A visually impaired student who completed all of his post-primary studies digitally was told he must take paper-based Leaving Cert exams.
or higher-level mathematics, it would mean that the exam paper would be enlarged to the point where it would be 54 pages, with some graphs and answer boxes halved.
Cormac Walsh, a fifth year student at Coláiste na Mara, Arklow, Co Wicklow, is preparing for his Leaving Cert next year.
His mother Eithne said it was “a clear case of discrimination” her son being unable to access the exam paper in a format he used all the time after primary school.
She said what Cormac needed was non-editable PDF exam papers that would allow him to easily resize the screen to the size he wanted.
In this way he can “approach the exam independently and complete it in the same way as he did all his tasks during his school life”.
Ms. Walsh, director of advocacy and communications at Féach, a support group for parents of blind/visually impaired students, has campaigned with the State Board of Examiners (SEC) for her son and other students with visual impairments.
The SEC has developed a program called Reasonable Accommodation (RACE) to make it easier for candidates with special needs, including learning, visual, hearing, medical, sensory, emotional, and behavioral disabilities, to take the exams.
The purpose is to remove barriers that impede students’ ability to take standard exams, allowing them to demonstrate what they know and can do without compromising the integrity of the assessment.
Aids for visually impaired students include magnified sheets, Braille papers, magnifying glasses and readers.
Enlarging papers to A3 size is standard, but Ms Walsh said the text was too small and it was suggested papers could be further enlarged to the size Cormac needed.
“It just won’t work, his math test would end up being 54 pages,” she said.
The SEC said providing access to digital versions of papers would require significant development work because these “would be essentially new versions of the papers and would be subject to the same development and quality assurance procedures and protocols as their paper equivalents.”
Digital papers would also raise integrity concerns about the requirement for early access to exam papers and could compromise exam security and confidentiality, the SEC added.
Because of this, access to digital versions of papers is not currently among the available support offerings, it said.
The SEC said RACE will be reviewed in conjunction with senior cycle reform and a priority is increased use of assistive technology
further support independent learning.
However, Ms Walsh said the new Leaving Cert was still a few years away and any arrangements agreed in this regard would be of no benefit to students currently in secondary education: “In the meantime my son and other visually impaired students are not able to independently access their papers.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/clear-case-of-discrimination-mothers-anger-as-visually-impaired-leaving-cert-student-will-face-54-page-maths-paper-41637338.html “Clear case of discrimination”: Mother’s anger as a visually impaired leaving certificate student has to reckon with a 54-page math essay