Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities - How to determine and implement assessment accommodations - Concerns to request assessment accommodations or to provide information

Some persons with disabilities have demonstrated concerns to request assessment accommodations in the context of an appointment process. Information about a person's functional limitations is private and can be sensitive. Applicants may have concerns to share such type of information. A number of factors influence people in deciding either not to request assessment accommodations, or not to provide information about their functional limitations:

  • Belief that they have to self identify as a person with disability for purpose of departmental records
    Requesting accommodations does not imply that a person ha to self-identify as a person with a disability for purposes of departmental records. Those are two separate processes and a person may engage in one without completing the other. For example, a person with a temporary disabling condition such as a broken wrist would not be self-identifying as a "person with a disability" in departmental records but may require assessment accommodations.
  • Belief that disclosure will result in negative bias rather than equitable treatment
    Applicants' concerns about the possible implications of disclosing their functional limitations generally arise when the disability is not apparent. In some cases, people may feel that their particular disability carries a stigma, and so are unwilling to disclose any limitations, for example, limitations resulting from an emotional disorder. In other cases, some individuals may believe that disclosure will work against them because of unfounded perceptions by managers or assessment board members about their ability to perform on the job, for example, limitations due to a learning disability.
  • Belief that the disability is not relevant to performance
    Applicants who do not feel that their functional limitations affect their performance on the job may not request assessment accommodations, even when the functional limitations are evident. For example, a person who uses a wheelchair and who applies for a policy analyst position may not request accommodations because he or she feels that his or her disability does not have an impact on his or her job performance. The same may be true for invisible disabilities. For example, a person with a learning disability who has developed strategies for dealing with his or her limitations may not request accommodations, since he or she copes well on the job. Likewise, persons with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or Crohn's disease may feel that they can work around their limitations through careful scheduling of the assessment session, thereby obviating the need to disclose their limitations which, they feel, could be perceived negatively. In any of these cases, depending on the qualification assessed and the method used to assess it, assessment accommodations may in fact be needed to allow the applicants to fairly demonstrate their qualifications.
  • Belief that assessment accommodations constitute an undue advantage, coupled with a desire to succeed based "on one's own merits"
    The desire to succeed on "one's own merits" usually means that the person perceives the proposed assessment accommodations as conferring an undue advantage, rather than as creating an equal opportunity to demonstrate one's abilities. This belief can lead applicants to either refrain from fully disclosing their accommodation needs, or to request one assessment accommodation but refuse another (for example, ask for a computer but refuse extra time).
  • Concern that confidential information about the limitations will become common knowledge in the workplace
    Concerns about confidentiality may lead people to hesitate to identify themselves as requiring assessment accommodation or to disclose details about their functional limitations, or to decline requests to provide documentation.

Applicants' beliefs affect their choices during the appointment process. In dealing with them, those responsible for the appointment and accommodation process have a delicate balance to maintain: they need to always respect the rights to privacy and confidentiality, as well as applicants' own views of their abilities, while taking a proactive approach to obtaining necessary information.

In the end, it is up to applicants to decide whether they will request assessment accommodations and supply information about their functional limitations to those responsible for establishing assessment accommodations, or whether they will accept or reject offered assessment accommodations.

Handling concerns

To encourage persons with disabilities to disclose their need for assessment accommodations, it is important to create a positive and confidential atmosphere. It should be clear that the manager or assessment board is open to providing assessment accommodations and the applicant's chances of success in the appointment process will not be diminished by requesting assessment accommodations.

External applicants in particular should be made aware of their right to be accommodated. They should be reminded that, in the context of applying for a position in the federal government, identification of specific needs related to a disability will help them demonstrate their qualifications on an equitable basis.

It should be clearly explained that assessment accommodations can be provided only when applicants indicate their needs and provide necessary information. The following suggestions are added for handling specific difficulties that may arise:

  • How to dispel concerns about the confidentiality of information about the disability
    Send a clear message that the information on functional limitations will be treated confidentially, and no one else will have access to this information. Explain that only information that is pertinent to the assessment process needs to be provided to the manager or the assessment board.
  • When applicants request accommodations but offer no further information
    It is appropriate to probe further, in a respectful way. Explain the importance of obtaining adequate information to provide assessment accommodations that are appropriate to the person's needs.
  • Where applicants request accommodations but decline the proposed assessment accommodations
    Investigate whether any other possible assessment accommodation could be suitable. If no other possibilities can be suitable, remain accepting of the person's choice while emphasizing that he or she should be prepared to accept the results of the assessment. It should be made clear that retaking the test will not be an option.
  • Where an applicant has a functional limitation that is known, but has not requested assessment accommodations
    It is appropriate to ask such applicant whether there are any adjustments to assessment procedures that need to be considered to allow them to better demonstrate their qualifications during the assessment. For example, for a wheelchair user, it is advisable to check the match between the wheelchair and the table height, or for a person known to be mildly hard of hearing, one should inquire about the possibility of seating him or her at the front of the room to better hear instructions. Often, such arrangement may not be perceived by the individual concerned as "accommodations" since he or she does not consider that their job performance is affected by it. However these adjustments may prove to be important in the context of an assessment session.
  • If applicants have documentation from a professional but have concerns to supply it because of confidentiality issues
    Explain that the documentation is required to determine the assessment accommodations that will provide them an equitable opportunity to demonstrate their qualifications. Also, assure them that the documents will be kept confidential throughout the appointment process.

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