Exam Accommodations For Students With a Disability

Introduction

This procedures and guidelines information is intended for staff and students of University College Dublin (UCD). Its purpose is to outline the procedures that govern the granting of examination accommodations for students with a disability in timed examinations in UCD.  

Please note that guidelines for reasonable accommodations in classrooms are explained in a separate webpage: Classroom Accommodations For Students With a Disability

This document has been developed by Access & Lifelong Learning (ALL), in consultation with UCD Registry – Assessment and is informed by the  DAWN Principles, Guidelines and Procedures for the Granting of Reasonable Accommodations in Examinations to Students with Disabilities, June 2019. The advice of the UCD Widening Participation Committee was also sought and feedback has been incorporated.  The procedures and guidelines are informed by national and international good practice and are subject to regular review.

UCD is committed to ensuring, as far as possible and within the framework of current legislative requirements, that students with disabilities have equality of access to and participation in all examinations and assessment procedures.  This includes end of trimester examinations and any other timed examinations that contribute to module or course results.  Students with disabilities will be enabled to demonstrate their knowledge and competency on an equal footing with their peers.  

Reasonable accommodations are defined as those actions that enable students to demonstrate their true knowledge and ability in examinations without changing the demands of the examination.  The intention behind the provision of such accommodations is to alleviate a substantial disadvantage without affecting the integrity of the assessment. The granting of reasonable accommodations is not intended to put the integrity or status of the examination or in-class assessment at risk, and is designed to ensure fairness to all students (full- and part-time).

Roles and Responsibilities

Responsibility for ensuring equality of access in examinations and assessments lies with the University.  Responsibility for determining the allocation of reasonable accommodations rests with Access & Lifelong Learning, through a Needs Assessments process that is carried out in consultation with each student.

The coordination of the processes associated with the provision of reasonable accommodations is undertaken by Access & Lifelong Learning, in collaboration with Assessment (UCD Registry), Academic Schools and Programme Offices and the student. The particular responsibilities are as follows:

  1. Students are responsible for registering for disability support with Access & Lifelong Learning.
  2. Access & Lifelong learning is responsible for completing a Needs Assessment with the student and ensuring the details of the reasonable accommodations agreed are entered into the Students Banner record.
  3. Assessment (UCD Registry) is responsible for coordinating reasonable accommodations for end-of-trimester examinations.
  4. UCD Schools are responsible for coordinating reasonable accommodations for in-class assessments.

Exam Support Procedures

Procedures Governing the Allocation of Reasonable Accommodations in Examinations

  1. Students with disabilities shall complete a Needs Assessment with UCD Access & Lifelong Learning. This will determine the level of support required in university, including reasonable accommodations for examinations.
  1. The need for a particular accommodation is determined through the Needs Assessment process, taking account of the student’s individual needs and the impact of the disability in an examination setting. Reasonable accommodations are intended to support students to become more independent in their learning.
  1. Students with disabilities who have received reasonable accommodations in Irish state examinations, other institutions and/or jurisdictions will only be granted reasonable accommodations on the completion of a Needs Assessment with UCD Access & Lifelong Learning. Reasonable accommodations should not be provided without prior to a Needs Assessment.
  1. Reasonable accommodations may be reviewed by a student at any time, during term time, by contacting Access & Lifelong Learning.
  1. Where students with disabilities are dissatisfied in relation to specific examination accommodations that have not been granted, they should consult the UCD Student Complaints policy for further information on how to raise their concerns.
  1. Students with disabilities shall provide appropriate supporting documentation as outlined in the Evidence of Disability Form.
  1. It is the student’s responsibility to inform UCD Access & Lifelong Learning of any changes to their disability which may require new or revised accommodations.  Changes to examination accommodations are only approved following a Review with Access & Lifelong Learning. Supports cannot be updated during the examination period and student’s should contact Access & Lifelong Learning as soon as possible if a review is required.
  1. Assistive Technology is the preferred accommodation for examinations unless the student is unable to use the recommended technology due to the nature of their disability.
  1. Students with disabilities who require specialist examination supports such as assistive technology or a reader/ scribe shall attend training in the use of such accommodations.  It is the student’s responsibility to be proficient in the use of technology for examinations.
  1. It is the responsibility of Assessment (UCD Registry) to ensure that all announcements or amendments by lecturers are conveyed to all students with disabilities sitting examinations in separate examination venues for end-of-trimester examinations.

On completion of the Needs Assessment students with disabilities will be notified by Access & Lifelong Learning of the supports that will be provided in UCD, including reasonable accommodations that have been granted for examinations.  The provision of reasonable accommodations in examinations will also be made known to the relevant academic, administrative and examination staff by Access & Lifelong Learning.  

Such information is included in Infohub Class List reports, which are available to all Module Coordinators.

Module Coordinators are advised to check Infohub regularly, as this information is frequently updated, as a student may choose to request reasonable accommodations at any time during their course of study.

 

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Students with disabilities receiving reasonable accommodations normally sit their examinations in a different venue to their peer group. These venues are normally shared with other students who also require this support. The alternative exam location allows for use of extra time and other supports. It is also provided to students who have a particular difficulty with sitting their exam in a large group setting. Students who have been allocated an alternative exam location can be accommodated in a shared exam venue with others who have also been allocated this support for exams including locally arranged exams. Only when the specific support of ‘Separate Room’ is listed should a student be accommodated in an individual exam venue.

An amanuensis (also referred to as a scribe) may only be granted for students who cannot handwrite or use a computer due to the nature of their disability. Additional time of ten minutes per hour and a separate venue will be provided when using a scribe. Some consideration of assessment will be required where physical forming of characters is a required element of the module (e.g. some languages). Contact ALL if you have any queries in relation to organising an amanuensis for locally arranged exams.

An amanuensis (also referred to as a scribe) may be granted for students who cannot complete multiple choice question exams by hand. This is often due to a difficulty with visual tracking caused by a specific learning difficulty or a visual impairment. The amanuensis will fill in the answers as dictated by the student. Additional time of ten minutes per hour and a separate venue will be provided when using a scribe. Contact ALL if you have any queries in relation to organising an amanuensis for locally arranged exams.

A student with a visual impairment who is a fluent braille reader may require an exam paper in braille format. Please email disability@ucd.ie for assistance with this.

Many students due to the nature of their disability, often a Significant Ongoing Illness, may need to use the bathroom at frequent intervals. Therefore preferential seating as close to these facilities as possible is required. Additional time of ten minutes per hour is also provided for students using this support.

For students with colour blindness some exam formats need to be adjusted. Meaning should not be provided with colour alone – use of a pattern as well as colour can assist in this matter. Exam papers should be checked in advance to ensure there is no instance of meaning being provided through colour alone.

Students whose ability to write is significantly impaired may require a computer during examinations. A basic word processing package (WordPad) should be available on computers used in examinations. Students may wish to use a combination of typing and handwriting to complete the exam. For locally arranged exams module coordinators can borrow an exam ready laptop from Access & Lifelong Learning by emailing disability@ucd.ie to arrange this in advance. It is usual practice for the student’s answers to be printed at the end of the exam and shown to the student for confirmation.

Students with Cystic Fibrosis should not be accommodated in the same location as other students with Cystic Fibrosis. If you have two students with this support in your class please arrange for separate exam venues for all locally arranged exams.Please contact disability@ucd.ie for further advice.

 

 

Students with diabetes may require use of equipment to monitor their blood sugar in an exam setting. They may also need to bring food and/or drinks with them to the exam. Students are informed that they should bring items which do not cause undue disruption to others in the exam. Students who use electronic devices, which may be their mobile phone, to monitor blood sugars should show their device to the invigilator before the exam starts to avoid disruption during the exam.

 

Digital Dictaphone Recorders may be granted for students who cannot handwrite or use a computer due to the nature of their disability. Students would be offered a scribe but may prefer to use a recorder if this is the support they used for exams before coming to UCD. The audio should be dictated so a written paper can be graded and stored as necessary.

Students with visual impairments may require their exam paper in an enlarged format. This could be provided in A3 or in A4 with an increased font size e.g. 18pt. Individual students will be able to advise regarding their precise requirements.

This support is provided to make invigilation staff aware if a student has epilepsy and therefore may be at risk of a seizure in an exam. Should a student have a seizure during an exam a staff member should call the UCD emergency number – 7999. This is the case should any student become suddenly unwell.

Students with visual impairments who use screen readers on a computer may require the exam paper on disk. This is to allow students to use read aloud software to interact with the paper. UCD Access & Lifelong Learning can provide a laptop with read aloud software for exam purposes. This can be arranged by emailing disability@ucd.ie in advance.

Many students with disabilities require extra time in their exams due to the impact of their disability. Many other supports also require that extra time be put in place in order for them to be provided effectively. The national standard for extra time is 10 minutes extra per hour of timed exam. In extremely exceptional circumstances you may see students who have a different amount of extra time. This will be specifically listed. Students with extra time should always be accommodated in an alternative exam location to allow them to use this time without disruption. For shorter exams the extra time should be calculated on a pro rata basis.

 

Some students with diabetes and other Significant Ongoing Illnesses may need to bring food and/or drinks with them to the exam. Students are informed that they should bring items which do not cause undue disruption to others in the exam.

Some students with a physical disability may require a high stool with a back. UCD Estate Services can assist in sourcing specific furniture for exams as necessary.

Students may require an individual human reader to help them read the paper and to describe diagrams where appropriate alternative descriptions are not provided. Readers should be familiar with the terminology / language of the exam paper. The student requires a person to act as a reader and cannot use an e-reader pen.

Some students with physical disabilities, often those who use a wheelchair, may require a large table to allow them to sit an exam comfortably. UCD Estate Services can assist in sourcing specific furniture for exams as necessary.

Some students with physical disabilities may require a lectern for exams. This would need to be accompanied by appropriate special seating for some students. UCD Estate Services can assist in sourcing specific furniture for exams as necessary.

A low distraction booth is provided to students who cannot be accommodated with a group due to the impact of their disability but who do not require a separate room. Low distraction booths are used during the official end of trimester exams only and are created using room dividers or panels which allow the student to be covered on three sides. For in-class tests students with this support should be accommodated in an Alternative Exam Location but a low distraction booth is not essential. Students sitting in a low distraction booth may not use technology e.g. a computer, which could distract other students in the room.

This support is provided so that invigilation staff will be aware that a student has a mental health difficulty. This support is provided with the permission of the student who has expressed that they would like exam staff to know that they could become significantly stressed or anxious during an exam.

This support is provided to students with physical disabilities who require an accessible exam venue but who do not necessarily use a wheelchair. The accessibility of the exam venue for all exams, including mid-trimester exams, should be considered.

This support is provided so that invigilation staff are aware that the student could fall asleep during an exam so that they can provide assistance if required. Specific details of this would be provided, depending on the needs of the student.

Some students with physical disabilities may require a soft chair to allow them to sit for an exam. This would need to be a cushioned chair. UCD estate services can assist in sourcing specific furniture for exams as necessary.

Many students with disabilities do not require or wish to use exam supports. As such they will be recorded as having no exam needs. Students are advised to return to Access & Lifelong Learning to review their supports if their needs change and subsequently require exam supports. Exam supports cannot be changed during exams time and a reasonable notice to update exams is required by students.

Students who are blind or have a visual impairment may wish to complete their exams using JAWS software on a laptop. JAWS is a computer screen reader program that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen with a text-to-speech output. Laptops with JAWS can be provided for exam purposes, including for locally arranged exams, by Access & Lifelong Learning. Please email disability@ucd.ie with your request as far in advance as possible,as the exam script may need to be edited to be made accessible for the assistive technology.

Students who have a difficulty with written expression may use a computer with voice recognition software to complete the exams. This is dictation software with which the student would be trained extensively before use in an exam. Students with this support also have an amanuensis (scribe) as this is the backup should a problem occur with the software. Students using this support are provided with a separate room. Laptops with Voice Recognition Software can be provided for exam purposes, including for locally arranged exams, by Access & Lifelong Learning. Please email disability@ucd.ie with your request as far in advance as possible.

Students who have a visual impairment may wish to complete their exams using magnification software on a laptop. Laptops with this software can be provided for exam purposes, including for locally arranged exams, by Access & Lifelong Learning. Please email disability@ucd.ie with your request as far in advance as possible.

Some students find online MCQs challenging due to the impact of their disability. This support requires that MCQs usually administered online or through the VLE should be printed so the student can complete a paper copy of the exam.

Some students require special exam furniture due to the impact of their disability. This support requires that the student be provided with a raised desk in timed examinations, this is usually due to the student having a physical disability. UCD Estate Services can assist in sourcing specific furniture for exams as necessary.

Some students with Specific Learning Difficulties may require a reader for exams. A reader should be available to read out the questions on the exam paper to the student as often as they wish. Readers should be familiar with the terminology/language of the exam paper. Students who use a reader may be accommodated together but care should be taken not to distract other students in the venue when reading. Usually an invigilator acts as reader so an additional staff member is not required, unless multiple students require this support. E-reader pens are provided for use by students for exams scheduled and facilitated by UCD Assessment. The invigilator should act as a reader during locally arranged exams and should inform students before the exam starts that they are available to read if required. Students requiring the invigilator to read are informed to raise their hand and to point at the word/words that they require to be read. Students may not wish to avail of the reader on the day of the exam. For online exams students have been provided with assistive technology which can read the text of the online exam.

Students, due to the nature of their disability, may have a particular difficulty with spelling, grammar and written expression. These students are provided with a ‘Refer to Grading Guidelines’ label, which is attached to their script for the purpose of informing the examiner of these particular difficulties and providing a framework for the marking of their scripts. Marking Guidelines apply to timed examinations only, and should not be considered for continuous assessment. Where a core component of assessment is that of competence in spelling, grammar and written expression, it is not possible to disregard these elements (for example, languages).

A small number of students will require an exam location with no other students present. This is given in exceptional circumstances only and usually when the student is likely to distract other students taking the exam. An invigilator should be present. This support must be provided for all exams, including those arranged locally.

Some students with physical disabilities may require a typist chair to allow them to sit for an exam. This would need to be a cushioned chair with arms and a headrest. UCD Estate Services can assist in sourcing specific furniture for exams as necessary.

Students with this support will be accompanied to their exams by a service dog. A separate exam room will be required so as not to distract other students sitting exams.

Students who use a wheelchair will require an accessible venue – lift access, even surfaces etc.

Students who are easily distracted may require the use of white noise machine in the exam venue. The use of a white noise machine requires a separate examination venue and invigilator.

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing may require written instructions in place of those that are normally read out by the Invigilator.