Lovett, B. J., & Bizub, A. L. (2019). Pinpointing disability accommodation needs: What evidence is most relevant ? Psychological Injury and Law , 12 (1), 42–51.

Journal Article

Lovett, B. J., & Bizub, A. L. (2019). Pinpointing disability accommodation needs: What evidence is most relevant? Psychological Injury and Law, 12(1), 42–51.


Attention problem; Extended time; Learning disabilities; Postsecondary; Student survey; U.S. context




Different types of information were examined for their potential to indicate the accommodation needs of postsecondary students with disabilities; an illustrative pilot study addressed extended test time.


A total of 40 undergraduate students with disabilities from a small, private liberal arts college in New York (U.S.) participated. Over half (62.5%) of participants identified as female, and nearly all (87.5%) identified as White. The participant group had met criteria through the disability services office for being provided accommodations during course examinations, including extended time. Approximately 63% of participants had documentation supporting identification with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 55% were identified with learning disabilities; some participants had both conditions.

Dependent Variable

Reading comprehension performance was measured with the Nelson-Denny Reading Test (NDRT; Brown et al., 1993); specifically, data on the number of items attempted and the number of items correctly answered in 15 minutes were analyzed, as the primary dependent variables in the study. The NDRT was selected due to its similarity in measurement approach to academic content exams implemented in postsecondary courses. Additional raw score data were gathered from participant performance on six scales that comprise the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJ-III; Woodcock et al., 2001), including two abbreviated versions of measures for each of short-term or working memory, processing speed, and auditory processing. These three sets of skills were assessed due to their being common difficulties for students with learning disabilities and attention problems, in order to investigate the extent to which these scores could potentially serve as predictive information for participants' need for accommodations including extended time. The perceptions of student participants on their reading performance and test-taking speed were also measured, using a student survey called the Self-Evaluation of Performance on Timed Academic Reading (SEPTAR; Kleinmann, 2005). The SEPTAR scores were examined for their potential relevance to inform participants' need for the extended time accommodation, with higher scores indicating greater difficulties.


Performance on each of the six scales of the WJ-III were not significantly associated with the number of reading comprehension items attempted within 15 minutes; cognitive skills related to memory, processing speed, and auditory processing did not predict participants' progress through the test items. Participants' scores on working memory scales in the WJ-III were significantly associated with reading comprehension items correct. Participants' SEPTAR scores, measuring their own estimation of their difficulties with timed reading and test-taking, were significantly predictive of items attempted and of items correct. However, SEPTAR scores explained only 20% of the variance of items attempted. The researchers concluded that, while diagnostic tests on cognitive skills can provide information relevant for estimating possible need for accommodations, these diagnostic test scores did not serve as significant predictors of students' ability to access realistic tests—that is, tests with items that postsecondary students have typically encountered in course exams. Therefore, the researchers contended that educators who make accommodations decisions ought to recognize the limitations of diagnostic test information, and need to consider a variety of evidence from postsecondary students with disabilities for their potential to benefit from accommodations.