By Loring Brinckerhoff
In September 2015, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a detailed nine-page technical assistance document to guide testing agencies (e.g., GED, ISEE, SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, etc.) in their provision of accommodations for test takers with disabilities on high-stakes tests. This document was anticipated by testing agencies because until now testing agencies have received little guidance from the DOJ on accommodation provision for test takers with disabilities. As a result of the recent DOJ technical assistance document, many testing agencies are reexamining their policies.
As a result of the recent DOJ technical assistance document, many testing agencies are reexamining their policies.
This article highlights some of the important changes that the DOJ suggests that testing agencies may make now.
- First and foremost, the DOJ advises testing agencies that the determination of whether a person has a disability “should not require extensive analysis.” Testing agencies need to focus less on the label and more on the test taker’s functional limitations.
- Secondly, the impact on a test taker’s ability to take a test due to side effects of medication must now be considered. This particularly applies to test takers with psychiatric disabilities as well as those with ADHD who take medications on a daily basis.
- A third point of clarification concerns the determination of what constitutes a substantial limitation to a major life activity. As in the past, the determination of who is disabled must be based on a comparison with “most people in the general population.”
- A fourth point made by the DOJ is that a person with a history of academic success may still be a person with a disability who is entitled to testing accommodations under the ADA.A candidate’s strong record in college, graduate school, or successful employment should not preclude considering that individual for accommodations when taking a high-stakes test. This is particularly true of individuals who are intellectually gifted with co-occurring LD, ADHD, ASD, or psychiatric disabilities.
…a person with a history of academic success may still be a person with a disability who is entitled to testing accommodations under the ADA.
Additional DOJ Guidance
Any documentation a testing entity requires to support testing accommodations must be reasonable and limited to the need for the requested accommodations. The intent should be to determine which accommodations provide equal access for the test taker.
The absence of a history of formal testing accommodations does not preclude a candidate from receiving testing accommodations from another testing entity.
When a testing entity receives documentation from a qualified professional who has made an individualized assessment of the candidate that supports the need for the requested accommodations, the testing entity should “generally accept such documentation and provide the recommended accommodation without further inquiry.”
Finally, the DOJ technical assistance is very clear about the flagging of test scores. It states, “Flagging policies that impede individuals with disabilities from fairly competing for and pursuing educational and employment opportunities are prohibited under the ADA.”
For additional information, go to the ADA website: www.ADA.gov.
Loring Brinckerhoff, Ph.D., is Director, Office of Disability Policy, Educational Testing Service, (ETS)
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