Easing Testing for Disabled Candidates

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People have different needs when testing for professional credentials, and facilities such as Pearson VUE Professional Centers have made provisions for those with special needs. With a little care and foresight, senior program managers can deliver the same test materials to people who need alterations to the ordinary testing environment in order to test efficiently.


There are three categories of modifications to traditional test center environments: minor, those that must be pre-approved prior to testing and special modifications. Minor modifications include adjustable chairs that can be raised or lowered, and chairs with or without arms. “In our Pearson Professional Centers we have one adjustable work station in each center that can be raised or lowered to accommodate someone in a wheelchair, is pregnant, or is very tall or short,” said Tom Reynen, channel communication and policy analyst, Pearson VUE.


Pearson offers earplugs or headphones to block noises and allow candidates to specify whether they want a right- or left-handed mouse. PC monitor brightness and contrast can be adjusted to ease visual difficulties, and all of these accommodations can be done on site when a candidate comes in.


“We also have accommodations the candidates can request ahead of time,” Reynen said. “These normally need to be approved by the exam sponsor, and each exam sponsor has a different policy on how they handle that. In most cases they require the candidate to submit a request along with a doctor’s recommendation.”


These doctor-approved accommodations could include extra time to complete a test. Typical options are 50 percent or 100 percent more than the total testing time. For example, a two-hour exam can be extended to three or four hours. Those who need to take medication can take extended breaks. Or someone with a back problem who frequently needs to stand and stretch would be allowed to do so with prior authorization. Additionally, people who can’t sit through very long exams can apply for multiple-day appointments where they can split an exam period into two days.


Testers also can get permission to bring prohibited items into the testing room. Normally, when you enter the testing room you can’t have anything in your pockets—no wallet, no watch, and you must put all other belongings in a locker. “With a request approved by the exam sponsor we allow things like a wheelchair, crutches, eye drops, asthma inhalers and diabetic test equipment if they need to have that in the testing room. In some locations we have a rolling mouse if people can’t operate a regular mouse,” Reynen said.


The third category involves more special accommodations such as a separate or private testing room. Not all test centers have a private room, but every effort is made to accommodate a person who needs to test separately from everyone else. For instance, a blind or visually impaired tester might need someone to read exam items to them. “We’ve had people take exams on stretchers or were unable to work the mouse to choose their answers. They can read the questions and decide the answers, but they need to tell somebody to choose item A, for example. That’s called a recorder. We also have requests for sign language interpreters for people who can take the test and read the items but can’t hear, so they need someone from the test center to interpret the directions. A sign language interpreter will tell them how long they have, how they take a break and what to do if they have a question. The sign language interpreter also is there in case they have a question during the exam.”


Reynen said that Pearson VUE’s 4,000 independently owned and operated IT testing centers do not have the same accommodations as the 205 Professional Test Centers, but all try to accommodate candidates as much as possible. “There’s one other category called minor comfort aids and these are things like Kleenex, cough drops, a pillow for a stool in case they’ve got a broken leg and need to prop it up. Those kinds of things we’ll allow. They don’t need to be pre-approved, but we need to inspect them. They can’t bring a pack of Kleenex in; they have to be loose. We take each Kleenex and look at it. The same thing with cough drops. They need to be unwrapped so there is no paper in the test room that could have notes on it or that they could write notes on. Also, we don’t want the noise of unwrapping the cough drops to annoy the other test takers. We’re pretty thorough. We’re committed to being as accommodating as we can to people with disabilities and special needs, and we have a full-time person at our central call center in Minneapolis called an Accommodations Coordinator who works with the candidates, clients and test centers to make sure that we find a way to allow them to test.”


–Kellye Whitney, kellyew@certmag.com

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