This report presents an argument supporting that mental disabilities should never be accommodated with exam and assignment extra time because it is unfair to others. It is a practice inconsistent with the law and, therefore, illegitimate. Even the legislation provided by Human Rights does not prescribe measures for mentally challenged students. Just like in any other competition, for instance, in athletics, where the mentally disabled athletes are not given a head start as the race begins, it should also be the case in education because assignments and exams measure the students’ mental abilities. Exams are, therefore, a competition like any other, and it is reflected in how professors grade the students from A for the best performers B for the average performer and so on. Although several educationists have argued as proponents of this practice, others have stood their ground to claim that it is an unfair advantage and should never be allowed in any educational setting.
Imagine this, the new semester has begun, and the students are starting to get settled in their classrooms. They have already been alerted that there is an essay exam they are going to do in their class very soon, and the pressure is all over because they have just settled. There are thankfully these very nice students in their class who always sit next to other students as the conversation starts regarding the in-class essay because the students are expecting that everyone in the class will talk about how they feel pressured by the upcoming exam due to unpreparedness that results from the long holiday they have come from, they surprised to hear from their colleagues (with mental disabilities) that they will not be writing the exam in class, but they are provided with a separate room where they will sit for their exam with extra time also provided alongside a computer that will help in spellchecking the mistakes. The students wonder why in the first place, these few individuals are provided with all these advantages and why they need them (Berger & Sossin, 2017). They look very normal to them, and the students wonder why their colleagues are not writing the exams together with them as intended to be equally graded. I also ask these questions as some educationists, specifically in Dawson, ask (DeLaverne, 2020). These extras are regarded as the “accommodations,” and documented disabled students are provided with all those mentioned extras and much more, especially disabilities ranging from motor to sensory impairments to temporary illness and accident-caused cases and other mental health disorders (DeLaverne, 2020). Each case varies from the other, with many having a less clear-cut than other cases. Often, it takes work to identify why students may need specific accommodations, which mostly causes teachers and classmates alike to question the validity of those accommodations and the motives of these students receiving them. Can some students ensure that they receive these services to take advantage of others to ensure their grades are boosted and they breeze through their studies? (DeLaverne, 2020). In my research, I argue that such accommodations are inappropriate, illegitimate, irrelevant, inconsistent with law and support inequality in universities and colleges.
Although Canadian universities and colleges claim to have standard practice, especially in accommodation which they argue is equivalent, extra time on assignments and exams is awarded to students who claim cognitive and mental impairments (Pardy, 2017). Exams are competitions like any other, and a student’s grade largely depends on how their performance compares to their colleagues in the same class. Providing extra time and other items to aid some students in doing their exams is discrimination. It is just like the employer who decides to hire someone they know who is not qualified and leave those they do not know despite being qualified. Pardy (2017) asserts that the arguments by the provincial human rights commissions are always insisting that it is necessary to have extra-time accommodations are not neutral like investigative bodies dealing with human rights issues should be but are agencies with advocacy agendas that are expansive and with wide powers of interpreting the human rights and applying their code provisions in ways that are illegal and inconsistent. According to the human rights laws and principles, they are on this subject, giving inconsistent directions (Pardy, 2017). The confusion they bring is discriminative and illegal. Discrimination means to tell apart or distinguish (Pardy, 2017). While the law prohibits certain discrimination instances, telling people apart from an essential world-functioning tool is not illegal. People are constantly discriminating. They choose some people to be their friends and avoid others. Distinguishing between individuals, even because it is prohibited, is appropriate for a bona fide purpose. Any competition’s bona fides are the abilities and skills the competition tests (Pardy, 2017). Race is purposed at discriminating between individuals based on their speed. It also discriminates against disabled individuals because the speed is affected by disabilities but in a manner that does not offend the law. “No accommodation need be made” (Pardy, 2017). Discrimination is among the exam purposes since they are competitions as well. When professors award an A to the students with the best performance and B to the middle-performing students, she discriminates between the examinations (Pardy, 2017). The students are also discriminated against based on their mental abilities and cognitive skills, which means how well they can learn, think, communicate, analyze, organize, prepare, focus, perform under pressure, and remember (Pardy, 2017). The discrimination purpose in exams is not inappropriate or illegal, and no accommodations are needed whatsoever (Pardy, 2017). Accommodations can be made for other disability types because they are not being tested in the exams. For instance, students who are blind may need a text reader (braille) to access the exam questions. Unlike mental disabilities, extra time, which is an accommodation type, creates undue hardships in the class for other students. Pardy (2017) asserts that the field is not leveled by the provided extra time but instead tilts it. If given sufficient time, many students could do an exam, earning them 90 if only they were given extra time for the so-called ‘mental disabilities”. Any student who claims that they have the right to extra time and insist that the paper/exam they do and get a 90 that is graded together with those who sat for the same paper in lesser time is similar to claiming a gold medal award by running eighty meters when the individuals receiving or are supposed to be awarded are those who have completed the 100 meters (Pardy, 2017). It is a logic that cheats the individuals who have done and completed more demanding tasks. The gold medal is only one, and A grades are also limited. The test consists of a certain allotted time to complete because it is part of its conditions. Students who need the stress sources to be an element
Additionally, accommodations should not be provided to students with disabilities because of the stigma associated with such forms of accommodations and special treatment. Porter (2021) refers to the stigma associated with these accommodations as “special treatment stigma,” also found in other settings like the workplace. Stigma in higher education mainly leads to disabled students either experiencing social disapproval after disclosing their disabilities or even refusing to disclose them at all. It is problematic for both results. However, individuals with disabilities who attend universities and are highly facing academic, psychological, and social stigma when their disabilities are disclosed. Disabled students feel their peers and professors are judging them (Porter, 2021). Their main worry is that they are different from their colleagues and perceive that their professors and peers either doubt that they can perform academically or believe that the academic accommodations they receive are an unfair advantage to them. This fear is, in some incidences, warranted since there is a belief in some members of their faculties that the learners with disabilities lack the academic programs’ qualifications or are receiving an unfair advantage. Due to the perceived or real fear of facing the stigma, several students in colleges and universities choose to hide their disabilities. The accommodations are given to only those who disclose their disabilities, failure to which they end up struggling with their disabilities. Although these accommodations are meant to help these struggling students and offer them assistance to ensure that they demonstrate skills and knowledge without the diagnosis interference, they are provided appropriately, giving them an advantage over the others (Alarakhia, 2020). They should get assistance so they do not create undue hardships for their classmates.
In addition, the extra time and other academic accommodations provided by schools, universities and colleges to students with disabilities sometimes unintentionally reduce students’ standards, taking away skill development’s natural incentive. For example, suppose students are in grade five and are claimed to have disabilities and are provided with laptops due to their slow handwriting. In that case, these students need more incentives or improvement opportunities to become fluent in their handwriting (Lovett & Harrison, 2020). On the same bases, if students in grade nine are provided with class notes, those students do not need to learn how notes are taken, and the incentive of paying attention and generally being active in class is very little. When the students have extra time for their exams to boost their performance, the accommodation provided is not tied to their disabilities or disability-related need. Their performance is boosted, but the assistance is unrelated to their disability. For instance, memory aids to use, whereby the students are allowed to access the “cheat sheets” or the additional information to use during exams to help cue their memories (Lovett & Harrison, 2020). Several students who do or do not have disabilities would as well benefit from aids as such. Since the skill development of the students can be impeded by academic accommodations that provide unfair advantages, they should be used in instances or cases when students have clear deficits related to their disabilities, when effective interventions are insufficient or unavailable, and when those accommodations do not compromise the assessment or instruction integrity like those mentioned above do.
However, Lovett (2021) asserts that the extra time and other accommodations provided to students with disabilities is a way of assisting them and creating equity among them in what he terms as “leveling the playing field” (Lovett, 2021). The author claims that these accommodations allow students with disabilities to participate fairly in doing exams and assignments alongside their peers who are nondisabled. According to him, if these accommodations are well used, they can promote educational equity as they can allow students to have access to educational opportunities’ access. For example, blind students can never meaningfully participate in a standard administered chemistry paper to use their pencils and other writing materials that their nondisabled peers use. The score that such a student would have if the paper is so administered would reflect their knowledge of chemistry rather than their visual acuity (Lovett, 2021). When provided with accommodations like aloud reading of the test items and recording the students’ oral responses, the test process can achieve meaningful participation. The accommodations’ logic is the easiest to comprehend concerning physical and sensory disabilities but can also be relevant to other disabilities.
In conclusion, colleges and universities routinely provide extra time on assignments and exams to accommodate students with mental and cognitive disabilities. These forms of accommodations are inconsistent with the law and inappropriate. Assignments and exams are, in part, competitions. Just like the race has head starts, extra time in assignments and exams invalidates the competition. In races, the athletes’ speed is tested, and accommodations that affect speed can never be made for athletes with disabilities because speed is the race’s bona fide criterion. Assignments and exams evaluate a range of mental and cognitive skills, and accommodations can never as well, be made for those with disabilities affecting those skills, which are the assignments’ bona fide criteria. The purpose of academic accommodations is to facilitate participation, not compensate for the ability lack, especially that which is relevant to the tests. Even without being provided with extra time, mentally disabled students can participate in exams meaning that they already can participate. The extra time claims are raised because they increase their success prospects by taking advantage of other students, which is inappropriate. Colleges and universities should avoid providing extra time to students as a disability accommodation related to mental and cognitive skills.
Alarakhia, H. (2020). Academic Accommodations: They Make a Difference | Journal of Teaching Disability Studies. Cuny.edu. https://jtds.commons.gc.cuny.edu/academic-accommodations-they-do-make-a-difference/
Berger, B., & Sossin, L. (2017, August 22). Benjamin Berger and Lorne Sossin: Exams should test mental ability, not mental health. Nationalpost; National Post. https://nationalpost.com/opinion/benjamin-berger-and-lorne-sossin-exams-should-test-mental-ability-not-mental-health
Bruce, P. (2016). Head Starts and Extra Time: Academic Accommodation on Post-secondary Exams and Assignments for Students with Cognitive and Mental Disabilities. Proquest.com. https://doi.org/%22,
DeLaverne, E. (2020). Are Disability Accommodations Giving Students an Unfair Advantage? Dawsoncollege.qc.ca. https://space.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/explorations/article/an_unfair_advantage
Lovett, B. J. (2021). Educational Accommodations for Students With Disabilities: Two Equity-Related Concerns. 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2021.795266
Lovett, B. J., & Harrison, A. G. (2020). De-Implementing Inappropriate Accommodations Practices. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 082957352097255. https://doi.org/10.1177/0829573520972556
Pardy, B. (2017, August 17). Bruce Pardy: Mental disabilities shouldn’t be accommodated with extra exam time. Nationalpost; National Post. https://nationalpost.com/opinion/bruce-pardy-mental-disabilities-shouldnt-be-accommodated-with-extra-time-on-exams
Porter, N. B. (2021, October 27). Special Treatment Stigma in Higher Education | The Regulatory Review. The Regulatory Review. https://www.theregreview.org/2021/10/27/buonocore-porter-special-treatment-stigma-in-higher-education/