National Conference of Bar Examiners Discriminates Against Blind Law School Graduates
Blind Law School Graduates File Complaint Against NCBE
Baltimore, Maryland (June 2, 2010): Three blind law school graduates registered to take the Maryland general bar exam in July 2010—Timothy R. Elder, Anne P. Blackfield, and Michael B. Witwer—filed a complaint today against the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint was filed because the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a section of the General Bar Examination that is offered and disseminated through the NCBE, is inaccessible to the blind. Recent law school graduates must take and pass the General Bar Examination to qualify to practice law in the state of Maryland.
Each plaintiff asked the Maryland State Board of Law Examiners to take all parts of the General Bar Examination, including the MBE, on a computer equipped with screen access software, which converts what is on the screen into synthesized speech and magnified text. The Maryland Board agreed to grant the accommodations for the MBE if NCBE allowed it to do so. NCBE, however, refuses to allow the requested accommodations.
Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “As we have said before, those who control admission to the practice of law must themselves obey the law. It is unconscionable that NCBE would engage in blatant discrimination against the blind and deny graduates the accommodations that they need to compete on an equal playing field with their sighted peers. We will work tirelessly to ensure that all blind people are given their lawful right to take the bar exam and continue with their respective careers.”
The plaintiffs are represented with the support of the National Federation of the Blind by Daniel F. Goldstein and Mehgan Sidhu of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein, and Levy; Laurence W. Paradis, Anna Levine, and Karla Gilbride of the Berkley firm Disability Rights Advocates; and Scott C. LaBarre of the Denver firm LaBarre Law Offices.