Testing in Health Education
Testing plays a critically important role in deaf students’ successful matriculation through a healthcare training program, including as part of the licensure process. It is never too early to start thinking about accommodations for tests. The disability services office is responsible for providing effective accommodations for tests that happen on campus, and facilitating support for tests that happen outside of campus (e.g., licensure exams).
Why Test Accommodations Are Important for Deaf Students?
Learn about test accommodations from a deaf student’s perspective. Dr. Zachary Featherstone describes his experience navigating test accommodations in medical school. Dr. Featherstone explains that commonly used devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants may require prior approval to use during high-stakes testing. This differs significantly from an in-classroom setting where we would not expect a student to ask for permission to access a lecture using a hearing aid.
Deaf students have been denied requests for accommodations during high-stakes testing such as the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) because they do not have a history of using the requested accommodation or have appropriate documentation and rationale. Some recommendations:
- Include a letter of support from disability services
- Demonstrate and document thoroughly a history of using accommodations
- Explain the relationship between English skills and disability
- Document substantive and functional limitations.
Planning Guide: Certification and Licensure Exams
This step-by-step guide explains how to request and use accommodations on tests to help meet career goals. There are a variety of tests you may need to take to get a job or advance in your career. Credentialing tests help you show what you know related to a certain job or industry. If you pass a credentialing test, you receive a credential such as a license, certificate, or badge. Employers use credentials to evaluate the qualifications of an individual for a specific job or role. For many deaf people, accommodations can reduce testing barriers and allow a fair chance to show their knowledge and skills.
Tips for Deaf Students
- Research your required exams and guidelines for requesting accommodation and start the process early.
- Establish precedence in writing; accommodations used throughout your training program (and even before entering your program) are more likely to be approved as a testing accommodation.
- Work with your disability services office to get documentation and letters of support.
- Work with your audiologist or other healthcare professionals to get documentation that justifies the accommodations you are requesting.
- Connect with deaf professionals in your field and/or join a professional organization like AMPHL for additional support.
Tips for Disability Service Professionals
- Engage in the interactive process with deaf students to determine what accommodations might be best for high stakes testing
- Encourage students to explore different accommodations throughout their training program
- Familiarize yourself with what documentation is required when students request accommodation for external exams such the United States Medical Licensing Examination
- If you have less experience in the healthcare education or training environment, seek healthcare-specific disability resource professional training (such as with the DRP Academy)
Tips for Administrators
- Create guides for your students like this one: UCSF School of Medicine USMLE Step Exam Guide
- Provide your staff with training opportunities on how to properly track and document students’ disabilities
- Understand the risks associated with providing ineffective and inadequate accommodations for tests
“The best practices today are to favor the functional technical standard format, which focuses on the skills that learners have to gain to become effective physicians without designating a specific manner in which they have to achieve the skills.”
— Dr. Kristina Peterson (Coalition for Disability Access in Health Science Education, 2023 Symposium)