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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

GAO calls on the Department of Justice to protect students' rights

GAO calls on the Department of Justice to protect students' rights

 Each year, millions of people take standardized tests in pursuit of a
college education, graduate studies, and professional certification or
licensure.  The Americans with Disabilities Act requires companies that
administer these tests to provide test modifications to best ensure
equal access for individuals with disabilities.  The high stakes testing
industry has generated considerable controversy, a significant number of
law suits and voluminous complaints to federal agencies and concerning
who has a disability and how to determine what accommodations are
necessary to provide equivalent access.

At the request of Representatives George Miller, Pete Stark and Cathy
McMorris Rodgers the Government Accountability Office (GAO
<> ) examined the process including the types of
accommodations requested, factors testing companies consider when making
decisions about requests, and how federal agencies enforce ADA
compliance within the industry.

AHEAD <>   (Association on Higher Education And
Disability) and a number of its members participated in the GAO study's
interviews that helped provide a context for the GAO's reviews of
relevant laws and regulations, testing company policies, data provided
by the testing industry, and federal complaint data.

The report recommends that the Department of Justice develop a strategic
approach to enforcing the ADA in the high stakes testing industry to
ensure the timely provision of accommodations to all eligible
individuals. Justice has reviewed the report and agrees with its
approach and conclusions.

This report, the amendments to the ADA, the regulations recently issued
under Title I, II and III (particularly Section 309) along with a string
of recent court cases clearly confirms an emerging approach to reviewing
accommodations requests that is anchored to individual disability
histories rather than the snap shots provided by diagnostic testing;
more often asking "Why not" in response to a request for accommodation
rather than "Why?".  This approach will require a more thoughtful and
commonsense approach to determining accommodations relying more heavily
on unique experience of the individual and the  recommendations of
clinicians and health care providers in order to achieve the broad goals
of the ADA in connection with high stakes tests.

AHEAD <>  (Association on Higher Education And
Disability - <> ) has been
revising its guidance on best practices in documentation and expects a
Spring release.  The revisions will place less emphasis on diagnostic
tests to determine eligibility; focusing instead on the educational and
accommodation histories (formal and informal) of individuals, their
supporting narratives and the surrounding context including the
development of new technologies.  AHEAD encourages other organizations
to review their practice and is happy to offer technical assistance;
contact AHEAD <>  via e-mail
<>  or call (704) 947-7779.

The full report "Higher Education and Disability: Improved Federal
Enforcement Needed to Better Protect Students' Rights to Testing
Accommodations (Report to Congressional Requesters AO-12-40 United
States Government Accountability Office) can be found at

# # #

L. Scott Lissner, Ohio State University ADA Coordinator, Office Of
Diversity And Inclusion
 Associate, John Glenn School of Public Affairs
 Lecturer, Knowlton School of Architecture, Moritz College of Law &
Disability Studies

 President Elect, Association on Higher Education And Disability

 Chair, ADA-OHIO
 Appointed,  Ohio Governor's Council For People With Disabilities,
State HAVA Committee &

 Columbus Advisory Council on Disability Issues

(614) 292-6207(v); (614) 688-8605(tty) (614) 688-3665(fax);
Http:// <>

291 W. Lane Ave
<> ,
Columbus, OH 43210-1266

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