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Chapter 4: Specific Requirements

Regulatory references: 28 CFR 36.301-36.310.

III-4.6000 Examinations and courses.

Any private entity that offers examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes must offer such examinations or courses in a place and manner accessible to persons with disabilities, or offer alternative accessible arrangements for such individuals.

III-4.6100 Examinations.

Examinations covered by this section include examinations for admission to secondary schools, college entrance examinations, examinations for admission to trade or professional schools, and licensing examinations such as bar exams, examinations for medical licenses, or examinations for certified public accountants.

A private entity offering an examination covered by this section is responsible for selecting and administering the examination in a place and manner that ensures that the examination accurately reflects an individual's aptitude or achievement level or other factor the examination purports to measure, rather than reflecting the individual's impaired sensory, manual, or speaking skills (except where those skills are the factors that the examination purports to measure).

Where necessary, an examiner may be required to provide auxiliary aids or services, unless it can demonstrate that offering a particular auxiliary aid or service would fundamentally alter the examination or result in an undue burden. For individuals with hearing impairments, for example, oral instructions or other aurally delivered materials could be provided through an interpreter, assistive listening device, or other effective method. For individuals with visual impairments, providing examinations and answer sheets on audio tape, in large print or Braille, or providing qualified readers or transcribers to record answers, may be appropriate. Also, some individuals with learning disabilities may need auxiliary aids or services, such as readers, because of problems in perceiving and processing written information. See III-4.3000 for a general discussion of auxiliary aids and services.

In order to ensure that the examination accurately measures the factors that it purports to measure, the entity administering the examination must ensure that the auxiliary aid or service provided is effective.

ILLUSTRATION 1: MNO Testing Service provides a reader for an applicant who is blind who is taking a bar examination, but the reader is unfamiliar with specific terminology used in the examination, mispronounces words, and, because he or she does not understand the questions, is unable to convey the information in the questions or to follow the applicant's instructions effectively. Because of the difficulty in communicating with the reader, the applicant is unable to complete the examination. MNO is not in compliance with the ADA, because the results of the examination will reflect the reader's lack of skill and familiarity with the material, rather than the applicant's knowledge.

ILLUSTRATION 2: ABC Testing Service administers written examinations designed to test specific skills or areas of knowledge. An individual with a vision impairment or learning disability that limits the ability to read written material may be unable to pass such an examination because of limited reading ability, regardless of his or her knowledge or ability in the area that the test is designed to measure. ABC must administer the test in a manner that enables the applicant to demonstrate his or her skill or knowledge, rather than the ability to read.

BUT: If the test is designed to measure the ability to read written material, it may be administered in written form because the result will accurately reflect the individual's reading ability.

Aside from auxiliary aids or services, what other types of modifications may be required? In order to ensure that an examination provides an accurate measurement of the applicant's aptitude or achievement level, or whatever other factor it purports to measure, the entity administering the examination may also be required to modify the manner in which it is administered.

ILLUSTRATION: X has a manual impairment that makes writing difficult. It may be necessary to provide X with more time to complete the exam and/or permit typing of answers. 

What obligations does an examiner have if its facilities are inaccessible? Examinations must be administered in facilities that are accessible to individuals with disabilities or alternative accessible arrangements must be made. If the facility in which the examination is offered is not accessible, it may be administered to an individual with a disability in a different room or other location. For instance, the entity might provide the examination at an individual's home with a proctor. The alternative location must, however, provide comparable conditions to the conditions in which the test is administered to others.

ILLUSTRATION: A nurse licensing examination is administered in a warm, well-lit, second-floor classroom that is not accessible to an individual who uses a wheelchair. The Nursing Board may allow that individual to take it in a classroom or office on the first floor that is accessible, but must ensure that the accessible room is also well-lit and has adequate heat. 

Must all testing locations be accessible and offer specially designed exams? No, but if an examination for individuals with disabilities is administered in an alternative accessible location, or in a manner specially designed for individuals with disabilities, it must be offered as often and in as timely a manner as other examinations. Examinations must be offered to individuals with disabilities at locations that are as convenient as the location of other examinations.

ILLUSTRATION: A college entrance examination is offered by LMN Testing Service in several cities in a State, but only one location has either an accessible facility or an alternative accessible facility. X, an individual who uses a wheelchair, lives near an inaccessible test location at which no alternative accessible facility is provided. The nearest test location with an accessible facility is 500 miles away. LMN has violated the ADA, because X is required to travel a longer distance to take the examination than other people who can take the examination in the city that is most convenient for them.

Can individuals with disabilities be required to file their applications to take an examination earlier than the deadline for other applicants? No. This would violate the requirement that examinations designed for individuals with disabilities be offered in as timely a manner as other examinations. Entities that administer tests may require individuals with disabilities to provide advance notice of their disabilities and of any modifications or aids that would be required, provided that the deadline for such notice is no earlier than the deadline for others applying to take the examination.

May an examiner require that an applicant provide documentation of the existence and nature of the disability as evidence that he or she is entitled to modifications or aids? Yes, but requests for documentation must be reasonable and must be limited to the need for the modification or aid requested. Appropriate documentation might include a letter from a physician or other professional, or evidence of a prior diagnosis or accommodation, such as eligibility for a special education program. The applicant may be required to bear the cost of providing such documentation, but the entity administering the examination cannot charge the applicant for the cost of any modifications or auxiliary aids, such as interpreters, provided for the examination.

ILLUSTRATION: A testing service may be required to provide individuals with dyslexia with more time to complete an examination. An individual who requests additional time may, however, be required to notify the testing service of the request at the time he or she applies to take the examination, and to furnish appropriate documentation to establish that the additional time is needed because of a disability.

Can an entity refuse to provide modifications or aids for applicants with disabilities on the grounds that those individuals, because of their disabilities, would be unable to meet other requirements of the profession or occupation for which the examination is given? No. When an examination is one step in qualifying for a license, an individual may not be barred from taking the examination merely because he or she might be unable to meet other requirements for the license. If the examination is not the first stage of the qualification process, an applicant may be required to complete the earlier stages prior to being admitted to the examination. On the other hand, the applicant may not be denied admission to the examination on the basis of doubts about his or her abilities to meet requirements that the examination is not designed to test.

ILLUSTRATION: An individual with a disability may not be required to demonstrate that he or she is capable of practicing medicine in order to be provided with an auxiliary aid in taking a test for admission to medical school.

BUT: An individual may be required to complete medical school before being admitted to a licensing examination for medical school graduates.

III-4.6200 Courses.

The requirements for courses under this section are generally the same as those for examinations. Any course covered by this section must be modified to ensure that the place and manner in which the course is given are accessible. Examples of possible modifications that might be required include extending the time permitted for completion of the course, providing auxiliary aids or services (except where to do so would fundamentally alter the course or result in an undue burden), or offering the course in an accessible location or making alternative accessible arrangements.

ILLUSTRATION: If the course is offered in an inaccessible location, alternative accessible arrangements may include provision of the course through videotape, cassettes, or prepared notes.

Alternative arrangements for courses, like those for examinations, must provide comparable conditions to those provided to others, including similar lighting, room temperature, and the like.
The entity offering the course must ensure that the course materials that it provides are available in alternate formats that individuals with disabilities can use.

ILLUSTRATION: Class handouts may be provided in Braille or on audio cassettes for individuals with visual impairments.

BUT: If the course uses published materials that are available from other sources, the entity offering the course is not responsible for providing them in alternate formats. It should, however, inform students in advance what materials will be used so that an individual with a disability can obtain them in a usable format, such as Braille or audio tape, before the class begins.

An entity offering a variety of courses covered by this section may not limit the selection or choice of courses available to individuals with disabilities. Courses offered to fulfill a continuing education requirement for a profession, for example, are covered by the requirement that they be offered in an accessible place and manner, and an entity that offers such courses may not designate particular courses for individuals with disabilities and refuse to make other courses accessible.