By G. Emerson Dickman, Esq.
On February 23, 2011, a settlement was reached between the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (US) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). This settlement requires the NBME to provide “reasonable testing accommodations to persons with disabilities.” As a result of this action Frederick Romberg, a Yale medical student diagnosed with dyslexia, was granted “double standard testing time and a separate testing area” with the understanding that his scores will be “reported in the same manner as are scores of other examiners who receive accommodations.”
In the past, accommodations were not given to provide a candidate equal access to an equal opportunity to display his or her unique competence, aptitude, achievement, knowledge, or ability. Until now, equal access was often interpreted to mean an average opportunity to pass the examination in question, not an opportunity to achieve at a level commensurate with one’s unique ability. In a world where scores open doors, if an individual’s opportunity to display his or her true ability is restricted by the testing context, scores will reflect the extent of the disability, not the promise of ability. Being allowed on stage is different from being allowed to perform. Right now “equal access” is interpreted to only entitle one to be on stage. This case implies that the future may support the right to “equal access to an equal opportunity to perform according to one’s ability.” This would be significant progress.
The power of this settlement may very well be based on what is to be found between the lines. I look forward to the work of creative advocates who will force open the door of access to equal opportunity.
Link to article: http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/February/11-crt-220.html
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at the following website: www.justice.gov/crt
More information about the settlement with NBME can be found at www.ada.gov or by calling the toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TTY).
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