Leveling the Playing Field
The purpose of an academic accommodation is to remove, as much as is reasonable, barriers to a student’s success. By “leveling the playing field” students with physical, emotional or learning disabilities are better able to learn and demonstrate their skill and knowledge with accuracy. An accommodation is not an unfair advantage, but rather a specific adjustment designed to meet the documented needs of that student.
The request for and receipt of academic accommodations can be a confusing and frustrating process. It is important to know that documentation of a disability does not ensure accommodations will be granted. It depends on several factors including whether the request is for accommodations from a school or from an outside agency.
Public, private and independent schools grant accommodations to students with learning disabilities in accordance with school policy and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 2004. Available accommodations may include: extra time on tests, note-taking services, alternative learning formats and tutoring. Many schools and colleges do not conduct assessments on campus but require recent documentation from a qualified professional which substantiates the disability and provides evidence of functional impairments for that student. For more information, review the documentation guidelines for learning disabilities posted on the school’s website or speak to the director of the school learning center.
Accommodations on Tests
Outside of school, accommodations may also be requested from “high stakes” testing providers, such as the Educational Testing Service, and licensing boards, such as the Bar Association of California. Testing services and licensing agencies use the guidelines established by the Americans with Disability Act when making decisions about accommodations. Unlike schools and universities, agencies adhere to a very strict interpretation of the ADA guidelines, requiring documented evidence of functional impairments in learning as well as a recent comprehensive report by a skilled professional. Students are encouraged to keep good records of their past academic performance, assessments and accommodations for this purpose.
Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE)
Educational Testing Service (SAT, GRE, AP exams)
Law School Admission Council (LSAT)
Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
Dental Admission Test (DAT)
Graduate Management Test (GMAT)
Americans with Disabilities Act
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973