Determining and implementing assessment accommodations

Appointment processes should be conducted in a manner so that persons with disabilities have their needs accommodated throughout the entire process. Below is a 6-steps procedure to help those in charge of assessment to determine and implement accommodations within an appointment process.

All requests for assessment accommodation and evaluation conducted with them should be well documented. You will find within each step discussed here a list of documents or information related to the request for assessment accommodations that should be kept in the appointment process file.

Step 1 - Communicate essential information appropriately

From the outset of the appointment process, those in charge of the process must provide information in a timely manner. Persons with disabilities who require a different format to access printed material should not be obliged to wait a long time to have access to the information that is made available to other applicants, as this delay could constitute a disadvantage.

Keep the needs of persons with disabilities in mind by:

  • Providing information on the right to accommodation in communications with all potential applicants, including the advertisement and any other means of communication in the early stages of an appointment process.
  • Giving information about chosen assessment tools and methods to applicants promptly, as they need this information to help them decide whether they will request assessment accommodations;
    • For example, a person who is deaf in one ear and function well in one-on-one communication situations may realize that his or her disability could affect his or her performance only after learning that the assessment will involve a group discussion around a table.
  • Making all of the assessment-related information available, including advertisements and study packages, in an accessible format to applicants. It is advisable to discuss with the applicant about his or her preferred format to ensure accessibility. Costs for provision of materials in multiple formats are assumed by the hiring organization.

If a person indicates for the first time his or her need for accommodations at the assessment session, it is recommended that he or she be tested at a later date. Test administrators should then explain to the person that this is a standard procedure and specify that he or she will not be disadvantaged by waiting to be assessed. This delay is necessary not only to provide adequate assessment accommodations but to ensure that others are not disturbed by any differences in administration procedures that may be required. Hiring organizations should make sure that test administrators are aware of this procedure.

What information should be kept in the appointment process file?

  • All documents and correspondence provided by the hiring organization to applicants - including documentation by which applicants where made aware of their right to be accommodated (usually the advertisement) and any documentation by which applicant where informed about the assessment tools to be used.
  • All correspondence with the person with the disability, including e-mails, concerning his or her request for assessment accommodations.

Step 2 - Confer with the applicant to obtain information on functional limitations

Once applicants have notified that they need accommodations for the assessment process, they have discharged their initial obligation. Then, it is the responsibility of the manager or those responsible for the assessment to follow up and obtain information on the person's needs and functional limitations. Therefore, those responsible for the assessment must confer with the person to obtain further information as soon as possible after receiving the request for accommodations, as collecting information may require considerable time.

The manager and those responsible for the assessment have the obligation to get the ongoing input form the person requesting accommodations, to determine assessment accommodations. The information gathered from the person will usually include the following:

  • a clear description of the nature and the extent of functional limitations resulting from the disability, which are the restrictions in a person's functioning that hinder his or her ability to perform tasks or activities;
  • accommodations used in past assessment situations;
  • workplace or other accommodations used, including any adaptive technology that the person is accustomed to; and
  • if applicable, medication taken that could affect test performance.

Additional information may be required, depending on the complexity of the functional limitations. Examples of questionnaires that can be helpful to gather information on functional limitations from applicants are made available in appendix 2. Note that the disclosure of a diagnosis or the nature of the disability or any other information that is not relevant to the establishment of assessment accommodations is not required.

When collecting information, it is often useful to consider what workplace accommodations would be made available to the person to do tasks that are similar to the ones simulated during the assessment. Workplace accommodations that would be provided to the person for these similar tasks can constitute good accommodations in the assessment process. As such, these accommodations may provide a basis for a realistic evaluation of the qualification being assessed.

While the applicant is the first source of information to describe his or her functional limitations, he or she may be able to suggest other persons or sources of information, and give permission to contact these individuals. Before going ahead, be sure to have the applicant's written consent to do so. For example, the applicant's supervisor may be able to provide a useful perspective on how the person accomplishes the job, and discuss details that the person might not think of because he or she takes them for granted. When considering such information, the subjectivity of the information provider should be taken into consideration. If the current supervisor is the hiring manager as well, some additional sources of information would be recommended.

Note that when the request for assessment accommodations is related to the use of a Public Service Commission (PSC) standardized tests, the Personnel Psychology Center (PPC) is responsible for determining assessment accommodations and it must be notified as soon as possible. The PPC has this responsibility in order to ensure consistency of assessment accommodations with these tests across departments, as these tests results can and may be used in future appointment processes.

If a person has concerns to provide information on his or her functional limitations, see the section on Concerns to request accommodations or to provide information for ideas on how to respond.

What information should be kept in the appointment process file?

  • a record of any information provided by the person concerning his or her functional limitations and needs, including all correspondence with the person.
  • In addition to the above, when a PSC standardized test is used, all information shared with the PSC's PPC, including all correspondence.

Step 3 - When necessary, obtain information from a qualified professional

Although the person with the disability is always the first source of information on his or her functional limitations and needs, in some cases, additional documentation from a qualified professional will also be necessary to determine appropriate accommodations. It is important to stress that such professional documentation or report is not required as a proof of a diagnosis of the disability. It is required because, in some cases, a clear description of the nature and extent of functional limitations requires knowledge that only professionals in the field possess.

The person with a disability does not have to share the entire professional document with those responsible for determining accommodations. The parts of the document related to the nature and extent of the person's functional limitations, including standardized tests results and interpretation if applicable, and the professional's recommendations are usually sufficient. The disclosure of the other parts of the documentation that are not related to the assessment accommodation request is left to the person's discretion.

As a reminder, it is recommended that professional documentation regarding the nature and the extent of functional limitations be obtained in the following cases:

  • When the functional limitations are not evident, temporary, progressive or cyclical, multiple or complex, and/or subject to interpretation.
    • For example: Disabilities affecting mental functioning, concentration or memory, such as learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, psychiatric disabilities and head injuries. Disabilities that are complex and may manifest themselves in various ways, such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy.
  • When an applicant identifies that he or she suspects having a particular disability for which he or she was never assessed professionally in order to determine it and to obtain a clear description of his or her particular functional limitations.
    • For example: An applicant experiences cognitive functional limitations and suspects having a learning disability. This applicant should be assessed by a qualified professional in order to confirm or disconfirm his or her suspicion before assessment accommodations can be determined.

Hiring organizations are responsible for covering the costs related to professional assessments as required for the determination of the nature and extent of functional limitations of applicants. They are also responsible for the costs related to assessment accommodations during the appointment process.

In situations where the person determining assessment accommodations needs to consult the professional to get additional information or documentation, the person with a disability must sign a written consent for such consultation to occur. Thereupon, the written consent must be sent or faxed to the professional before the consultation may occur or before the additional documentation may be obtained. A consent form sample is available in appendix 3.

For more information on professional documentation and on what it should include, refer to the section on Standards for professional documentation. If a person has concerns to provide professional documentation, see the section on Concerns to request accommodations or to provide information for suggestions on how to respond.

What information should be kept in the appointment process file?

  • A copy, if provided, of any professional documentation received.
  • If applicable, a copy of the consent form signed by the person to contact or obtain information from a professional.
  • If applicable, record of any conversation or correspondence that occurred with a professional.

Step 4 - Determine assessment accommodations, considering all information

Once appropriate information has been gathered and the functional limitations are understood, accommodations in the assessment process may be determined. These assessment accommodations should be designed with two primary objectives in mind. First, that the accommodations do not alter the nature or level of the assessed qualification; and second, in the extent possible, that the accommodations resemble those that would be made available to the applicant in the target position to perform similar tasks. The analysis of the following information is essential for achieving these objectives:

  • The nature and extent of the person's functional limitations. In general, the information gathered on the nature and extent of the functional limitations received from the person with the disability (step 2) and, if necessary, from a qualified professional (step 3), should be sufficient to obtain a clear understanding of their impact on the person's functioning
  • The assessment tool(s) being used. Having a thorough knowledge of the assessment tool or methods to be used is essential to determine appropriate assessment accommodations. Is it an essay-style exam, a case study, an open-book test, a multiple choice test, an in-basket exercise, a group exercise or interview? What is the number of questions, the time allotted, the expected length of responses to be provided orally or in writing? Is there a lot of reading involved? Etc.
  • The qualification(s) being assessed. Having a good knowledge of the qualification being assessed is required. This ensures that assessment accommodations do not modify the nature and level of the qualification assessed. What are the qualifications assessed - knowledge, skills, abilities, aptitude, or personal suitability? How is it defined? Is there any requirement for job performance associated with speed? Does the level of the qualification assessed reflect the job requirement? Etc.

To determine appropriate assessment accommodations, a systematic analysis of all three elements, of the impact they have on one another, and the Principles for assessment accommodation is required. The information gleaned from this analysis is particularly important since it will provide a sound rationale for the assessment accommodations. This rationale explains how the accommodations will prevent a person's functional limitations from being a disadvantage and will enable the demonstration of his or her qualifications. It will also explain how the person is not been given an advantage compared to other applicants, protecting merit in the appointment process.

For examples of possible accommodations that can be provided, please refer to the definition of accommodations in the assessment process in the Key definitions section and to the section on Issues applicable to specific disabilities.

When is further consultation required?

There might be times when those in charge of the assessment are still unsure of the impact that have the person's functional limitations, the assessment tool requirements and the qualification assessed on one another. Therefore, it is recommended to seek advice from other experts in the following circumstances:

  • when the disability is complex and can manifest itself with various functional limitations with different individuals and that are subject to interpretation, such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy;
  • for all disabilities affecting cognitive functioning, concentration, or memory, including learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychiatric disabilities and head injuries;
  • for multiple functional limitations such as, for example, an individual with both vision and mobility disabilities; and
  • for individuals who are deaf where literacy skills are an issue.

What information should be kept in the appointment process file?

  • A copy of the proposed assessment accommodations and the rationale for them;
  • When a PSC standardized test is used, all information shared with the PPC.
  • If an expert was consulted all correspondence and information shared with the expert; and a copy of the consent form signed by the applicant to contact the expert.

Step 5 - Inform the person with a disability of proposed assessment accommodations well in advance of assessment

It is imperative that the applicant with a disability be informed well in advance of the proposed assessment accommodations prior to the assessment. Enough time should be made available for the person to request clarification or suggest modifications to the proposed accommodations. This early consultation should give the person time to make their own arrangements for the assessment, such as scheduling accessible transportation services.

If the person has questions or concerns about the proposed assessment accommodations, it is crucial to resolve them before the assessment takes place. It is essential for the person to feel comfortable with the proposed assessment accommodations as it is a pre-condition for him or her to be able to do his or her best. Failure to inform the person sufficiently in advance of a planned assessment accommodation has been upheld in the past as a legitimate ground for a complaint.

What information should be kept in the appointment process file?

  • All correspondence with the person with a disability.
  • A record of all comments made by the person on proposed assessment accommodations.
  • In addition to the above, when a PSC standardized test is used, all correspondence and information shared with the PPC.

Step 6 - Prepare and conduct the assessment session

When preparing the assessment session: First, you have to choose your assessment administrators. A few things should be considered in making this choice. Primarily, assessment administrators should be sensitive to the person's needs. They also should be able to use sound judgment if flexibility is called for when unusual or unanticipated situations arise.They should understand how the accommodated assessment differs from standard procedures.

To prepare assessment administrators, the following should be observed:

  • They should be thoroughly briefed on the aplicant's specific assessment accommodations and able to identify any areas where it is possible that flexibility may be called for, such as variations in timing and/or duration of breaks.
  • They should review instructions and assessment accommodations with the applicant before the assessment date to ensure that procedures are adequate before the assessment begins.
  • When applicable and in advance, assessment administrators have to try out with the applicant the software or technological aids that will be used during the assessment session, with the goal of ensuring that these aids meet his or her needs for the task to accomplish.

When conducting the assessment session:Assessment administrators have to carefully follow the assessment accommodations that have been decided upon when assessing the person. They have to remain watchful to ensure that the accommodations are adequate and, if appropriate, verify this fact with the person, while making sure not to interrupt the assessment process unnecessarily.

In some cases, it may be necessary to alter the administration procedures that have previously been set or to defer the test administration session to another time. Don't forget to document those occurrences. Here are some examples where this change would be justified:

  • When the software or technological aids are discovered not to be adapted to the applicant's needs. Note that these have to be tried out in advance.
  • When an applicant with limited tolerance becomes excessively fatigued and can no longer function effectively.
  • When assessment accommodations are seen to be inadequate from the beginning; this fact occasionally becomes evident during the instruction phase immediately prior to assessment. For example, an individual who is deaf who has difficulty understanding verbal instructions to a large group. Note that instructions can be reviewed with the applicant before the assessment date, to verify procedures ahead of time, to avoid this potential problem.

What information should be kept in the appointment process file?

  • Name and contact information of the assessment administrator.
  • A record of all pertinent comments made by the applicant during the assessment per se and any details concerning his or her behaviour indicative of the appropriateness of the accommodations.
  • A record of all pertinent comments from the assessment administrator in regard to the assessment session.
  • A detailed record of alterations to the assessment accommodations is essential in cases where it was necessary to modify them as the assessment session progressed. Items that should be included are:
    • the actual time taken by the applicant to complete each test, subtest or exercise;
    • problems which develop during assessment (e.g., signs of increased fatigue; any complaints expressed by the applicant; time, nature and duration of distracting noises outside the assessment room, etc.); and
    • any actions taken to resolve the problems.
  • When a PSC test is used, a copy of the above records must also be sent to the PPC.

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