The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is intended to ensure that high-stakes standardized tests such as those necessary for college admission, credentialing and certification are offered in an accessible manner. The law and associated regulations focus on ensuring that the test is accessible so that the resulting grade reflects the individual's ability rather than his/her disability. Many applicants find that the process of requesting and applying for accommodations is extremely burdensome and often ends without the applicant receiving the necessary accommodations. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has, in its Press Release, announced that it is committed to enforcing the law, that it will take action, and that it will protect the rights of individuals with disabilities.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Justice Department Seeks to Intervene in Lawsuit Against Law School Admission Council to Protect Rights of Individuals with Disabilities
The Justice Department announced today that it seeks to intervene in a class action lawsuit against the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) in federal court in San Francisco to remedy violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The lawsuit, The Department of Fair Employment and Housing v. LSAC, Inc., et al., charges LSAC with widespread and systemic deficiencies in the way it processes requests by people with disabilities for testing accommodations for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). As a result, the lawsuit alleges, LSAC fails to provide accommodations where needed to best ensure that those test takers can demonstrate their aptitude and achievement level rather than their disability.
The department’s proposed complaint identifies additional victims of LSAC’s discriminatory policies and details LSAC’s routine denial of accommodation requests, even in cases where applicants have submitted thorough supporting documentation from qualified professionals and demonstrated a history of testing accommodations.
The department further alleges that LSAC discriminates against prospective law students with disabilities by unnecessarily “flagging” test scores obtained with certain testing accommodations in a way that identifies the test taker as a person with a disability and discloses otherwise confidential disability-related information to law schools during the admissions process. LSAC’s practice of singling out persons with disabilities by flagging their scores – essentially announcing to law schools that examinees who exercise their civil right to the testing accommodation of extended time may not deserve the scores they received – is discrimination prohibited by the ADA. The department’s proposed complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory damages and a civil penalty against LSAC.
“Credentialing examinations, such as the LSAT, are increasingly the gateway to educational and employment opportunities, and the ADA demands that each individual with a disability have the opportunity to fairly demonstrate their abilities so they can pursue their dreams,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department’s participation in this action is critical to protecting the public interest in the important issues raised in this case.”
One of the victims identified in the complaint, for example, has severe visual impairments and previously received special education services at a school for people who are blind. Even though she provided LSAC with extensive medical documentation of her conditions, as well as proof that she had received testing accommodations since kindergarten, LSAC denied nearly all her requested accommodations, and even refused to provide her a large print test book. When she tried to appeal the denial, LSAC informed her that she had missed the deadline for reconsideration. She then reapplied two more times for testing accommodations, resubmitting all the information previously provided to LSAC, as well as additional medical documentation. Despite her extensive history of receiving the very same testing accommodations throughout her educational career and on standardized tests, and in disregard of the recommendations of a qualified professional, LSAC refused her requested testing accommodations on three separate occasions.
“The action taken in this case demonstrates the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s commitment to ensuring equal access to educational opportunities for everyone,” said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.
Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public accommodations and by entities that offer examinations or courses related to applications, licensing, certification, or credentialing for secondary or postsecondary education, professional, or trade purposes. The ADA mandates that testing entities administer examinations in an accessible manner. This requires testing entities to administer examinations, such as the LSAT, so as to best ensure that, when the examination is administered to a person with a disability, the examination results accurately reflect his or her aptitude or achievement level, or whatever other factor the examination purports to measure, rather than the individual’s disability. In addition, Title V of the ADA prohibits any entity from coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with an individual’s exercise or enjoyment of a right granted by the ADA.
Those interested in finding out more about federal disability rights laws may call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD), or access its ADA website at www.ada.gov. ADA complaints may be filed by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.