Educational Testing and Psychotherapy
San Francisco, CA
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Legal Updates on Accommodations

LEGAL UPDATES ON ACCOMMODATIONS

Working with students who have diligently and conscientiously pursued advanced education, despite a learning or physical disability, impels one to provide support and accommodations when justified.  For students who have succeeded in college and graduate school, only to fail licensing and high-stakes exams as a result of denied accommodations, is not only disheartening but unjust.  To this end, there is ‘good news’ in the area of testing accommodations, for those who are documented to be in need.

This has come as a result of a Department of Justice Title III Regulation, in combination with an update to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which recently went into effect in March 2011.  The primary changes are thus:

1) The terms ‘learning, reading, concentrating, and thinking,’ have been added as domains of major life activities. Therefore clients who have dyslexia and AD/HD are more specifically covered under these major life activity domains.

2) Testing boards are asked to ‘give considerable weight’ to documentation of past accommodations or auxiliary aids. While the statute specifically states the ‘documentation’ of past accommodations, it does not specify the form in which this documentation may be provided.  Many students report long histories of both formal and informal accommodations which are not technically documented in their academic record.  However, letters from teachers, professors, tutors, and parents, who have witnessed these accommodations firsthand, may serve as another form of documentation.   This will likely add substantially to the weight of their request for accommodations.

3) The new regulations add protections for those who experience impairment in ‘major bodily functions,’ including digestive, bowel, respiratory, and neurological challenges.  Over these years of providing Psychoeducational Evaluations I have been surprised and impressed by the number of students who struggle with concomitant physical maladies which add to their burden, particularly under standard testing conditions.  It seems fair and humane that this clause was added as well.

The key in all of this is to ensure that Psychoeducational Evaluations are extremely thorough, particularly in the narrative description of the disabilities.  No ‘assumptions’ can be left unspoken while numerous ‘rule outs’ must be overtly addressed.  There is a highly specified skill set required for evaluators who take on the burden, trust, and responsibility of aiding able students in successfully passing licensing exams, as a result of earning necessary accommodations.

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