LSAC Discriminates Against Blind Law School Applicants
National Federation of the Blind Sues Law School Admissions Council for Inaccessible Web Site and LSAT Preparation Materials
Baltimore, Maryland (February 19, 2009): The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people; its California affiliate; and a blind law school applicant, Deepa Goraya, are filing a lawsuit today against the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). The complaint asserts that the LSAC, the body that administers the Law School Admissions Test (which most aspiring law students must take) and provides other services to law schools and law school applicants, violates the California Disabled Persons Act and the Unruh Act because its Web site (www.lsac.org) and LSAT preparation materials are inaccessible to blind law school applicants. The plaintiffs have attempted to meet with the LSAC to resolve the matter, but the LSAC canceled a planned meeting.
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 the site. Blind people can also use screen readers to access certain kinds of electronic documents, including those in the popular Portable Document Format (PDF). However, if PDF files are not properly “tagged,” they cannot be used by the blind. The LSAC Web site contains accessibility barriers including improperly formatted online forms, tables and charts that cannot be read by screen access software, and faulty keyboard navigation support. These access barriers make it difficult or impossible for blind people to use the Web site to register to take the LSAT, among other things. The Web site is also the only avenue for people to apply online to any law school accredited by
the American Bar Association. However, blind applicants cannot submit their applications without sighted assistance because the application forms are improperly formatted. In addition, none of the LSAT practice materials, which include previously administered versions of the test that sighted people can obtain on the LSAC Web site, are available in accessible electronic formats.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “The Internet is extremely useful to blind people, as well as our sighted peers, when Web sites are properly formatted according to well-established guidelines; there is no good reason for any Web site offering goods and services to the public to be inaccessible to blind people. For too long, blind people have experienced barriers to entering the legal profession, despite our long history of demonstrated success in that field. The National Federation of the Blind will not sit quietly while the LSAC willfully refuses to provide the same services to blind people seeking admission to law school that it does to the sighted. The LSAC is engaging in blatant discrimination against the blind and we will not stand for it.”
Deepa Goraya, a law school applicant and named plaintiff in the suit, said: “Trying to use the LSAC Web site made the experience of applying to law school a nightmare when it should have been as easy for me as for anyone else. I had to select and rely upon a reader for over fifty hours to complete my law school applications. Also, none of the practice tests available on the Web site were accessible. I want the process of gaining admission to law school to be easier for all blind people who are interested in entering this noble profession, and I hope this action will achieve that goal.”