[blindlaw] Accessibility of bar exams and bar review courses

Aser Tolentino agtolentino at gmail.com
Mon May 13 05:20:21 UTC 2013

Hi Elizabeth,
I took the 2010 California Bar Exam and went with BarMax, which was brand new at the time and gave people willing to try it a ridiculous deal. Their materials are all contained on the phone. You select a subject and are presented with an outline you can scroll through and an audio player for the corresponding lecture. The app also includes their suggested study calendar, multiple-choice, essay and performance test practice, and notecards. They also email you watermarked electronic copies of the calendar, skeleton outlines for notetaking and essay and performance test questions with and without answers. Their two month schedule was pretty easy with morning and afternoon blocks for the eight weeks leading up to the exam; I even modified it by adding a break to attend a wedding. They offer courses for California, New York, and the UBE for $999.99 and just the MBE for $499.99. For some reason, apps are not universal, so if you buy the native iPad version it won't work on your phone, but of course that isn't true the other way around. Like other services, they offer a free MPRE course you can use to get a feel for how their app works. They had no idea what VoiceOver was when I contacted them about a demo before the MPRE app was out, so I guess the app's remarkable degree of accessibility was entirely coincidental to their wanting to build an easy to navigate interface, but as far as I know they haven't done anything to ruin it since.
I took the exam with a reader and scribe, with a proctor observing over the course of six days that I don't remember all that well. The worst part of doing it this way was the performance exams, since the reader essentially had to read for the better part of an hour (or more) to get through all the material. Only when the proctor mentioned it did I realize I could have at least asked for a note taker. The reader was very obliging though in reading back specific passages and the scribe was very patient too. Having done the practices with an electronic prompt and a laptop, the whole thing on the actual exam days proved a little slower and uncertain. It all worked out though, leaving me only the minor concern of finding a paying job.
I hope that helps in some way, or that you'll let me know if I can clear anything up.

Good luck,

On May 12, 2013, at 9:29 PM, "Bill Spiry" <b.s.spiry at gmail.com> wrote:

> Elizabeth, the short version...
> I used BARBRI. , I think I helped them get their online materials and tools
> into semi accessible condition. Their stuff is not bad now. I got all the
> study materials electronically and I also used their iOS app extensively for
> prep on multi state materials. Basically drilled the M/C questions during
> any spare time traveling or waiting. Barbri essay prep was challenging, I
> took the course at the 8 week "PACE" schedule pace and it was a real push.
> Always felt like I wasn't doing enough because there were not enough hours
> in the day. The BARBRI PACE program was not terribly friendly for someone
> without vision, I spent too much time just trying to translate it into
> something I could work with. Finally, I stopped worrying about the "PACE"
> curriculum  and just focused on a few areas I knew were shaky for me.
> ultimately, I passed the first try and that is the proof in the pudding I
> suppose. I also used BARBRI's prep materials for the MPRE, the iOS app was a
> real help there. I found I could use any time to drill and it paid off. I
> had a strong score on the MPRE. 
> As to accommodations for the exams themselves...
> For the MPRE, getting accommodation from NCBA was a real PITA. After it got
> to the point of a near trigger pull on another lawsuit, I finally got a
> degree of grudging cooperation from someone and worked out taking the MPRE
> on a computer configured with JAWS, using a Word version of the booklet that
> I could mark and review myself. I transferred answers to the bubbles with
> the help of an assistant from NCBA.
> For the bar itself, the Oregon bar was great to work with. They actually
> helped advocate for me when I ran into some resistance from the NCBA on
> formats and process for the multi state section of the exam (NCBA actually
> tried to backtrack from what they had allowed for me on the MPRE, the twits
> are slow learners.). in the end, I received the accommodations I requested.
> If you'd like to discuss or have questions, feel free to give me a call.
> Bill Spiry
> Attorney at Law
> (541) 510-2623
> Bill.spiry at gmail.com 
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> -----Original Message-----
> From: blindlaw [mailto:blindlaw-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Angie
> Matney
> Sent: Sunday, May 12, 2013 7:28 PM
> To: Blind Law Mailing List
> Subject: Re: [blindlaw] Accessibility of bar exams and bar review courses
> I forgot to add that I received the Bar/Bri course on an iPod Nano with
> speech enabled. The Kaplan course lectures came on CDs or DVDs.
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Elizabeth Rene" <emrene at earthlink.net>
> To: <blindlaw at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Sunday, May 12, 2013 9:55 PM
> Subject: [blindlaw] Accessibility of bar exams and bar review courses
>> Hi all,
>> Many of us have recently taken bar examinations, and most likely have used
>> bar review courses to prepare for them.  We've all cheered for those 
>> who've passed, and we all remember the struggles of those who've had to 
>> litigate to get reasonable accommodations from the NCBE.
>> I was so pumped up after my February exam (the first in Washington given 
>> in Braille) that I looked into taking another state's exam just to enhance
>> my credentials.
>> I learned through  the Internet that almost every state requires the 
>> Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), the Multistate Essay Exam (MEE), the Multistate
>> Performance Test (MPT), and the Multistate Professional Responsibility 
>> Exam (MPRE).  All of these tests have been developed by the National 
>> Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE), but are given by each state along with
>> any local components.  A few states have agreed to give the Uniform Bar 
>> Exam (UBE--which contains all of the above tests) and honor raw data 
>> scores from each others' examinees, but all other states make would-be 
>> lawyers  write each exam in the original when applying for their licenses.
>> Had enough alphabet soup yet?
>> Starting this July, Washington State will be giving the UBE, along with 
>> the Washington Law Component (WLC),, a 60-question, online, open book 
>> multiple choice test self-administered by the examinee, who will be given 
>> 15 or so subject outlines of Washington law whose approach is unique to 
>> our state.
>> There now, the last spoonful of ABC's , if you've not already choked.
>> Until now, Washington's test has consisted of 24 timed essays, 18 in 
>> substantive law and 6 on Washington's professional conduct rules, written 
>> within a mandatory character count.
>> I took my bar review course from BARBRI, who gave me Braille subject 
>> outlines and practice essay questions.  The Braille was pretty sloppy, but
>> it was Braille, and I got it on time.  They'd contracted with the Disabled
>> Student Services of Southern Illinois University to produce it.
>> In March, I asked whether Braille was available for the California, Texas,
>> or Minnesota bar exams, and learned that there was none.  I'd need a 
>> warehouse to hold it, I was told, if produced.  Turns out that I'm the 
>> only person whose asked Barbri for Braille in recent memory.
>> My Internet searches have turned up no bar review courses that even 
>> mention the ADA, much less offer Braille.  The NCBE offers study aids and 
>> practice exams online and through its store, but no reference to Braille 
>> is made for these.  I do know that NCBE does offer Braille for the bar 
>> exams themselves.
>> So, given all the above, what have each of you done to prepare for and 
>> take the bar exam?  Whose courses did you use?  Did you get Braille 
>> materials, use speech alone, study through your smart phones, or use 
>> Braille displays? Did you answer with your laptop, dictate to your 
>> proctor, or do something else?  And how did you judge in advance what time
>> you'd need for the performance test?
>> And why is ExamSoft getting away with making inaccessible test software 
>> when every law school and state bar association using it has to obey the 
>> ADA?
>> I got sick in mid-April and didn't follow through on my own project.  Now 
>> it seems I may need to take all those multistate tests anyway,since I've 
>> just missed passing Washington's last essay exam.
>> So would you share your experiences with me, please?  I'm now fascinated 
>> with this whole subject of across the country lawyer testing, reciprocity 
>> and lack thereof, and accessibility.
>> Heartfelt thanks.
>> Elizabeth
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> om
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