U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section P.O.

Box 66738 Washington, DC 20035-6738 APR 22 1998 XXX XXX McMinnville, Oregon 97128 Dear Dr. XXX :

Senator Ron Wyden has asked me to respond to your letter to him regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). You expressed concern because some licensure boards, including the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), have permitted applicants who have learning disabilities to have additional time in which to complete their licensing examinations. The ADA is a comprehensive civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, transportation, public services, public accommodations, and in the operation of certain licensing and certification organizations. The term "disability" is defined by the ADA as a "physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual." 42 U.S.C. S 12102 (2) (A). "Specific learning disabilities" are included within the definition of the phrase "physical or mental impairment." 28 C.F.R. S 36.104. In enacting the ADA, Congress made specific findings that "society has tended to isolate and segregate individuals with disabilities, and, despite some improvements, such forms of discrimination against individuals with disabilities continue to be a serious and pervasive social problem . . . that persists in such critical areas as employment [and] ... education ...." (42 U.S.C. S 12101) Congress further found that: CC: RECORDS; CHRONO; WODATCH; BLIZARD; MCDOWNEY; FOIA E/GCONCEPC/MYFILES/WYDEN.WPD

-2individuals with disabilities continually encounter various forms of discrimination, including . . . failure to make modifications to existing facilities and practices, exclusionary qualification standards and criteria, segregation, and relegation to lesser services, programs, activities, benefits, jobs, or other opportunities [emphasis added]. There is no doubt that Congress intended that entities such as the NBME to be subject to the ADA's nondiscrimination requirements. Section 309 of the ADA expressly provides that "[a]ny person that offers examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes shall offer such examinations or courses in a place and manner accessible to persons with disabilities or offer alternative accessible arrangements for such individuals." 42 U.S.C. S 12189. The regulations implementing the ADA authorize testing entities such as the NBME to modify the amount of time provided to complete an examination in appropriate cases to accommodate persons with disabilities so as to ensure that the examination results accurately reflect the individual's aptitude or achievement level or whatever other factor the examination purports to measure, rather than reflecting the individual's impairment or disability. 28 C.F.R. SS 36.309 (b) (1) (i) and (b) (2). I hope this information clarifies the provisions of the ADA concerning testing accommodations for people with learning disabilities. Sincerely, John L. Wodatch Chief Disability Rights Section cc: The Honorable Ron Wyden