Students with disabilities have options available for testing on campus

R. Troy Peterson, Staff Reporter

For Central students with disabilities, not being able to test in a regular classroom does not have to be a hindrance.

The ADA policies on testing are made available at Central’s testing center, located in Bouillon 125.

Josh Jones, the HR department’s disability and accessibility consultant, said there are over 600 students registered with a disability through the HR department.

Bill Thelen has been working with the testing center since 2006. He has held his current position as director for about four years.

“We do accommodated testing for students,” Thelen said. “That can be anywhere from accommodated extra time, like time and a half, [or] reader, scribe, things like that.”

ACCESSIBILITY - Students take advantage of services offered by the Testing Center in Bouillon 215.
Riley Elliott
ACCESSIBILITY – Students take advantage of services offered by the Testing Center in Bouillon 215.

Thelen said that 217 students have been to the Testing Center this fall for testing accommodations.

“Not all of them come in to take exams with us,” Thelen said. “It depends on what accommodations they need, how comfortable they feel taking their exams with professors in class.”

Thelen said reactions to the testing center from students have been mostly positive, and that the most requested accommodation for students is extra testing time.

“They like coming to take tests here at the test center,” Thelen said. “We’ve had no complaints about the accommodations. Overall they’re extremely happy with everything we provide for testing.”

Thelen works closely with Central’s Jones in the human resource department.

“Having a disability creates a variety of barriers in students’ academics,” Jones said. “Our department exists to eliminate some of those barriers.”

In cases where distraction is an issue, the student can take the test in a separate room from the normal test environment.

“The professor can choose whether or not they provide the room to proctor [the test],” Jones said. “Or they can send the student to testing services.”

If the professor sends the student to testing services, the department would know the accommodations required by the student, and would administer the test in their own office, Jones said.

“They deal with me if there may be a miscommunication, or a test for a student who needs accommodations that they can’t find, so they’ll contact me,” Jones said.

Pamela Wilson, administrator of the HR office, was formerly involved with student disability services. Wilson has been at Central for 31 years, 29 of which she worked with students.

The human resources department used to handle ADA testing, but they handed the responsibility to testing services, Wilson said.

disability services2

“It just made sense to have testing services take it all on,” Wilson said. “Why are we isolating one group, and everybody else is going another direction?”

The main reason for the decision came down to equal access, Wilson said.

“The test cannot be altered or made easier,” Jones said. Students are “expected to complete everything in each course just like every other student. It’s just important to emphasize that.”

In order to register for testing accommodations, students are required to have official diagnosis from a doctor.

While students have attempted to register for accommodations without diagnoses, Jones said such events are rare.

Jones said approximately 200 students have signed up for accommodations.

He also said that this number isn’t as accurate as it could be, since some students who are eligible to receive accommodations may not have officially requested such services.

“There’s students who’ve been accommodated with our department for quite a while,” Jones said. “And they had the same professors, so they don’t officially request [accommodations] because the professor just knows, even though they’re supposed to officially request.”

Jones said that other students may not use the testing accommodations, but register with the HR department just in case.

“With accommodations, the rule of thumb is you can have the accommodations and not request them, you can request them and still not receive them,” Jones said.

Both Jones and Wilson said that it is likely that the testing center does not proctor tests to all who might need it. They said that it is more likely that there are students who, for whatever reason, never register for accommodations.

“I’d say there’s probably a fairly good sized group out there,” Wilson said.

Jones said that there are students who register with HR for disabilities that are not learning related, such as the need for special furniture in the testing environment.

And for those who do register for accommodations, registration does not require testing services be used.

“A lot of people are granted testing accommodations, but not everybody uses them,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that students who use testing accommodations may not use them for every class.

As for the funding for testing services, Thelen said no funds are allocated to them from the University.

“We’re self-funded,” Thelen said. “We charge fees for the exams, and that’s where our budget comes from.”

The testing center provides testing for more than just ADA requirements, Thelen said. These include tests such as the GRE and the WritePlacer.

Thelen said that running the test center involves a lot of duties. Such duties include employees taking yearly certification tests for almost all of the tests administered.

Registering for testing accommodations does not disclose someone’s particular disability to everyone, Jones said. He also said that only the professors may know each student’s disability.

Jones said that reasons students request accommodations include everything from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities to schizophrenia and arthritis.

Jones said that testing accommodations, such as time and a half, are not an advantage for students.

“It’s not a benefit,” Jones said. “If they have a disability that creates a barrier in their academics, it’s their civil right to receive time and a half.”