Accessible College: A Guide for Students with Disabilities, Part 3

About the Series

It’s never too early to start preparing for life after high school, and students with disabilities shouldn’t feel left out of that. Universities across Ohio and nationwide have options available to accommodate various student needs. This series covers the process students and their families must undergo to prepare and apply for college, what to do once the student gets in, and various rights and recommendations for while they’re in school.

Check out Parts 1 and 2 of the series: Part 1 – Preparing for Postsecondary Education; Part 2 - Applicable Laws for College Students with Disabilities

Test-Taking Accommodations

Not every student is the same, so not every student can take a test the same way. Test-taking accommodations are an important way to even the playing field for students who may need additional support when taking exams. Examples of some types of accommodations include:

  • Braille or large-print exam booklets;
  • Screen reading technology;
  • Scribes to transfer answers to Scantron bubble sheets or record dictated notes and essays;
  • Extended time;
  • Wheelchair-accessible testing stations;
  • Distraction-free rooms;
  • Physical prompts; and
  • Permission to bring and take medication during exams.

These types of accommodations are available for students in K-12 as well. See Ohio’s Accessibility Manual for a comprehensive guide to Ohio’s accessibility features for state tests, grades 3-12.

High Stakes Tests

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires accommodations for any exams administered by any private, state, or local government entity related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade. Examples include:

  • High school equivalency exams (such as the GED);
  • High school entrance exams (such as the SSAT or ISEE);
  • College entrance exams (such as the SAT or ACT);
  • Exams for admission to professional schools (such as the LSAT or MCAT); 
  • Admissions exams for graduate schools (such as the GRE or GMAT); and
  • Licensing exams for trade purposes (such as cosmetology) or professional purposes (such as bar exams or medical licensing exams, including clinical assessments).

    Test-Taking in College

    To receive test-taking accommodations in college, you must show the appropriate school member the proper documentation for your specific need. The documentation must meet these specific criteria:

    • The diagnosis is clearly stated.
    • Information is current.
    • Educational, developmental, and medical history is presented.
    • The diagnosis is supported.
    • The functional limitation is described.
    • Recommended accommodations are justified.
    • Evaluators’ professional credentials are established.

    Specific guidelines vary by disability. Review documentation guidelines for the student’s particular disability.

    Don’t be Afraid to Ask – in fact you must ask!

    An important difference between high school and college is that in college, the student is completely responsible for obtaining the accommodations that he or she needs.  For this reason, students with disabilities should contact the office for students with disabilities (actual name of this office will vary by university) as soon as possible to learn what the process is for requesting test-taking accommodations as well as the process for filing an appeal if the request is denied.  Even if you don’t think you will use test-taking accommodations, it is better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them.

    Accommodations are not just for physical disabilities

    Test-taking accommodations aren’t just for students with physical disabilities; mental health support is an important aspect protected under the ADA. If you suffer from a psychiatric disorder, you might be able to receive test-taking accommodations through your university. For example, if you have an anxiety disorder, you may qualify for extended time, a specific seat in the classroom, technological assistance, or more. Real Support for Real Students: Making College Accommodations Work for You! explores mental health and accommodations, how to know what to ask for and how. Be sure to speak with the appropriate school office to see if you might qualify.

    For a list of Disability Services offices at universities throughout Ohio, click here.


    This guide was developed as part of a project made possible by a grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.  The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

    Lead researcher/author: Tia Garcia, J.D. Candidate, 2019, RedTreehouse.org Legal Intern

    Jeanine Carroll