When Adam Herjeczki, Manager, Testing Accommodations and ADA Compliance, started at NASBA, testing accommodations for CPA Exam candidates were barely scratching the surface of what it is today. Herjeczki quickly worked his way up in NASBA and soon found himself as the “go-to” person for all things related to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules and regulations, an area he quickly found he had a passion for. “I feel like even though I’m just doing my job, I am in a way advocating for people with disabilities. I’m helping these candidates advance their careers and future,” Herjeczki said. We recently interviewed Herjeczki to learn more about how he got to where he is today, why he is passionate about working in testing accommodations, how testing accommodations have changed throughout the years, and much more.
How were you connected to NASBA? What positions have you held?
I had a friend in college, Matt, who graduated a year before me and worked as a temp for Professional Credential Services (PCS), a former subsidiary of NASBA. Matt knew I was looking for a job after graduating college and put in a good word for me after applying for an interview at NASBA. Shortly after, I was hired on as a temp managed staff in January 2001. I started as a customer service representative, quickly moved into an assistant coordinator position, and shortly after that, I interviewed for a full-time position as projects coordinator in April 2001. For about 10 months, I worked diligently as a project coordinator and then became an exam coordinator (state coordinator) for Georgia and Connecticut, and this position is where I started to help out with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) management. At the time, there wasn’t anyone in this type of position, so I started assisting managers/supervisors with ADA accommodations. Eventually, NASBA created a position for me in this area, and in 2003, I became the national ADA coordinator.
In 2006, my title changed to special accommodations manager. In addition to the CPA Exam world, I took over ADA processing for eight different professions that PCS was involved in with exam administration, such as engineering, physical therapy, cosmetology, podiatry, etc. Interestingly, the phrase ‘testing accommodations’ wasn’t used until 2010. In fact, there was a movement to take out “special” and “disability,” so most organizations started using ‘testing accommodations’ instead. Then, in 2011, NASBA sold PCS, but kept me on as testing accommodations manager, and added ADA compliance as part of my role to ensure the company is complying with all ADA laws with respect to standardized testing.
Describe your role. What projects are you routinely working on at NASBA?
In my role, as far as the CPA Exam side, I am routinely processing requests and making accommodations request decisions on behalf of state boards. I am also heavily involved with the implementation of testing accommodations and securing assistive personnel.
I am also on an operations team that is planning and coming up with new accommodations, whether its technology-related or something that hasn’t been done before. To be up to date with what’s going on with our partners, I am part of the NAP (NASBA, AICPA, Prometric) Testing Accommodations Work Group, which is involved in planning and implementing new accommodations.
Why are you passionate about working in this area (testing accommodations)?
Working in testing accommodations is an acquired passion. I didn’t know coming to NASBA that I would be doing this. However, I have a passion for helping people and I feel like even though I’m just doing my job, I am in a way advocating for people with disabilities. I’m helping these candidates advance their careers and future. I also enjoy challenging work and there have been so many changes in the past years that this job is never boring as I am always learning something new.
What is your favorite part about working at NASBA?
My favorite part of NASBA is the people, the family-like environment, friendly coworkers, and our accessible, caring executive team.
Having worked at NASBA for many years now, how has testing accommodations for the CPA Exam changed since your first started?
Testing accommodations has changed a lot throughout the years! When I first started in this area, the Exam was still paper-based, which meant thousands of candidates took the test, all four sections, in two back-to-back days. Testing accommodations at the time were not standardized, so we provided what we could on a case-by-case basis, which usually meant taking the person out of the general testing room and testing him or her separately.
Once the Exam went computer-based in 2004, we had a contract with Prometric and the accommodations became standardized. In the beginning, there were 14 accommodations that could be provided to candidates. Computer-based exams allowed more flexibility for those with testing accommodations to test like a normal candidate, which was an effort on our part, so they were not singled out. Such accommodations might be something like extra time on the test, which we can build into the Exam software, or allow extra break opportunities.
The ADA was updated in 2008, and we then had to work toward complying with the new law, the ADA Amendments Act. Due to the law change, Prometric added additional standard accommodations to their testing centers, and working with the NAP team, we came up with additional standard accommodations we could provide candidates in 2011. Now, we offer about 80 different testing accommodations that are standardized across testing centers.
What is one of the biggest concerns or struggles you see with CPA candidates in your area, and what advice do you have for them?
The biggest struggle I see with candidates who have testing accommodations is their ability to pass all four sections of the CPA Exam within the 18-month timeframe. Most of the time, they are stuck on one particular section. My advice for these candidates is to keep at it and focus on a section and pass it. Shoot for as many attempts at taking the Exam as you can, and put the Exam over work and life commitments as much as you can since this is an important career accomplishment. If all else fails, try to find a good review course provider. What most people don’t know is that some of the review course providers can mimic testing accommodation requests. You just have to ask!
What resource(s) do CPA Exam candidates with testing accommodations have access to that are underutilized?
There are three resources that are currently being underutilized:
1. A lot of people don’t look at the AICPA sample tests. The AICPA recently released updated sample tests that are much better than what they were before.
2. Prometric has a list of pre-approved medical devices and items that can be brought to the test center. There may be things that candidates can bring or have with them during the Exam without having to submit a request.
3. Using the breaks that are built into the Exam is highly recommended by the AICPA and NASBA. There are four breaks and many candidates don’t use those breaks. The breaks are helpful to get away from the test and refresh your mind, especially the 15-minute mid-exam break.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in your position?
My biggest accomplishment is the implementation of JAWS screen reading software. Starting in 2011, we recommended to Prometric and AICPA that candidates who are blind or visually impaired need additional accommodations. It took five years, but in 2016 – 2017, we had three candidates successfully take the Exam using JAWS Screen Reader. This software may not seem difficult to an outsider to implement, but it took a lot of planning and collaboration to get us to the point where the CPA Exam can be delivered in a JAWS compatible format. Later on, Dragon software, voice recognition (or speech-to-text), implementation happened, and as of 2017, the CPA Exam is JAWS and Dragon compliant.
If candidates need testing accommodations, where do they go for more information?
To connect with Adam, find him on LinkedIn.
Interview By: Jenna Elkins, NASBA Communications and Digital Media Specialist
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