[Nfbc-info] Law Schools Discriminate Against Blind Applicants

Freeh, Jessica JFreeh at nfb.org
Wed May 5 14:12:37 UTC 2010



Chris Danielsen

Director of Public Relations

National Federation of the Blind

(410) 659-9314, extension 2330

(410) 262-1281 (Cell)

<mailto:cdanielsen at nfb.org>cdanielsen at nfb.org

Law Schools Discriminate Against Blind Applicants

National Federation of the Blind Files Complaints Against Nine Law Schools

Baltimore, Maryland (May 5, 2010): The National Federation of the 
Blind (NFB), the nation's oldest and largest organization of blind 
people, announced today that it has filed complaints with the United 
States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, requesting 
investigations of nine prominent law schools for violating the civil 
rights of blind and other print-disabled law school applicants.  The 
NFB filed the complaints because the law schools require applicants 
who wish to have the convenience of applying online to use a 
centralized Internet-based application process provided by the Law 
School Admissions Council (LSAC) through its Web site (www.lsac.org) 
that is inaccessible to blind law school applicants.  While sighted 
law school applicants can use the LSAC system to submit multiple law 
school applications at once, blind students must seek sighted 
assistance to use the LSAC system.  Title III of the Americans with 
Disabilities Act requires these law schools to offer equal access to 
their programs and services.  The nine law schools named in the 
complaints 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.  The 
complaints ask the Justice Department to require these law schools to 
suspend use of the LSAC application system until it is accessible to 
blind and other print-disabled students and to require each law 
school to provide the same application process in a format available 
to all students. The NFB already has a lawsuit pending against the 
LSAC for violating <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = 
"urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />California law by 
maintaining an inaccessible Web site.

Blind people access Web sites on computers equipped with screen 
access software that converts what is on the screen into synthesized 
speech or Braille.  The keyboard is used instead of a mouse to 
navigate the Web site and click on selected links or buttons.  If a

Web site is improperly coded, however, blind computer users cannot 
access or interact with the site.  The LSAC application process does 
not present information to screen access software and thus requires 
blind users to resort to sighted assistance.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, 
said: "The National Federation of the Blind expects those who control 
admission to the practice of law to obey the law.  Forcing blind law 
school applicants to use a separate and inherently unequal 
application process violates both the letter and the spirit of the 
Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation 
Act.  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."

The National Federation of the Blind is represented in this matter by 
Daniel F. Goldstein and Mehgan Sidhu of the Baltimore firm Brown, 
Goldstein, and Levy; Laurence W. Paradis, Anna Levine, and Karla 
Gilbride of the Berkley firm Disability Rights Advocates; and Scott 
C. LaBarre of the Denver firm LaBarre Law Offices.


About the National Federation of the Blind

With more than 50,000 members, the National Federation of the Blind 
is the largest and most influential membership organization of blind 
people in the United States.  The NFB improves blind people's lives 
through advocacy, education, research, technology, and programs 
encouraging independence and self-confidence.  It is the leading 
force in the blindness field today and the voice of the nation's 
blind.  In January 2004 the NFB opened the National Federation of the 
Blind Jernigan Institute, the first research and training center in 
the United States for the blind led by the blind.

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