From the desk of Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., Principal Consultant — ADA Specialist
Employment testing can be stressful and challenging for anyone, but especially for an applicant who has a medical impairment that impacts his or her ability to process information or to physically complete a test. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability may request an accommodation to enable the completion of employment tests as part of the hiring process. For example, depending on the type of test and its purpose, it may be possible to test the individual's skills and knowledge using an alternative testing method (e.g., verbal instead of written), or sometimes the individual may simply need additional time to complete the test (e.g., time and a half).
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers a fact sheet that mentions employment testing accommodations. See Job Applicants and the ADA. In this fact sheet, the EEOC makes it clear that the ADA requires employers to give employment tests in a format or manner that does not require use of an applicant’s impaired skill, unless the test is designed to measure that skill. As an accommodation, an employer may have to provide testing materials in alternative formats or make other adjustments to tests as an accommodation. For example, an applicant who is blind who cannot read a written test may ask to have the test questions read aloud, provided in Braille, or tape recorded for listening instead of reading. An applicant who is deaf might ask for oral instructions to be provided in writing, or through a sign language interpreter. One of the more common requests for testing accommodations is extended testing time. For example, an applicant with a learning disability might request time and a half to complete a written exam.
Employers should inform applicants in advance when testing will be required as part of the hiring process. When an accommodation is needed for employment testing, the applicant with a disability is responsible for notifying the employer representative and/or testing company in advance of the test date to allow ample time to explore and implement accommodations. Late requests for accommodation can delay the testing process. A request can be made verbally or in writing but the employer, or testing company, may ask the applicant to complete an accommodation request form. If the need for accommodation is not obvious, an employer may ask for reasonable documentation about the applicant’s medical impairment because the employer has the right to know that the individual has a disability for which accommodation is needed. The applicant with a disability is responsible for providing this documentation, which can include a letter from a qualified medical provider, rehabilitation counselor, psychologist, or other professional who is familiar with the individual’s disability and functional limitations.
Under most circumstances, an employer is not required to exempt an applicant from taking an employment test as an accommodation. Individuals with disabilities can be expected to be evaluated for a position using the results of an employment test just as applicants without disabilities. In most situations, test standards also do not have to be changed as an accommodation. As long as the test is related to the educational or employment requirements, the standard does not have to be lowered or altered. However, a reasonable accommodation may be needed to enable the test-taker to meet the required testing standard.