When used in the right way, psychometric assessments provide us with an accurate, objective, valid and standardised way to assess the abilities of our candidates. For those with disabilities and learning difficulties, psychometric assessments can be less accessible and we therefore must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the assessment process to ensure that no candidate is disadvantaged. This is in accordance with the Equality Act 2010 which makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities and means organisations must allow people with disabilities the same opportunities as non-disabled people.
When making psychometrics accessible for those with disabilities and learning difficulties, we must bear in mind that the standardisation of the assessment process plays a crucial role in maintaining objectivity. Therefore any changes to the test and the administration must be carefully considered so to maintain the psychometric properties published in the manual. If standardisation is overly compromised, then it will not be possible to interpret the results objectively, and mean comparisons with other candidates are no longer valid. Any decisions made based on these comparisons will then be questionable.
Adjustments to the assessment and the assessment’s administration therefore need to be reasonable by not drastically changing the test or its administration, while also meeting the needs of the candidate in an appropriate manner.
Fortunately, many adaptations to assessments for those with disabilities or learning difficulties are possible and often quite simple.
Examples of reasonable adjustments:
- Increasing the time limit by 25%
- Administering in large print format
- Using a standing desk
- Administering via screen reader software
Steps to making reasonable adjustments
1. Before deciding to use a psychometric assessment, find out from the test publisher what adjustments are able to be made. E.g. Is extra time able to be added to the assessment? Are there formats for visually impaired individuals available?
2. Always ask candidates whether they have special requirements in advance. It is important to find out whether your candidates have special requirements (i.e. disabilities and learning difficulties), that would impact their ability to complete the assessment in advance. It is best to ask this question is early as possible and a common way is to include it in your initial communication, e.g. “If you have any special requirements for completing the assessment that we should be aware of, we would be grateful if you could contact us in advance at email@example.com". If a candidate tells you last minute or when they have already arrived at the test session, it is best to reschedule the session to have sufficient time to make the most appropriate adjustments.
3. Once a candidate has made you aware they require special requirements, do the following:
- Consult with the candidate what adjustments they need to complete the test. Remember, the candidate is the expert in what they require and so they are the most important person to consult prior to making adjustments. Ask the candidate, “How does your disability affect you?”, “Have you completed assessments similar to this in the past? If so, what adjustments, (if any) were made previously?” A good way for the person to establish what they require is through completing a practice test.
- Ask the candidate if they have a diagnostic assessment report. Some candidates with diagnosed learning difficulties, (e.g. dyslexia) will have a diagnostic assessment report. It’s always advised to ask whether you are able to see this as it will often advise on the required adjustments to make to assessments/examinations. E.g. “Do you have a copy of your diagnostic assessment report you could send me?"
- Consult with the test publisher and ask for their recommendations. Speak to the test publisher to ask what they would advise, (they are likely to have made similar adjustments previously). They will also be able to provide you with the guidance, materials and support on how to make the adjustments.
4. If reasonable adjustments are not possible, you may need to omit the assessment from the process. Sometimes reasonable adjustments are not possible, either because the adjustment would compromise the standardisation and validity of the assessment, or because the adjustment is not feasible, I.e. an adaptive test produced in braille. In these circumstances, the assessment may need to be omitted from the recruitment/ development process.
5. Finally, the process you follow for making reasonable adjustments is important for the candidate’s experience and their perception of fairness throughout the selection process.