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Americans with Disabilities and Equal Opportunity: Understanding Legal Rights and the Law

Posted on December 4, 2016 at 3:15 PM

Americans with Disabilities and Equal Opportunity: Understanding Legal Rights and the Law

By Jill Mueller, M.S.Ed., IECA
Independent Educational Consultant

Navigating the college process when a student has learning differences can be confusing and anxiety provoking. Understanding certain state and federal laws pertaining to disabilities, accommodations, and the rights of students should be first on the list.

There are 3 laws that govern disability support and accommodations:

IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Act : This applies to public schools -students ages between 3- 21,
who need special education and related services. It is the school district's responsibility to identify and evaluate the student and deliver special education services.

SECTION 504 : This is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that provides people with disabilities, the opportunity to participate and fully integrate into American life. If a person has a mental or physical disability that limits one or more major life activitiy, certain accommodations can be provided. This applies to all levels of education including college.

Examples of 504 Accommodations: Extended time on exams, separate location for tests, use of a note taker, 
foreign language and math exemption or substitution, use of a tape recorder, reduced course load, priority registration for classes, use of calculator and use of certain assistive technologies.

ADA- American's with Disabilities Act: ADA provides people with disabilities, broader coverage than Section 504. The U.S. Department of Justice and Equal Opportunity Employment Commission are responsible for the oversight of ADA. American's with Disabilities Act applies to both public and private institutions and employment under all aspects of the law.

GETTING ACCOMMODATIONS ON THE ACT AND SAT EXAMS

Posted on November 3, 2016 at 9:20 PM

  Getting Accommodations on the SAT and ACT Exams: Understanding the Basic Steps
    By Jill Mueller, M.S.Ed.

Planning for standardized testing accommodations can be overwhelming and requires advanced preparation. The type of documentation required for the ACT and SAT are basically the same and step by step instructions can be found on each website. I suggest that parents begin the planning process during the student’s sophomore year, keeping in mind that the review process can take up to several months. Even with proper documentation, a student can be denied and an appeals process will have to be initiated. It’s always best to start early and be prepared.

For the ACT, there are two options for testing accommodations. Parents can request one of the options listed below:
Extended Time National Testing (50% extra time) 
• Special Testing (Testing that will take place at your child’s school with a proctor). This option is for those students who require testing over several days and may require alternate test formats).

The request for both of these testing options must be accompanied by official documentation stating the diagnosis from a professional who has specific credentials. A psychologist, psychiatrist, neurologist, and neuropsychologist can make the diagnosis. Occasionally, a family physician and special education teacher may submit a report, but only as a supplement. The preferred documentation is a full neuropsychological evaluation with diagnostic codes referencing the DSM-IV or DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual). Submitted evaluations must be up to date (no more than a year), however, sending documents that confirm a long standing history of a disability are highly recommended.

Regarding accommodations for Tourette’s and Tic disorders, the inclusion of historical information, time of onset, past and current academic functioning, and accommodations currently given at school, are extremely important when submitting a request. The ACT and SAT specifically request that in the case of Tourette’s and Tic disorders, the documentation should include the history, frequency, intensity and duration of motor, verbal and visual tics, along with a description of how tics cause a diminished ability directly related to academic functioning- some examples would be poor attention, concentration, slow reading rate and handwriting issues.

If a student is currently receiving extra time or taking exams over several days during the regular school year, chances are the ACT/SAT board will allow for the same accommodations. Sending detailed documentation from the proper professionals is a key factor for getting approval. Testing accommodation forms and instructions can be found on the ACT and SAT websites. The school guidance counselor and or a designated administrator is responsible for submitting the paperwork with signed request forms. I strongly suggest that parents review the documents and supporting material before it is sent to the SAT/ACT review centers. If parents start the process early, collect all necessary documents and work closely with school counselors, the chances of receiving testing accommodations are greatly increased. Advanced preparation will help alleviate the stress and anxiety during this process.

Jill Mueller is an Independent Educational Consultant and Special Education Advocate with a private practice in White Plains, New York. For more information please visit www.educationoptions.info or call 914-907-1114

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