Solicitors Regulation Authority bans assistive technology in its exams

14th May 2021

Read our policy position on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s decision to ban the use of assistive technology in its exams from September 2021.

What is the issue

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and its exam provider Kaplan have taken the decision to bar the use of assistive technology (including Jaws and dragon) in the Solicitors Qualifying Examination part 1.

Students will only be allowed the use of an amanuensis to read the questions and write the answers for them, rather than being able to complete the exam independently using assistive technology.

Our position

We believe this decision by the SRA is extremely concerning and threatens to place blind and partially sighted students at a significant disadvantage when sitting the exam.

In our experience of supporting students, we have found that students who are allowed to sit an exam independently using their preferred assistive technology are more able to achieve their best results. The SRA’s decision to bar the use of assistive technology in its exams places an unnecessary barrier to a student’s educational and career attainment.

In previous cases where we have supported students who sat similar exams, it is clear that the use of assistive technology can be implemented and does not have to invalidate or compromise the integrity of the exam.

The SRA’s insistence on students being forced to use an amanuensis/reader is an unacceptable policy. It does not take into account that how a blind or partially sighted student takes in, absorbs and responds to information can vary from person to person. Any approaches to exams must acknowledge this.

It is not enough to provide a specialist person to act as a reader and writer, whilst not considering the wider disadvantage this approach places on the student. To do so is, in our view, effectively a breach of the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

What we are doing

In partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), we are calling upon the SRA and Kaplan to explore a standard approach or set of principles that can be adopted to allow students to access all agreed support and reasonable adjustments they are entitled to when sitting the Solicitors Qualifying Examination part 1, or any other exams.

We have written to the SRA to raise our concerns and have called on them to meet with us to discuss the issue further.

Read the letter here


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