Have you ever noticed how some among us would immediately jump to litigation as the solution to every issue? And how others, on the opposite end of the spectrum, would never consider such a thing; after all, aren't all problems simply solutions in need of some diplomacy?
The more realistic view is, of course, somewhere in between. You have to be willing to back up your talk with action, if need be. And yet, immediately tossing over your lawyer's business card at the first sign of a disagreement can be a little less than helpful, to put it mildly.
Which is why I appreciated this story in the Fall 2008issue of the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada National newsletter. In "One Family's Successful Challenge of an Unfair Policy", Dr. David F. Philpott writes about a 15-year-old high school student in Newfoundland who had been assessed as intellectually gifted with a co-existing written output disability.
For many years, Brad had used a laptop with MS Word to take notes and complete projects, with good results. But in his first year of high school he was told that his support plan would have to be changed to "reflect a narrower set of accommodations for public exams". Apparently provincial policy limited accommodations on public exams to software programs like MS WordPad on the basis that the spell check and grammar features provided an unfair advantage. When discussion was ineffective and no one was able to provide the exact value that spelling and grammar had on the exams, Brad's family instituted a complain with the Human Rights Commission.
Unfortunately, as anyone who has had any experience with such claims will tell you, the human rights process can be painfully slow. The complaint was imitated in 2006 and when, despite the family's focus on a settlement, it was clear that none would be reached, the decision was made to take the case forward to a hearing. But by the fall of 2007, the term of the Commission's adjudicators had expired and a new panel had not yet been appointed. And Brad was in his final year of high school, where his exam marks would determine his post-secondary options.