Blind and Deafblind Students Set to Take Advanced Placement Tests File Civil Rights Complaint Against College Board
National Federation of the Blind Also Party to Complaint
Baltimore, Maryland (May 11, 2020): Five blind high school students and the National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s leading advocate for equal education of the blind, have filed a complaint against the College Board with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) on behalf of themselves and all other blind and deafblind students who are registered to take the May 2020 advanced placement (AP) tests from the College Board. The complaint alleges that the College Board, which is primarily administering the AP tests digitally because of the coronavirus pandemic, is refusing to grant the students approved accommodations to which they are entitled. These accommodations include hardcopy Braille versions of the examinations; hardcopy tactile versions of the charts, coordinate planes, maps, and other graphics that must be interpreted in order to answer examination questions; the use of qualified readers; and approved breaks. Although the students are allowed to use assistive technology such as a screen reader and are being given extra time, any amount of time the student takes to resolve an issue with their assistive technology will still be deducted from their testing time. The students and the National Federation of the Blind have proposed several solutions to meet what the College Board says are security concerns with administering a hardcopy Braille test, but all of these proposals have been rejected.
“My fellow blind and deafblind AP scholars and I only desire a chance to be successful,” said Kaleigh Brendle, who organized the effort to file the complaint. “We have contacted Braille transcription companies, which have expressed their willingness and ability to produce the material if the College Board were to provide it. We desire to compromise, but every time we attempt to do so, our efforts are dismissed by this organization. We are not blind to injustice.”
“By propounding a false choice between equal access and security, the College Board seeks to force a one-size-fits-all accommodation on these students, in clear violation of applicable federal law,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “Furthermore, the College Board is denying them the right to use Braille, the globally recognized reading and writing method for blind and deafblind people. The National Federation of the Blind is America’s civil rights organization of the blind and the nation’s leading champion of Braille. We have tried to work with the College Board in the past but significant systemic change has not happened. We will not stand for the College Board’s discrimination and are proud to fight alongside these students.”