Guide for Assessing Persons with Disabilities - How to determine and implement assessment accommodations - Mobility or agility related disabilities

What do you need to know about the disability?

Mobility or agility related disabilities include a wide variety of conditions and functional limitations, the causes of which may be either congenital or acquired. Persons with mobility or agility related disabilities who may require assessment accommodations include:

  • Individuals who have limitations associated with mobility, coordination, dexterity, pain, limited physical tolerance and fatigue. Disabilities include, but are not limited to:
    • Spinal Cord Injuries (paraplegia and quadriplegia);
    • Muscular Dystrophy (MD);
    • Post-Polio Syndrome (PPS);
    • Arthritis;
    • Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTD), also known as Repetitive Strain Injuries or Repetitive Trauma Disorders, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Epicondylitis ("tennis elbow")
  • Individuals who, in addition to the limitations above, have functional limitations in speech, sensory functions (vision or hearing), cognition, memory, or other areas. Disabilities include, but are not limited to:
    • Cerebral Palsy (CP)
    • Spina Bifida.

    It is important to note that not all persons with these disabilities will have the additional limitations.

When considering assessment accommodations, the functional limitations resulting from mobility or agility related disabilities may cause the following principal difficulties in assessment situations:

  • Difficulties in reading that may result from problems turning pages, head movements, vision, or other factors.
  • Difficulties in writing that may result from limited dexterity, pain, or other factors.
  • Oral communication difficulties that may result from speech disability, or other factors.
  • Difficulty undergoing sustained assessment that may result from pain, fatigue or limited tolerance (for example, inability to sit for long periods).

When determining assessment accommodations where functional limitations are caused by sensory impairments, the sections on vision disabilities and/or hearing disabilities should be read.

What information or professional documentation is needed?

Persons with mobility or agility related disabilities of a permanent nature and where the functional limitations are evident, stable over time, and not subject to interpretation will not normally need to provide documentation from a health-care professional. In most cases, those in charge of determining assessment accommodations can get all of the required information on the nature and extent of the functional limitations from the applicant.

Although no documentation from a professional is needed in the majority of cases related to mobility or agility related disabilities, professional documentation may be required in some cases. It is good practice to obtain documentation from a recognized professional when the disability in question entails additional functional limitations that are less evident or subject to interpretation, such as those that are of a cognitive nature.

What are the key elements to consider?

When determining assessment accommodations for persons with mobility or agility related functional limitations, the following three elements should be considered:

1. The nature and extent of the person's functional limitations must be clearly understood. The following questions may help to gather useful information:

  • What are the specific functional limitations (mobility, coordination, fatigue, impairment of particular abilities such as speech, etc.)?
  • Are there any specific requirements (assistance reaching the assessment site, wheelchair access, table height, attendant service, etc.)? Which ones?
  • How the applicant usually works or performs the tasks required in the assessment?
  • Does the person use adaptive technology, equipment or ergonomic furniture? Which ones?
  • Does the person take medication? If yes, what are the effect (concentration difficulties, fatigue, etc.)? And what is the best time of day for the assessment?

It is important to reiterate that persons with disabilities are the first source of information on the way their limitations affect them and on how to accommodate their specific needs. Consequently, this information is usually gathered through exchanges with the person. To help you to gather these details in a discussion, you may wish to refer to the questionnaire available in appendix 2.

2. A thorough knowledge of the assessment tool to be used is required. Depending on the assessment tool's characteristics, accommodations which are necessary for one tool may be unnecessary for another. Here are some considerations to help you identify the characteristics of your assessment tool.

For an interview:

  • Are written documents provided before or during the interview? If so, how much reading is involved?
  • Is there time to prepare responses prior to the interview?
  • What is the expected length of responses to be given orally?
  • Is there a written component? If so, how much writing is involved?
  • What is the time allotted?

For a written test:

  • Is it an essay-style exam, short answers or a multiple choice test?
  • Is it a case study, an in-basket exercise, an open book test?
  • How many questions are there?
  • How much reading and writing are involved?
  • What is the time allotted?
  • Will the instructions be provided orally or in writing?

For an interactive situation:

  • Is it a group setting? If so, how many participants are there? Is it advisable to inform other participants of the person's functional limitations? If so, who tells them, the person or the individual administering the interactive assessment session?
  • Is written documentation provided before or during the situation? If so, how much reading is involved?
  • What is the expected length of exercise to happen orally?
  • Is there a written component? If so, how much writing is involved?
  • What is the time allotted?

3. Knowledge of the qualification being assessed is essential. This information will help you ensure that accommodations do not modify the nature or level of the qualification being assessed. Considerations include:

  • What qualification(s) is (are) assessed by the instrument? It is knowledge, abilities/skills, aptitude or personal suitability? How is it defined?
  • Is there a speed requirement?
  • Does the level of the qualification assessed reflect the job requirement?

Determining appropriate assessment accommodations necessarily requires research and analysis of all three elements above; of the impact they have one another, and the application of the Principles for assessment accommodations. This analysis is the foundation of the rationale for the accommodations. This rational has to explain how the accommodations are enabling the demonstration of the person's qualifications, preventing his or her functional limitations from being a disadvantage. It also has to explain how the person is not being given an advantage compared to others in the appointment process, therefore, that merit is preserved.

Examples of assessment accommodations and considerations

The following are examples and considerations that may be helpful in determining assessment accommodations. It also includes a number of specific examples of assessment accommodations relative to possible functional limitations.

While reviewing these examples, keep in mind that accommodations are determined on a case by case basis and their appropriateness will depend on the nature and extent of the individual's functional limitations, the assessment tool to be used and the qualification to be assessed. Also, accommodations must resemble, if possible, the usual way in which the person would perform the task requested as if he or she was on the job, and must not alter the nature or level of the qualification being assessed. For more details, please refer to Determining and implementing assessment accommodations.

Use of adaptive technologies: Applicants are usually the best source of information on how to accommodate their needs through adaptive technology or by other means. In general, they should be provided with the devices or software that they use on a regular basis. If necessary, applicants' own equipment may be brought into the assessment environment and used, or they may be tested in their office, in a supervised session. For a listing and brief description of various adaptive technologies commonly used, see the glossary of adaptive technology and services in appendix 4.

Access to assessment site and facilities / attendant services: When assessing persons with mobility or agility related disabilities, it is important to ensure that they have access to the assessment site, the assessment room, the washroom facilities and other available facilities just like any other applicants. It should also be ascertained whether any attendant services are required before the person's assessment session is scheduled.

Individual sessions: Individual assessment sessions are normally required in cases where test administration differs from standard procedures, to ensure that the requirements of persons with specific needs can be met without affecting the assessment of the other applicants. However, changes to physical accommodations such as adjusting a table's height or providing a specific chair, which do not involve any other change to assessment protocol (for example, extended time or breaks), do not require individual session.

Additional time: Additional time is normally required for mobility or agility disabilities that affect motor coordination, dexterity, head movements, etc. Extra time may also be indicated for applicants where pain, fatigue and/or limited physical tolerance are factors. The amount of additional time provided must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Not only do individuals differ widely in the nature and extent of their limitations, but the type of adaptive technology that is used by particular applicants will also influence the requirement for additional time. As a general rule, when determining the amount of additional time in a particular case, the time requirements occasioned by limitations in reading and in providing answers should each be taken into account.

Test stress as a factor with motor impairments: Those in charge of determining assessment accommodations should be aware that the normal stress experienced by applicants who undergo assessment will often increase the uncontrollable movements of persons with motor impairments (for example, those with cerebral palsy). As a result, such movements may become more pronounced during an assessment session or interview than at other less-stressful times. Additional time should be built in to account for this likelihood, and assurances about extra time will generally help to reduce the applicant's anxiety level.

Breaks: It is frequently necessary to provide time for breaks that is not included in the test administration time, thus extending the total time required for the assessment session. This assessment accommodation is especially important if the person experiences pain while writing or sitting, or has limited tolerance and tires easily. Breaks are also recommended when administration time has been extended such that the total assessment time is three hours or more. A stopwatch should be used to keep track of the exact time spent on assessment and the time spent on breaks

For difficulties in reading:

  • An adjustable-height reading table.
  • A mechanical page turner.
  • A voice synthesizer software, with test material on computer.
  • Audio test material.
  • Test materials in large print.
  • A reader.

For examples of accommodations for visual limitations, please refer to the section on vision disabilities.

For difficulties in writing:

  • For applicants who are able to write but who are unable to use a standard multiple choice answer sheet, with small circles to darkened:
    • use of a different format answer sheet; or
    • allowing the applicant to indicate answers directly in the test booklet.
  • Use of a specific device for holding a pen.
  • Use of a word processor with a specific keyboard for tests where extensive writing is required.
  • Use of a specific mouse or pointing system for use with a computer.
  • For applicants who are unable to write, the use of computer with voice recognition software, such as "Dragon NaturallySpeaking". Note that the use of such software requires a significant amount of practice, so it is essential that the applicant use a familiar system.
  • Use of a dictaphone to record verbal responses, which are later transcribed by the test administrator and checked by the applicant.
  • Use of a scribe to record responses for multiple choice, short answer or essay tests.

Note that each time responses are transcribed or recorded by another individual, the person accommodated should have enough time to review what is being written to ensure no transcription mistakes have been made.

For difficulties in oral communication:

  • Allow the applicant to use the communication adaptive technology that he or she usually uses, when possible.
  • Allow extra time for oral communication in situations such as an interview, oral presentation, or interactive exercise, according to the functional limitations or technology used.
  • When applicable, adjust evaluation criteria, focusing on the content of the message and eliminating any factors affected by the applicant's impairment (speed of delivery, pronunciation, clarity, volume, etc.).
  • Write a paper instead of doing an oral presentation, in cases where oral communication or presentation skills are not being assessed.

For examples of accommodations for hearing limitations, please refer to the section on hearing disabilities.

For pain, fatigue and limited physical tolerance:

  • An individual assessment session in a quiet room is usually required for persons coping with pain or having limited tolerance, even if no other aspects of the administration procedures are changed.
  • A morning test session is advisable to reduce the impact of fatigue. Check with the person about the most effective time of day for assessment.
  • Frequent breaks that are not counted in the test's administration time limit may be required. For example, a 15-minute rest period for each hour of assessment, or even more frequently in some cases.
  • Providing flexible breaks whenever the person requires, with the use of a stopwatch to keep track of the exact time spent on assessment and the time spent on breaks.
  • If a test is long (for example, three hours), it may be necessary to break the session up into two sections, administering one-half one day, and the other half on the second day.
  • If more that one test is to be administered, it is normally advisable to schedule them on separate days.
  • Use of ergonomic seating (for example, Obus chair) or facilities for resting during breaks.
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