DART Toolkit II: Legal Issues — Low Vision Case Example
Amanda is a student with low vision who is completing her first year in a clinical psychology doctoral program. One of her classes this semester is an Intellectual Assessment course, which includes a lab, where she is learning common measures of intellectual functioning and practicing their administration. She uses a magnification device to read the protocols, and she has studied them enough to memorize some of the instructions and where to record the responses. Her professor and lab instructor have, upon her request, provided her with large print handouts that are distributed in the course and lab. While she is able to complete all the readings and demonstrates advanced understanding of the measures, she is struggling with their administration. Subtests that require her to time client’s responses are particularly problematic because she struggles to read the display screen on the lab’s standard stopwatches. Also, the lighting in the lab’s assessment room is dim. When Amanda brought up these concerns, her lab instructor suggested that she open the blinds to let more sunlight in the room. Amanda attempted this solution, but found it unsuccessful as the sun, depending on its position, either provided inadequate light or was so overpowering that it exacerbated her vision problems. These barriers have been very frustrating for Amanda. She feels she could competently administer the measures if the equipment and environment were modified.
Amanda has disclosed her disability and her low vision has been documented. She demonstrates competence and understanding with course materials, but faces disability-related barriers with the lab equipment and environmental conditions of the testing room. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), her professor and lab instructor have the legal responsibility to make reasonable accommodations for her. While the suggestion to open the blinds was well-intended, it did not successfully address the issue. Therefore, further action is mandated. Possible reasonable accommodations for Amanda may include supplemental lighting, an alternative testing room with more adequate lighting, a talking stopwatch or an alternative timing device designed for people with low vision. Although the law does not require them to comply with all of her requests (e.g., if they are determined to be unreasonable, cause undue hardship or if their relationship to her disability is unclear), Amanda’s professors and lab instructor should work with her to determine what accommodations would be most beneficial.