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Disabilities and Health-related Needs

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Frequently Asked Questions for Disability Service Professionals

General questions

Why does a test taker need to be reevaluated if a disability (such as a learning disability or ADHD) is lifelong?

Although these disabilities are lifelong, the impact they have on current functioning changes over time. Therefore, their documentation needs to reflect the current status of their functional limitations and explain why they need the testing accommodations they requested. Note that the recency of documentation may differ depending on the test taker's particular disability or disabilities. For example, for ADHD, it may be helpful for documentation to be less than 5 years old. See Updating Documentation for LD/ADHD for more information.

Are the ETS disability documentation guidelines in compliance with the ADAAA?

The ADAAA requires institutions to provide equal access and opportunities to individuals with disabilities. However, its regulations state that each institution can establish its own standards or guidelines for practice. The ETS documentation guidelines are designed to comply with the intent of the ADAAA, as well as to ensure fairness to all test takers, while maintaining the integrity of the test.

May a test taker make a special request for accommodations needed for a medical condition, even if these accommodations aren't listed on the request form?

Yes, on Part II, "Accommodations Requested," one can write in the accommodations required for a medical condition. These requests will require documentation from a qualified professional, such as a medical doctor. With proper support, ETS may permit test takers to take additional rest breaks for snacks or medication or to use the bathroom. A footstool, earplugs, water in a closed capped container, a simple magnifying device, special lamps, an adjustable table and chair, or felt-tip pens might also be permitted, if warranted.

May a test taker request a paper-delivered format for a test that is usually given only on computer?

Yes, a paper format may be requested as an accommodation, but the test taker must have a disability-related rationale (not a preference) that supports a legitimate need for paper format. The test candidate will need to submit documentation for review that meets ETS's Documentation Criteria. Please note paper-delivered tests may take up to 4–6 weeks from date of testing to score.

May a test candidate take to the test center any assistive technology device(s) that this person ordinarily uses in school or at work?

A candidate may request the use of assistive technology device(s) by submitting appropriate documentation to ETS for review. The documentation must support the claim that the assistive device or technology is warranted based on the nature of the disability. ETS may be unable to grant such a request if it is determined that it infringes upon test security requirements or, in the case of computer-delivered tests, that it is incompatible with ETS's existing computer test delivery hardware and software.

Does ETS no longer flag test scores that are reported to score recipients?

ETS has discontinued flagging almost all scores for tests that are taken with accommodations. For example, if a test taker receives additional time or extra breaks, the score will no longer be flagged in the report. In rare instances, ETS will flag the score report as a "nonstandard administration" only if the test is significantly altered.

Is there an additional fee for test accommodations?

No, ETS doesn’t charge for testing accommodations.

What can a candidate do if they can’t afford an evaluation or an update of the last evaluation?

ETS isn’t responsible for the cost of an evaluation, but resources are available that might be able to help. If the disability documentation is dated or inadequate, the candidate can contact the local Division of Vocational Rehabilitation office and meet with a counselor. This is a free service available to any individual with a documented disability. As the Disability Services (DS) coordinator or counselor on campus, you may also be able to provide the test taker with resources available in your area. Many colleges and universities with strong school psychology programs perform evaluations at a reduced fee. See Lower-Cost Evaluation Options for more information.

Review process

How long does the review process take?

If the test taker submits a properly completed Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History (COE) without documentation, and is eligible to be approved for accommodations through this process, it will take approximately 2–3 weeks to process the request. If the candidate must submit documentation for review, the process may take up to 6 weeks, or even longer.

If the candidate is requesting the same accommodations approved by ETS or another standardized testing agency, they can expedite the process. See how to request previously approved accommodations.

Why does it take so long to process accommodation requests?

ETS strives to review requests for accommodations as quickly as possible. Given the large number of requests we receive, it’s important that requests be submitted as early as possible to ensure a decision before the test date.

ETS reviews requests for accommodations in the order in which they’re received. The specific approval process may differ depending on the nature of the request. For example, if a test taker seeks a minor accommodation, such as a footstool to support an injury or a test break to permit taking medication, a letter from their medical professional will suffice, and usually evaluation of such a request requires only a short time.

If a test taker is denied accommodations or disagrees with the accommodations that are approved, what can the test taker do?

ETS will send a letter of explanation if we don’t approve a request. The test taker may correct any deficiencies outlined in the letter and resubmit the request. If the test taker has any complaints about ETS's procedures, they may contact us.

What should the candidate do if the request for accommodations is turned down because the documentation does not conform to ETS's documentation criteria?

In some circumstances, it may be possible to update or supplement relevant portions of the documentation and prevent a need for a complete reevaluation. Whenever possible, Disability Services staff will provide test takers with specific information about the ways in which their documentation is inadequate and how it should be updated or supplemented.

Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History

What is the purpose of Part III — the Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History (COE) form?

The COE, available in the Bulletin Supplement, serves to verify any accommodations that the test taker is currently using or has recently used.

It can also be used as a shortcut for many applicants who currently receive certain accommodations in college or on the job, which significantly reduces the wait time for a response from ETS. See Certification of Eligibility: Accommodations History.

Should the test taker send disability documentation along with a signed COE?

No. Sending disability documentation when it isn’t required will cause a considerable delay in processing a request due to the time needed to review documentation. A test taker who is eligible to be approved for accommodations on the basis of the COE alone should send only the appropriately completed COE without documentation.


What does ETS mean by a "functional limitation?"

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA), not every impairment is a disability. For an impairment to qualify as a disability under the ADAAA, it has to be "substantially limiting" to a major life activity (e.g., seeing, talking, hearing, learning, walking, etc.). Thus, having a disability or a diagnosis alone may not be sufficient to support the need for testing accommodations. The documentation needs to clearly establish that the functional limitations resulting from a disability significantly impact the way a person performs a major life activity, compared to the "average person," before an accommodation can be considered.

Does the documentation recency requirement also apply to test takers who are deaf or legally blind or who have physical disabilities of a permanent and unchanging nature?

No. If a disability is a physical or sensory impairment of an unchanging nature, e.g., cerebral palsy, blindness or congenital deafness, documentation does not need to be updated.

Does ETS accept documentation from evaluations conducted via tele-assessment?

Yes. ETS recognizes that tele-assessment may provide greater flexibility to test takers and will accept documentation from an evaluation conducted via tele-assessment or via a “hybrid” format, i.e., a combination of in-person and tele-assessment services. The evaluation should be conducted according to the best practices and standards of the profession of the clinician who conducts it. Tele-assessment involves special considerations and an evaluator conducting tele-assessment should have specific training in this domain. Students and Disability Services staff may find it helpful to review the ETS Tele-Assessment Guidance (PDF) for additional information regarding tele-assessment.

Is an IQ test all I need to document intellectual disabilities?

Intellectual functioning is assessed using a comprehensive measure of intelligence, typically the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-IV) or some other measure of intellectual ability. In addition to a test of intellectual functioning, adaptive behavior must also be assessed in three domains: conceptual, social and practical. See Documentation of Intellectual Disabilities in Adolescents and Adults. See Appendix B for a list of clinical instruments in common use for documenting intellectual disabilities in adolescents and adults.