Examination concessions are justifable
By Beth Carter
James Murray’s article condemning the use of exam concessions, by the justification that to need concessions is to cheat a future employer out of a better suited employee, is not only poorly researched but the point made is damaging. The article presents a narrow-minded approach to the vast topic of ethics surrounding rights for disabled people. The failure to consider any other reason other than dyslexia that may require exam concessions speaks volumes. It is not unreasonable to expect adjustments to be made for those who are otherwise disadvantaged. No one is asking for wildly inappropriate allowances to be made; only requesting to level the playing field in environments where with very little adjustment a disabled person and a fully able person can perform equally at the same task.
The 1995 Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA), although not perfect, makes it a legal requirement for employers to make “reasonable adjustment” in the workplace, a law that the University’s exam concessions policy also comes under. It is true that people with certain disabilities may not be suitable for certain roles in the workplace. However, exam concessions in the form of rest breaks or extra writing time may ensure said person is able to perform to their full ability. In the exact same way that in the workplace an employer would be required by law to ensure the person be allocated extra time to complete tasks or be given more breaks than average throughout a typical working day, both which are concessions well within the bounds of reasonable adjustment.
In regards to idea that exam concessions represent contradictions within the system of meritocracy; the system of meritocracy, especially its relationship to intelligence, cannot exist without reasonable adjustment. It takes Stephen Hawking (who received extra time on his Cambridge thesis) longer than most people to say what he wants to but we do not put a half hour limit on him saying it. Murray seems to agree the emphasis exams place on expediency is not a true reflection of the workplace, which only adds to the point that performing in an exam does not necessarily reflect performance at work. The idea that employers would discriminate against someone on the speed at which they can do an exam paper is misguided.
Furthermore, some conditions, such as visual impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses or surgery, mean that it will take far longer for someone to read the text given in an exam. Statistics state that a visually-impaired person will do, on average, 10% less well than a non-visually-impaired person with the same IQ, showing that this person is no less competent in the sense of analytical skills and intelligence but only in speed reading: a very niche skill not usually required in the work place.
Rather than the DDA (and under this umbrella exam concessions) being a challenge to the system of meritocracy, it ensures that people affected by conditions that make the system of timed examinations difficult can still succeed. This is not to say they will be given unfair advantages or outperform their peers because of the concessions made. It means that people who may be unfairly excluded by the ridiculous idea that writing under time constraints is essential to any career are treated fairly and with respect to the conditions they have to live with.