Disability Law

9th Circuit Rules Blind Law Grad Can Use Computer Aids, Despite Hacking Fears


A blind UCLA law grad should able to take the California bar exam using computer equipment that gives her the best chance of passing, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Stephanie Enyart should be able to use special equipment that magnifies the text and reads the words aloud into earbuds, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The National Conference of Bar Examiners had objected to the equipment because of fears that hackers could access test questions. Instead, the NCBE had offered to accommodate Enyart by giving her a Braille version of the test, a live reader, an audio recording of the questions, and enlarged type, according to the opinion (PDF).

Enyart suffers from a juvenile form of macular degeneration and extreme sensitivity to light. She took the multistate test twice last year, and passed only the legal ethics portion.

The opinion, which affirmed a district court injunction, cited the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also upheld Justice Department regulations that require licensing tests to offer accommodations that best allow the disabled to demonstrate their skills.

The NCBE had argued it offered aids expressly identified in the ADA, regulations and a Justice Department settlement, so it should not be required to do more. “We do not find this argument persuasive,” the 9th Circuit said. “The issue in this case is not what might or might not accommodate other people with vision impairments, but what is necessary to make the [multistate bar exams] accessible to Enyart given her specific impairment and the specific nature of these exams.”

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