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Anticipate the need to request an accommodation during testing.

Job Seeker's Toolkit



In this section:

Attention-Getting Resumes

Chronological and Functional Resumes

Cover Letters

Pre-Employment Testing

Interviewing Skills

Interview Accommodations


Pre-Employment Testing

How to Ace the "Pop Quiz"

Many employers now use pre-employment testing as a method to screen out applicants who don’t have certain skills, or who don’t fit certain personality profiles which the employer feels are predictors of success on the job. All too frequently, these tests are not accessible to applicants with disabilities, and/or do not accurately measure a person’s ability to perform specific job duties. It is therefore important to:

Note: Title I of the ADA requires employers to accommodate persons with disabilities during the hiring process by making pre-employment tests accessible. Additionally, Title II includes provisions that pertain specifically to agencies, institutions and organizations that provide examinations leading to licensure, certification, or credentialing for secondary and postsecondary education, and trade purposes. For more details see "ABC’s of the ADA", and "Disabilities at Work".

You can prepare dealing with pre-employment testing by considering these questions:

Ask employer what type of tests they use

At the time an interview is scheduled, the job seeker or his/her Job Developer should always ask a few basic questions about the interview location and process, particularly in situations where an accommodation may be required or where accessibility is likely to be an issue. If the employer indicates that pre-employment testing is part of the interview process, some questions to ask are:

Requesting an Accommodation

In some cases it may be necessary to request an accommodation during the testing process to ensure the applicant has equal access to the hiring process. Some accommodations that may be appropriate include:

Architecturally Accessible Testing Site

Individuals who use wheelchairs, canes, crutches, or other mobility aids have obvious difficulty with stairs, narrow doorways, and inaccessible bathrooms. Others may have limited strength or flexibility for climbing. One-Stop staff and the job seeker should check with the employer to make sure the testing site is accessible, and if not, to request an alternative location.

Distraction-Free Space

Some individuals, because of their disability, may require a testing environment that minimizes distraction as much as possible. This is necessary in order to maintain the level of concentration necessary for them to perform well on the test. Depending on the disability, distraction may result from noise, movement, or both. Normally, the best way to provide distraction-free testing space is to place the person alone in a room (except for a proctor), without phones, street noise, or other distractions. If this is not possible, visual distraction may be minimized by positioning the person facing away from windows, other test-takers, and other sources of movement or distraction. Noise distraction can sometimes be minimized through the use of sound-suppression earphones or earplugs, although some people may find this as distracting as the noise.

There are individuals who may require a private testing environment in order to perform at their best and not disturb others taking the test. Some, because of the way they process information, perform best if they are able to talk aloud. Others, when channeling their energies to the test, may have verbal outbursts or body tics. Even if these manifestations can be eliminated, the effort required to control them can result in loss of concentration that may affect their performance on the test.

Alternative Location

There may be instances when better accommodations can be provided at a different testing site. Perhaps specific adaptive equipment is available at some sites and not at others. Arrangement for an alternative location for taking an exam and providing proctoring of performance in this altered setting are considered appropriate accommodations under the law. However, the alternative location should provide the comparable degree of geographic convenience, as do other sites.

Test Schedule Variation

For individuals with health-related disabilities, time of day and test schedule can be crucial. Functioning level may vary during the day because of the effects of medications and flagging energy levels. For some, blood sugar levels must be maintained by eating several times a day at prescribed times. In this situation, the individual could be accommodated by scheduling testing around the eating schedule or by allowing food to be taken into the testing area.

Extended Time

This is probably the most common accommodation. It is used to accommodate a variety of disability-related conditions. An obvious example would be extended time to accommodate someone who has limited dexterity as a result of arthritis or spinal cord injury. Less obvious would be someone with a learning disability who has a perceptual speed deficit or slowed processing. Any time an auxiliary aid such as a scribe or adaptive equipment is used, extended time should be provided.

The real question is how much extra time is appropriate. For most test-takers, the standard extension is time-and-a-half. However, this should not be regarded as a firm ceiling; decisions should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, keeping in mind the type of accommodations being provided, the disability involved, and the type of test being administered. If a reader or scribe is used, double time is appropriate. When providing accommodations, a request for unlimited time in not considered appropriate. The applicant should be able to complete the test within a finite amount of time. If the applicant has been evaluated by a professional rehabilitation professional, that professional should be able to provide guidelines on an appropriate timeframe. In those few instances in which the ability to complete the test in a specific period of time is a critical factor in the examination, extended time may not be an appropriate accommodation.

Scribed Exam

The use of a scribe may be an appropriate accommodation for someone who has difficulty writing. An individual who will serve as scribe should be carefully prepared prior to testing to assure that s/he knows the vocabulary involved in the testing process and understands the boundaries of the assistance to be provided. There are no hard-and-fast rules – it may vary with disability as to how far the scribe can and should go. In general, the role of the scribe is to write what is dictated, no more and no less. An option to use of a scribe may be to allow the use of a word processor or other technology.

Sign Language Interpreters

Some individuals with hearing loss may request the use of a sign language interpreter during testing. While the use of a qualified interpreter for interpreting test instruction and to assist in communication between the test-taker and the proctor is appropriate, it may or not be necessary. If all oral instructions are available in written format, and if the proctor is prohibited from responding to any question during the test, alternative methods of conveying information may be arranged between the test-taker and the proctor. Recognize that qualified sign language interpreters function under a strict code of ethics regarding their role and their participation does not pose a threat to test integrity.


One optional accommodation is to provide a qualified reader for the person whose disability precludes independent reading of the test material. Readers should read with even inflection throughout, so that the test-taker does not receive any cues by the way the information is read. The role of the reader is simply to read, not interpret, what is presented; interpretation of test questions is inappropriate.

While the provision of reader services is a traditional means of providing accommodations for individuals with print disabilities, this may not be the best alternative in today’s high tech world. There are other options available that may require less time and/or human resources on the part of the employer and still provide appropriate accommodation for the test-taker. One option is to have the test read onto tape in advance. Test-takes then use the tape in a private (proctored) setting and can listen to the tape repeatedly if necessary until they understand the information. Another option is to allow the use of adaptive equipment that takes the place of a live reader (for example, computer screen-reading software with audio output).

Adaptive Equipment

If the test is available on computer disk, test-takers with reading disabilities may be able to take the test independently, given access to a talking terminal to assist with reading of test questions and responses. For others, use of a computer system that includes word processing software may eliminate the need for a scribe.

The use of calculators (with and without voice output) is becoming an increasingly frequent accommodation for persons with certain disabilities. The question is whether the use of a calculator is a matter of convenience or a matter of accommodation. If an employer requires that all applicants demonstrate competence in mathematics, then use of a calculator would probably be inappropriate. However, in many cases the employer is more interested to know if a person understands mathematical concepts, and can enter equations correctly into a calculator, rather than if the person can solve math problems manually. One-Stop staff or the job seeker should first gain an understanding of the employer’s testing objectives, in order to request an appropriate accommodation.

Modification of Test Presentation/Response Format

For some persons who read Braille, transferring a test into Brailled format may be an appropriate accommodation. There is technology now available that will allow a fairly direct translation of information from print to Braille. Of course, not all persons who are blind read Braille fluently or will find Braille to be their input mechanism or choice.

For some persons, the difference between being able to take a test independently or needing a reader/scribe is a question of the size of the print and the size of the space allowed for the response. In both cases, a copy machine with enlarging capabilities may be used to provide a simple, but effective, test accommodation that promotes independence for the test-taker. For some individuals with disabilities computer score sheets may be difficult or impossible to complete accurately and neatly. An accommodation in such instances might involve having the test-taker indicate the appropriate answer directly on the test paper and having someone transfer those answers to the computer score sheet when the test-taker has completed the exam.

Employer Responsibilities

Job Seeker Responsibilities

One-Stop Responsibilities

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This information was developed in partnership with the EmployABILITY program of the City of Los Angeles Community Development Department, created in collaboration with the Los Angeles City Workforce Investment Board, to create career empowerment for persons with disabilities.

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