) and/or white noise used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Students who use white noise will need headphones unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Wyoming

Designated Feature: 

Ear mufflers, white noise, and/or other equipment used to block external sounds. Student (not groups of students) wears equipment to reduce environmental noises. Students may have these testing variations if regularly used in the classroom. Noise buffers used during testing should not interfere with the testing of other students. Headphones may be needed unless tested individually in a separate setting.

Attribution

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  • Quanbeck, M., Lazarus, S. S., & Goldstone, L. (2021). Noise Reduction: States’ accessibility policies, 2021 (NCEO Accommodations Toolkit #15b). National Center on Educational Outcomes.

NCEO is supported through a Cooperative Agreement (#H326G160001) with the Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education. The Center is affiliated with the Institute on Community Integration at the College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota. NCEO does not endorse any of the commercial products used in the studies. The contents of this report were developed under the Cooperative Agreement from the U.S. Department of Education, but does not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the U.S. Department of Education or Offices within it. Readers should not assume endorsement by the federal government. Project Officer: David Egnor