2023 marks 50 years since passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a major milestone in rights for people with disabilities in the United States. This milestone is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how we ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities at work and in our professional environment. The CAS is committed to building a diverse and inclusive community and enabling our members and candidates to fully participate and contribute to the advancement of the profession. This includes ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to development opportunities like actuarial exams and continuing education.
Last year, the CAS launched a short-term Disability and Accessibility Task Force made up of members and candidates who had previously requested an accommodation for a CAS exam or conference. Task Force members shared their experiences taking exams, participating in Continuing Education events and other interactions with the CAS. These conversations helped us to identify key pain points for members and candidates that could be improved upon. CAS Staff across several departments were invited to share their own challenges with respect to providing accommodations and improving accessibility for our customers, and the pain points were remarkably similar! These insights became the basis for a formal review. The CAS engaged an external consultant, Dr. Linn Jorgenson of Disability Consulting & Training, to review our current approach to accessibility and accommodations for exams and conferences and received the results of the review in June 2023. The recommendations focused on ways to increase awareness of accommodations that CAS offers, improve our processes around requesting/receiving accommodations, and provide inclusive continuing education opportunities for people with accessibility needs. Many of these recommendations have already been implemented!
1. Increasing awareness of exam accommodations: Often candidates may not even realize that CAS offers certain accommodations for exams, or may not know where to start if they need accommodations. CAS is now sending reminder emails to all candidates who have registered for a CAS exam to request any accommodations if needed. The initial Authorization to Test provided by Pearson Vue now also contains this reminder.
2. New Exam Accommodations Page: Candidates can navigate to this page on www.casact.org by hovering over the “Exams & Admissions” tab and selecting “Exam Accommodations.” Candidates with a disability as well as those who are pregnant and/or nursing can find clear instructions here for requesting accommodations for exams. After logging in, you can view and submit our new CAS Exams Accommodations request form and upload documentation, if required. The form includes a list of the most frequently requested accommodations, and a description of standard accommodations that pregnant or nursing parents can request without requiring documentation. This page also provides Pearson Vue’s Comfort Aid list, for items that do not require prior approval.
3. New Accessible Presentation Templates and Speaker Guidelines: Speakers submitting a session proposal for CAS educational events are now provided with guidelines for slides following universal design recommendations for accessibility – font types and sizes, color contrast recommendations, captions and image descriptions – that allow attendees with disabilities to more easily engage with the content presented. We also plan to provide speakers and moderators with guidelines for how to conduct their session in a way that is inclusive of people with disabilities.
In addition to those above, the CAS has implemented several enhancements to meetings and exams as standard features for everyone.
- CAS implemented 15-minute exam breaks for all four-hour exams starting with the Fall 2023 sitting to help reduce stress for all exam takers. This was in the works before our consultant review!
- CAS events now include reserved seating for attendees with disabilities to allow for ease of entry/exit, proximity to screen or stage, and sightlines to speakers or interpreters.
- Major CAS events now have designated quiet rooms and will also offer nursing rooms upon request.
- CAS webinars and On-Demand courses allow for auto-generated closed captioning, while Livestream events and Microsoft Teams events include live captioning options.
There are more enhancements to come in 2024, so stay tuned! I also encourage CAS members and candidates to share your experiences and challenges with the CAS at any time, so we can continue to improve accessibility for everyone in our actuarial community. If you would like to share your experiences, suggestions, or concerns, please reach out to Mallika Bender at email@example.com.
For questions related exam accommodations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions related to accommodations at CAS meetings or conferences, please contact email@example.com.