A New Jersey high school student has filed complaints with the United States Department of Justice and Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights claiming that the accommodations the College Board is offering for her Advanced Placement (AP) exams are insufficient and discriminatory.
Kaleigh Brendle is a junior at the Scholars’ Center for the Humanities. She is legally blind and has been reading Braille since she was 3 years old. Just as she was preparing for her AP exams, she was notified that hard copy Braille tests were being discontinued for the remainder of the year, something she says wouldn’t have happened if the coronavirus hadn’t shut down the country.
“Under normal circumstances, I would have been provided with a hard copy Braille test, which included tactile graphics of images, political cartoons, maps, paintings of planes, etc.,” Brendle told Fox News.
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The 17-year-old also says that she would have also been entitled to breaks whenever she needed one, and a reader and scribe to clarify anything and verify that graphs and photos were the same as the print copy.
“When you visually scan a graph for a specific point, you have that instantaneous feedback such would we-- if we had access to tactile graphics,” Brendle said. “But now we're expected to derive all our information from verbose but vague stretches of words that are paragraphs long.”
Brendle says the College Board offered the test in audio format with one strip of refreshable Braille which only displays a half a sentence or so at a time instead of a full Braille page. The student also said the accommodations do not include the usual extra time that blind or blind and deaf students typically get. However, the College Board disputes this claim and told Fox News in an email that they have "worked with blind and other students with disabilities who feel that additional extended time may be needed due to the change of format, and has approved the additional extended time when needed." The organization also noted that they do not approve "any student for 'unlimited time' for its exams."
Brendle believes the exam they are offering her is no longer about how much you can learn, analyze and interpret but, “how much detail you can memorize and how well you do with software speaking at you.”
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Brendel did not take the five AP open book exams she was supposed to complete by May 22. She is scheduled to take the makeup exams in June but says without any accommodations other than a computer speaking to her, it won't be feasible.
“Imagine taking an exam and having a software speak at you and having no images, no text on [the] screen, nothing that you could see, only things you could hear. And you've only ever learned by seeing,” the teen said. “Now you're thrust into this world you have to hear in order to succeed. And that's sort of what we face now.”
In an email to Fox News, the College Board wrote, "This year the way accommodations are provided may be different because the exams are shorter and will be taken online at home. Students who are approved for braille may use a refreshable braille device, a screen reader, or a reader. Exams are accessible to refreshable braille and screenreader software, and include alt-text descriptions of all graphs and charts."