Accessibility and Exam Security: Competitors or Collaborators?

Posted by Jill van den Heuvel on Dec 9, 2016 2:48:27 PM

Authors: Jill R. van den Heuvel, Ph.D., Sheryl S. Lazarus, Ph.D., and Martha L. Thurlow, Ph.D.

Note: Content is an adaptation of an article that previously appeared in Certification Magazine 

Assessments must be accessible to individuals with disabilities and non-native English language speakers while remaining secure. Credentialing organizations receive frequent exam accommodation requests. Somecredentialing programs have blanket policies, such as “all candidates testing in non-English speaking countriesandtaking an English version of an examination receive 30 additional minutes to complete the exam.However, such blanket policies can create legal and security issues as not all candidates require the provided accommodation.Conversely, programslacking clearly defined accommodation policies riskallegations that the program does not providelegally required accommodations.

Exam accessibility is of utmost importanceto ensure valid scores; however, there are often questions about whether accommodations compromise exam security. Two vital components of ensuring exam score validity areexam security and providing accommodations to appropriate individuals.

Exam accessibility is legally required to allow all candidates possessing the required knowledge to earn a credential demonstrating that knowledge. Accommodations are changes made to “standardized” conditionsto enable individuals with needs and barriers to meaningfully access an exam. Accommodations can provide equitable access andensure a valid measure of exam constructs, which enables individuals with disabilities and English learners to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Laws and Professional Standards

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) determinedthat “reasonable” accommodations must be provided to individuals with disabilities. Technical assistance guidance from the U.S.

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