Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against University Interests
Disability accommodations serve the interests of the University in a variety of ways, and anything that penalizes, prevents, or causes students not to seek appropriate accommodations (such as fear of forced or unauthorized disclosure, or an "asterisk" on their grades) is harmful to these interests. Just a few of these interests:
- legal and ethical obligations to serve disabled students (Americans With Disability Act of 1990 in the US, FERPA, civil rights laws, among multiple others, and many more in other nations). Office of Civil Rights gives very specific, related advise on what should and should not appear on a transcript in primary/secondary education, which is similar in many respects to post-secondary education:
May special notations, including asterisks or other symbols, appear on a transcript for a student with a disability who received
accommodations in general education curriculum classes? In general,
no. Because the use of accommodations generally does not reflect a
student’s academic credentials and achievement, but does identify the
student as having a disability, it would be a violation of Section 504
and Title II for a student’s transcript to indicate that the student
received accommodations in any classes. For example, a notation
indicating the use of Braille materials is not related to whether that
student mastered all the tenth grade objectives for her literature
class. The only purpose of such a notation is to identify that
student as having a visual impairment. Because accommodations are
generally understood to include aids and adjustments to enable a
student with a disability to learn and demonstrate knowledge, this
notation could identify the student as having a disability and
therefore constitute different treatment on the basis of disability.
- legal and ethical obligations to protect private medical information (dozens of laws restrict and control medical information in most parts of the world)
- ethical obligations to assist under-served and at-risk populations (unemployment rates of the disabled are often twice that of the general population, due to both unavoidable restrictions from the disability and unlawful discrimination)
- practical interest of the University in having more enrolled students (tuition, etc) would be reduced by not sufficiently accommodating disabled populations
- practical interest of the University in having access to the best and brightest students, regardless of disability status - losing a brilliant and talented student because you didn't provide a wheelchair ramp, or testing accommodations for someone with dyslexia, or a reader for someone with other vision impairment, would be purely counter-productive
- practical interests of ease of assessment for instructors. Most tests are designed as "power tests", where time should be more than sufficient for all students, and having more time would not improve your score (you either know the material or you don't). Practical issues of room availability and class scheduling limit the time slots available, so rather than give everyone 4 hours when most don't need it, holding the room and instructor (and possibly torturing students who will not benefit from the extra time, but feel compelled to stay until the last minute to review and obsess over answers), it's simply easier to only give extra time to those who really need it to be assessed fairly.
- revealing accommodations would have the de facto perverse incentive of discouraging students from getting assistance that would help them succeed in University, and hopefully also in life beyond, as they would correctly fear this private information would be required to be disclosed, potentially harming their future careers. They would thus be positively encouraged by the University to suffer and be more likely to fail, in violation of all of the above reasons for the University to provide appropriate accommodations in the first place.
- as a simple matter of marketing, it would be hard to imagine how the University would want to risk it being known that they will take your money for years, claim to accommodate you and give you an equitable education, and then mark your transcript in such a way that it could make it harder for you to find a job
- Universities often report and are judged partly on their placement rates (unemployment) of their own alumni, and providing any information on their graduates that could risk making it hard for them to find an retain gainful employment - especially by making it easier to discriminate unlawfully against their own alumni - would be a remarkably self-destructive stance to take without a compelling good reason
It's just better for the University, selfishly, to provide appropriate accommodations - even if you remove legal compulsion to do so. Of course, you can't actually ignore that - there are laws at multiple levels that restrict how a University must handle such things as medical records, including anything that would disclose a medical condition or disability. Saying that the transcript would only be disclosed on student request does not magically absolve them of their responsibilities, or legal and ethical duties under the law.
Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against Business Interests
Requesting transcripts is generally safe under the law as it is easily defended as having a legitimate business interest, while at the same time not exposing the business to information they are legally prohibited from considering. Adding an indicator of disability accommodation to a transcript would have a perverse incentive of making it legally dangerous and inadvisable to accept or consider transcripts at all.
Why? At least in the US, employers are partially protected from discrimination claims by making it clear that they did not have access to, request, or accept information that could be used to engage in unlawful discrimination, such as receiving medical diagnosis data, disability information beyond disclosure of a requirement for reasonable accommodation under the law, etc. Heck, even credit reporting agencies must take steps to mask medical collection data to prevent disclosing anything related to a diagnosis. Simply having an indicator on a transcript means that the business can be expected to conclude, by any reasonable person standard, that the applicant must have had (or now has) some form of disability that previously required an accommodation. Their decision making is now tainted, and they cannot plausibly claim they didn't even know about the disability and thus couldn't be discriminating on that basis.
When it comes to information you are legally prohibited from considering, it is simply better that you not have the information. Otherwise it is far easier to establish a prima facie case of discrimination, exposing your enterprise to very real penalties and expense. It would thus be wise for the business to stop accepting transcripts entirely, to avoid even the possible appearance of impropriety.
Finally, as a practical matter, it is not in the interest of business itself to discriminate when reasonable accommodations in the current workplace were in fact 'reasonable' or not necessary at all. It is simply better that agents do the best they can to pick proper employee placements, and giving them access to information they should not consider (legally, ethically, or practically) harms their ability to make good decisions that are in the best interests of the business itself.
Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against Student Interests
Disability disclosure is a difficult decision (where, when, who, and if to disclose at all) that is hard for anyone with a disability to make. If anyone, such as the University, will be revealing that information to others - or de facto revealing it to others by stamping official transcripts with such identifying information, even if not fully specific - then students must reasonably struggle with whether or not they should disclose to the University at all. This makes it harder for them to make a decision that is best for them, and makes it harder to get accommodations that would benefit their education, lives, and careers.
Further, a de facto required further disclosure of such medical status to attempt to seek employment effectively robs the student of a measure of their basic human right to privacy, dignity, and self-determination. You could say that an employer might want to use the information to further their own agenda, but you must inevitably admit that this is explicitly done to reduce the effective power and control of individual students over their own disclosure and records. Whether you think that is an acceptable trade off or not, it is clear that this would be against the interests of students with disabilities at the very least.
If the business has a compelling reason to care about how fast someone can complete a given type of assignment, they are absolutely free to conduct or require their own assessment. They would need to be ready to defend it's bona fide business interests, among other legal considerations, but it is a common enough practice if appropriately narrowly tailored to the actual requirements of the business.
Revealing Disability Accommodations Is Against Wider Societal Interests
As evidenced by numerous laws protecting the rights of the disabled - and by extension every one of us, as we may all develop such a disability at any time in our lives, temporarily or permanently - there is a wider societal interest in ensuring anyone in need of reasonable accommodations receives them, both in education (at all levels) and in employment, with full dignity and without discrimination. To have capable members of our society rendered unable to contribute for any reason other than inevitable necessity, is a waste of human potential to contribute to themselves, to their communities, and to the whole of our civilization. Morality compels us instead to charity, lest these otherwise capable people be rendered destitute and homeless, which is a far inferior result by any modern measure. The mere possibility of such outcomes as discarding human life and potential also makes real a fear that the very same fate will befall us, as factors outside our control could wrack us at any moment - compelling us to act out of personal interest, if not out of moral compulsion.
It is thus possible that there could even be a compelling business reason for an individual to use medical, disability, or accommodation information to discriminate against a person for their own business's profitable gain; yet this does not mean that we need to enable such a discrimination through our institutions or personal action. There are lots of things that could bring a few people profit at the expense of our society, ethics, and personal/collective rights, and it is part of our job as citizens to decide if we should compel - or even passively permit - such activity. Over the last century, modern societies have consistently ruled that discrimination of this type - even if individual actors might actively want to engage in it - is harmful and should be put down, for the good of all of us (collectively and individually).