[nfbwatlk] NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BAR EXAMINERS (NCBE) DISCRIMINATES AGAINST BLIND

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Tue Nov 3 13:50:48 CST 2009


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NEWS RELEASE


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 3, 2009





CONTACTS:

Chris Danielsen, Director of Public Relations, NFB, (410) 659-9314, ext.
2330

Scott Labarre, Labarre Law Offices, P.C., (303) 504-5979

Daniel Goldstein, Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, (410) 962-1030

Larry Paradis, Disability Rights Advocates, (510) 665-8644





NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF BAR EXAMINERS (NCBE) DISCRIMINATES AGAINST BLIND
AND LOW VISION LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES



OAKLAND, Calif. - A suit filed today in Federal court alleges that The
National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) discriminates against blind
and low vision law school graduates. The suit charges that the NCBE is
violating Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and
California's civil rights law by denying accommodations on the
Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) and the Multistate Professional Responsibility
Exam (MPRE) to a law school graduate who is blind.



The Plaintiff is represented with the support of the National Federation
of the Blind ("NFB") by Labarre Law Offices, P.C., in Denver, CO, and by
Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, in Baltimore, MD. The Plaintiff is further
represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit law
center that specializes in civil rights cases on behalf of persons with
disabilities, based in Berkeley, CA.



The NCBE provides standardized examinations for the testing of
applicants for admission to the practice of law. Two of the tests it
controls, the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE) and the Multistate Professional
Responsibility Examination (MPRE) are required for admission to the bar
by most states. The California Bar examination has two sections; a
California section and the MBE. Although both parts of the exam are
administered by the California State Bar, the NCBE controls the type of
accommodations each state can offer test takers with disabilities for
the MBE portion of the bar exam.



Even though the California State Bar is a named Defendant in the suit,
they have offered to provide the Plaintiff with all the accommodations
she requested for the California section of the bar examination.
However, the NCBE refuses to allow the California Bar Examiners to give
the Plaintiff certain of the accommodations that she needs on the MBE
portion of the bar exam. The California State Bar is fulfilling its
legal obligation and is only named in the complaint as an indispensable
party. Plaintiff hopes that the lawsuit will convince the NCBE to follow
the California State Bar's example and provide the requested
accommodations on the MBE portion of the bar exam.



The NCBE has also denied Plaintiff the accommodations at issue on the
MPRE exam.  This is a separate exam that bar applicants need to pass to
be admitted to practice.  The ACT is also named in the complaint since
it administers the MPRE examination for NCBE and is thus also an
indispensable party.



The Plaintiff Stephanie Enyart is a law school graduate who is legally
blind and requires accommodations to take the MBE and MPRE. She has
requested to take the exams on a laptop computer equipped with screen
reading (JAWS) and screen magnification (ZoomText) software. Ms. Enyart
has relied on this combination of assistive technology as an
accommodation on her exams throughout law school and in her current
legal work.



The NCBE has refused to allow Ms. Enyart these reasonable accommodations
for the MBE and MPRE on several occasions during the past years. In
recent discussions with Plaintiff's counsel, the NCBE has indicated that
it will continue to deny Ms. Enyart her requested accommodations.
Instead, the NCBE has offered alternative accommodations that are not
suited to Ms. Enyart's disability and are not effective. The NCBE's
denials of accommodations are preventing Ms. Enyart from obtaining
admission to the bar, impeding her career.



Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind
(NFB), supporting the lawsuit, said "Too often law students who are
blind or have low vision have to prolong their prospects for licensing
while they fight to get the same accommodations they've had throughout
their educational history. Those that opt to settle for inadequate
accommodations usually struggle to pass or sometimes do not pass at all.
Those who control admission to the practice of law must obey the law."



Janice Ta, President of the National Association of Law Students with
Disabilities (NALSWD), which expressed support for the lawsuit, said
"The legal profession must recognize and be prepared for the spectrum of
conditions and disabilities that law students have. Testing entities
need to be open to a wide range of accommodations. But we find that time
and again they don't seem to understand their obligation for providing
individualized accommodations and adaptive technologies that reflect the
way real law students with disabilities get tested, study, and make
their way around the world."







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