The disabilities of students registering with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) range from mobility limitations or limited manual dexterity, blindness or low vision, and deafness or hearing loss, to learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, traumatic brain injuries or strokes, psychiatric disabilities and chronic medical conditions.
While testing accommodations are provided when there is a disability-related need for them, faculty are not expected to lower their academic standards. It is our philosophy at SSD, that, with the various accommodations available, students should be able to participate on an equal basis with their classmates without the need for alternative tests or different evaluation/grading standards.
There are numerous types of appropriate testing accommodations, depending upon the nature of the course-work and the disability-related needs of the student. Following are some of the most commonly requested accommodations:
Extended time. This is one of the most common accommodations across disability groups. The typical recommendations are time and one half or double time, but students working with a reader or scribe may require more than double time. We do not recommend unlimited time unless this option is available to all students.
Accessible testing site and accessible seating. Students who may need front row seating include those who can not walk up or down steps, have difficulty maneuvering through a row of seats, have vision or hearing impairments, or have disabilities that affect their ability to remain focused on visual or auditory lecture material.
Reading services. Reading printed material, including exams, person-to-person or on cassette tape.
Scribe services. Physically writing the student's answers, verbatim, or filling out a scantron answer sheet according to the student's instructions.
Computer access. Many students can independently complete essay exams on computers. Some may need technology such as print enlargement, speech output, speech recognition or a spell-check program, available through SSD by advance arrangement.
Conversion of Printed Text to Alternate Format. Students whose disabilities necessitate their use of alternate format reading material (e.g. large print, Braille, books on tape or speech output computer programs, etc) may need their printed exams converted to an alternate format. Computer programs to support this accommodation are available in the Bartle Library. Contact SSD for assistance with conversion and access.
Quiet and comparable testing environment. Some students require a reduced-distraction environment, especially those with severe anxiety disorders or Attention Deficit Disorder. All students should have testing environments comparable to those of their classmates - i.e. testing space free from frequent interruptions, with proper writing surface, seating and lighting.
Unproctored exams or quizzes.
Unlimited time for taking tests. SSD does not recommend this unless the instructor provides this option for all students in the class. This option is usually not necessary or practical.
Oral exams rather than written exams. SSD usually discourages these unless this is the method of evaluation for all students. Oral exams require the student to immediately analyze, interpret and respond to a question, eliminating the additional "thought" time available in written exams. In addition, the method of grading may be different from that used for written exams and students are not encouraged to develop their critical writing abilities.
Different tests for students with disabilities. Again, SSD strongly discourages this since it is usually unnecessary, given the other testing accommodations that are possible, and because students with disabilities should be held to the same standards as their classmates without disabilities.
Clarification of test questions. SSD does not view clarification of test questions (e.g. the instructor or proctor giving the student a definition or explaining the meaning of a phrase or question) as a disability accommodation. Students with disabilities should be held to the same standards as other students when it comes to expectations about understanding course content, exam questions, etc. If students without disabilities are allowed to receive clarification of questions they have, however, students with disabilities should receive a similar allowance, whether taking the exam with the class or in a private testing site.
Faculty at Binghamton University have traditionally provided all necessary exam accommodations for their students. As the number of students needing such accommodations has grown, however, some professors have found it increasingly difficult to personally attend to every situation that arises. Since it is not feasible or appropriate for SSD to administer faculty exams, we recommend that professors work collaboratively with their departments to handle "crunch time" situations. Meanwhile, the staff of SSD remain committed to working in partnership with faculty and departments to advise or assist them in their efforts to insure that students with disabilities have reasonable access to appropriate academic accommodations.
Students who require special testing arrangements due to a disability should be registered with Services for Students with Disabilities and can be expected to provide faculty with individualized memos of reasonable accommodation from this office. We advise that departments and faculty receiving authorized requests for reasonable accommodation be judicious in insuring that appropriate testing accommodations are provided, since there are specific legal requirements regarding the provision of such accommodations for students with disabilities. Please do not hesitate to contact SSD with questions or concerns.
Last Updated: 2/14/11