Harrison, A. G., & Armstrong, I. (2022). Accommodation decision-making for postsecondary students with ADHD: Treating the able as disabled . Psychological Injury and Law , 15 (4), 367–384. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12207-022-09461-1

Journal Article
Harrison, A. G., & Armstrong, I. (2022). Accommodation decision-making for postsecondary students with ADHD: Treating the able as disabled. Psychological Injury and Law, 15(4), 367–384. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12207-022-09461-1


Attention problem; Educator survey; Extended time; International (non-U.S.); No age; Postsecondary





Accommodations for postsecondary students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), particularly extra time, were investigated. The matter of whether disability service providers in postsecondary education used objective, third-party data when making decisions about accommodations was examined.


A total of 50 postsecondary disability services office (DSO) personnel representing 50 publicly-funded postsecondary institutions in Ontario, Canada participated. Exactly half of the postsecondary institutions were community colleges, and the other half were universities. Nearly half of respondents were reported to be those involved in accommodations decisions, while the other half were reported to be non-decision makers.

Dependent Variable

Information on a fictitious student was directed to the participants in the form of an email from the parents, in which they asked these disability service providers if they would grant an extra time accommodation. The fictitious student was described through a neuropsychological evaluation report that contained accommodation recommendations, but it lacked both an official ADHD diagnosis and specific information on functional impairments that would support the extra time accommodation. Researchers used a report lacking objective, third-party data in order to investigate how this information would influence their accommodations decisions. Additional context: The fictitious student self-reported academic and attention problems because of COVID restrictions and indicated that, in high school, extra time reduced her anxiety and helped her get better grades. The responses of the DSO personnel were categorized as: (a) approved accommodations, (b) denied accommodations, (c) requested additional documentation, or (d) required an interview with the fictitious student prior to determination.


All disability services office (DSO) personnel approved that the fictitious student would be granted extra time accommodations. Accommodations decisions appeared to be made not based on objective evidence, but rather, based on student self-report and professional recommendations. The researchers concluded that the current system for determining accommodations was flawed as it offered a student without impairments access to services that might give them an advantage over their peers. The researchers advocated for postsecondary institutions to create new ways of determining students' disabilities or to provide all students with access to the same services.