Are Blind Students Being Blocked From Law School?

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NFB suit filed against nine law schools

Students with disabilities face a myriad of challenges as they go through their day with most having their burdens eased due to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which mandates equal access for all on college campuses.

computerThe National Federation of the Blind, however, has found that nine law schools are making it unreasonably difficult for blind students to apply to their schools because they require all applicants to use the application process found on the Law School Admissions Council website.

NFB Complaint

That site is inaccessible to blind law school applicants and violates the civil rights of blind and other print-disabled law school applicants according to a complaint the NFB filed last week with the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

Nine law schools were named in the complaint asking the Justice Department to require them to suspend use of the LSAC application system until it is made accessible to all. The schools named in the suit are: The University of Chicago Law School, Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law, University of Miami School of Law, William Mitchell College of Law, Gonzaga University School of Law, and Northeastern University School of Law.

Accessible Websites

What makes a website accessible to blind people? The NFB explains that computers equipped with screen access software are able to convert what is on the screen into synthesized speech or Braille. Instead of using a mouse, the keyboard allows a blind person to navigate the website and click on selected links or buttons. If a website is improperly coded blind computer users cannot access or interact with the site. The NFB says that the LSAC application process does not present information to screen access software and thus requires blind users to resort to sighted assistance.

Commenting on the suit, Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said:”Accessibility standards for Web-based forms like those used in the Law School Admissions Council’s application system have been in place for years and have been successfully implemented by many other Web sites, so there is no reason why the LSAC cannot make its application service available to blind law school applicants. That is why we have asked the United States Department of Justice to act swiftly and decisively to ensure that blind law school applicants are treated the same as their sighted peers.”

Representatives from the nine affected law schools or the LSAC have yet to comment on the NFB suit.

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