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Additional LSAT Advice for Disabled Students

The LSAC, and the LSAT test it administers, must meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you are a disabled test-taker, you should insist upon all of your legal rights under the ADA and other applicable legislation.

In the opinion of this author, the LSAC has not proven itself especially friendly to disabled test-takers. As you may know, it has been the subject of private lawsuits over accommodations for the disabled. It was also sued by the U.S. Justice Department, which argued that its policies on accommodations were discriminatory and violated the ADA. (This case was settled, largely in the LSAC’s favor.) The LSAC vigorously defends its policies, insisting that they are necessary to ensure the fairness of the LSAT examination.

Accommodations that you may wish to request include: a scribe, a reader, a sign language interpreter, additional time to review the scribe’s work, additional time to complete the writing portion of the exam, additional time to take the multiple choice portion of the exam, a quiet room, a room with special features (different lighting, etc.), testing on multiple days, and the like. NOTE: This is not an exhaustive list, and everyone is different, so insist on any and all accommodations that you feel you need to take the exam on a level playing field with non-disabled test-takers.

If you are a disabled test-taker, please read and consider the following suggestions:

  1. Insist on your accommodations. You are legally entitled to them. The LSAT is perhaps the most important component of the law school admissions process. You should think carefully before taking the exam under non-accommodated conditions; do not hamper your chances for a good score.
  2. Submit your LSAT registration documents, including your request for accommodations, WELL IN ADVANCE of the deadlines. As soon as possible is not soon enough. The LSAC will take time to review your request for accommodations, and if you receive an unfavorable decision, you will have to appeal it. I advised a disabled student who had to appeal not once, but numerous times. The entire process of obtaining adequate accommodations took him nearly five months.
  3. Be prepared to document your disability with CURRENT information. The LSAC will NOT tell you what documents you need to submit to make your case for accommodations. (This fact causes a great deal of anxiety and frustration for disabled applicants.) Instead, you send in your documentation and LSAC tells you if it’s adequate. The guidelines for documentation can be found on its web site at www.lsac.org. You will find that the LSAC is not very specific about the type of medical records and affidavits required to establish your disability and need for accommodations.
  4. In general, however, you need to demonstrate at least that you (a) have a disability; that has been (b) recently documented by an appropriate medical doctor/equivalent; and that your disability is (c) linked directly to the accommodation you seek. Some students who have had their disabilities for years do not have current information describing it. Often, high schools and colleges make accommodations simply on the basis of a student’s claim of disability; most probably do not require extensive documentation.

    THE LSAC IS JUST THE OPPOSITE: IT REQUIRES YOU TO ESTABLISH YOUR DISABILITY, AND ITS LINK TO THE ACCOMMODATIONS YOU SEEK. Its standards are much tougher than your college’s or university’s. It will NOT be sufficient for you to tell LSAC that you already receive the same accommodations at your undergraduate institution. LSAC does not really care about the accommodations granted by other institutions. It is more concerned with medical documentation of your condition and how your condition affects your test-taking ability. The hard part is not establishing the disability—most students can do that through medical records. Rather, the hard part is establishing WHY your disability entitles you to the accommodations you seek.
  5. The toughest accommodation to get, it seems, is extra time. Undergraduate institutions routinely allow extra time on timed examinations, but at least in my experience, it is like pulling teeth to obtain extra time from the LSAC. Indeed, many of the lawsuits filed against LSAC have concerned its denial of extra time to mentally and physically disabled test-takers. If you are denied extra time, consider retaining a lawyer to “run interference” for you. Some disability law centers and legal aid organizations will represent you for free. Check with your school, too, to see if it provides any student legal aid.

    My disabled student had a very difficult time obtaining extra time on his LSAT examination. Specifically, he had to establish that his disability was not simply physical. My student had to be specially tested to establish that the nature of his disability was both physical and cognitive. When he was able to submit the results of this testing, he finally received the extra time accommodation. However, he paid for this testing himself, and he used a lawyer.

 


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