By: Deborah Caldwell
Imagine this; you have a certification exam planned for next week which has been on the schedule for over a year. The application deadline has passed, confirmation letters have been sent out, and the test administrator/proctor has been arranged. Everything is set. Then you receive a call from one of the candidates stating that they require extended time and need to test in a separate room due to a learning disability. That means reserving additional space and finding another test administrator/proctor. Again, there is less than a week from the exam date… what do you do?
This situation happened to our team recently, and it wasn’t the first time we have had to handle last minute calls from stressed out candidates. There have been multiple Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accommodation requests throughout my time at Partners which include candidates requiring different accommodations for one of our client managed certification exams. These accommodations have varied from requesting a reader or a sign language interpreter, extended testing time, to someone just asking to be able to eat while testing to monitor their blood sugar. The question comes back to, what do you do when you get this request?
The first thing you need to do is know the law. If you aren’t already familiar with it, you can visit www.ada.gov to find out the law and current regulations relating to implementation. When I took over my current job and was told that I would handle ADA accommodation requests, I made sure to learn the regulations relating to testing accommodations. The website goes over everything from what testing accommodations are permitted, to what documentation is required of those requesting accommodations, and everything in between. It also lists resources in case you have questions.
The next thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with your organization’s policies. Our organization has a standard policy relating to ADA Accommodation requests that outlines the requirements for handling them. Our policy states that any accommodation request must be submitted in writing at least thirty (30) days prior to the examination, and must include verification of the disability and the specific type of assistance needed. If your organization does not already have a policy, you may want to consider working with your board to create one. It is much easier to handle when it comes up if there is already a policy in place.
Lastly, make this information readily available to candidates. Our policy is included in our candidate handbook and application to ensure that we are completely transparent with our candidates. We have an accommodation request form that can be requested. When a candidate submits the accommodation form, we work to ensure the documentation is valid and complete and that the assistance requested is appropriate to the disability. We have a law firm that we contract with in D.C. that we can contact if we have any concerns or questions about the accommodation request. The candidate is then notified of the decision in a timely manner.
Going back to our most recent request, I was able to respond to the test candidate. As our policy states we need requests in writing at least thirty (30) days prior to an examination, so we were unfortunately unable to assist with making the necessary accommodations. We informed the candidate that they could opt to test as scheduled, but would do so in the regular allotted time. We also gave this candidate the option to reschedule their examination, with no penalty, for a later date to allow us sufficient time to meet their accommodation needs. The candidate decided to reschedule and we are working with them to find an appropriate date and time.