Reasonable Accommodations on the Bar Exam: Leveling the Playing Field or Providing an Unfair Advantage?
40 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2013 Last revised: 12 May 2016
Date Written: August 20, 2013
If you ask law students what they think about examination accommodations provided to students with disabilities, including learning disabilities, most students will tell you that it is unfair that some students get more time to take an examination. The misconception that accommodations provide an unfair advantage may stem from the fact that not all students understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), its purpose, and reasons why individuals receive such accommodations. In fact, the ADA has applications beyond the employment context. Specifically, the ADA ensures that students with disabilities who graduate from medical school, law school, and other professional programs cannot be discriminated against in their educational programs and are entitled to “nondiscrimination and reasonable accommodation in the licensing process.”
This article suggests, because of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADAAA”), more students should now be able to qualify for reasonable accommodations in the bar exam setting. Part One of this article discusses the background of the ADA, the Amendments and how the various state bar examinations are implicated. The New York State Bar exam, whose treatment of accommodation requests typifies state bar exam practices, is a principal focus. In Part Two, this article analyzes how courts have decided ADA cases where law graduates were either not considered to be disabled or were denied the accommodations they sought before and after the 2008 Amendments. Part Two considers whether there will be future litigation in the ADA, higher-education, bar exam setting and how courts should handle such litigation.
Keywords: Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA, ADA Amendments Act, ADAAA, bar exam, accommodations, disability, law students
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