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Disability Law

4 Law Schools Named in Suit By Blind Advocacy Group Over LSAC’s Online Law School Applications

Posted Jun 15, 2010 7:51 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Four law schools have been added as defendants in a California lawsuit filed last year by a blind advocacy group against the Law School Admissions Council.

The amended complaint filed last week contends that the University of California Hastings College of the Law, Chapman University School of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law and Whittier Law School, all located in California, are violating disability law by using a computerized law school application system administered by LSAC that isn't accessible to the blind and visually impaired, reports the National Law Journal.

Specifically, the suit contends that the defendants violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and state disability law by asking applicants to submit online law school applications on a system that isn't compatible with standard software used by blind and visually impaired individuals to read the information on computer screens. It seeks injunctive relief and damages.

Separately, the National Federation for the Blind complained to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division last month that nine law schools are violating the ADA by using the LSAC application system. They include the University of Chicago Law School, the University of Miami School of Law and Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Three of the four law schools named in the LSAC suit responded to National Law Journal requests for comment:

"Almost all law schools use the Law School Admissions Council application process, and Chapman University has no idea why it has been singled out to be joined to the dispute between these two parties," says the university in a written statement provided to the NLJ. "Our university is fully committed to working with students who may need accommodations for any of its academic programs, regardless of their type of disability."

At Hastings, acting chancellor and dean Leo Martinez says the law school has a separate online application for those who need one that works with echnology for the sight-impaired and believes it is in compliance with both federal and state law.

At Thomas Jefferson, law school officials say they are "coordinating with counsel for all other law schools to encourage LSAC to make the necessary changes that plaintiffs seek."

Attorney Robert Burgoyne of Fulbright & Jaworski represents LSAC. It is looking at ways to make its website more accessible, but "I don't think anything's going to happen quickly," he tells the Chronicle of Higher Education (sub. req.).

The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Daniel Goldstein of Brown Goldstein & Levy. He tells the NLJ that "subcontracting out" the online application process to LSAC doesn't relieve law schools of the obligation to comply with disability law.

Additional and related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Advocacy Group for Blind Sues Law School Admissions Council"

ABAJournal.com: "Blind Law Grads Sue Over Denied Use of Screen-Access Software on Multistate Bar Exam"

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