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March 01, 2012

ABA Urges Better Disability Accommodations for Administering Law School Admission Tests

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III expressed support March 1 for efforts to ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided appropriate accommodations when taking law school admission tests.

In letters to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Robinson emphasized that “it is imperative that students with disabilities have fair and equal access to law school admission tests and the legal profession.”

The ABA adopted policy on the issue in February following release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report commissioned by Miller and Stark.

The report revealed that individuals with disabilities face barriers applying for test-taking accommodations and that some students with disabilities had to forgo taking exams with accommodation due to outright denials or extensive delays in the approval process. Barriers highlighted in the report include difficulty understanding all the needed paperwork, considerable costs for individuals to obtain reevaluations required by testing companies, the duration of time for approval, and the subjectiveness of testing companies in granting accommodations.

The report also noted that the Justice Department has clarified regulations on testing accommodations that are designed to make the process less burdensome and timelier for students in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but that the department lacks a strategic approach to enforcement.

In his letters, Robinson pointed out that the GAO report confirms concerns that the ABA Commission on Disability Rights has been hearing from individuals with disabilities about the process. The ABA policy recommends steps to ensure that test administrators comply with the ADA and existing DOJ regulatory standards.

These include ensuring that the application process, the scoring of the test and the reporting of test scores are consistent for all applicants and do not differentiate on the basis that an applicant received an accommodation for a disability.

The policy also urges that entities make policies, guidelines and administrative procedures used for granting accommodations readily accessible to those with disabilities; give notice to applicants within a reasonable period of time whether or not requested accommodations have been granted; and provide a fair process for timely reconsideration of the denial of requested accommodations.

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