Judge rules in favor of law student who is blind

Deanna Jones, a third-year student at Vermont Law School, is allowed to use a laptop with certain electronic screen reading programs to take a test required for her to practice  law in her home state, a judge ruled August 2.

Jones, who is legally blind and also has a learning disability, sued the National Conference of Bar Examiners in July after it refused to allow her to use the programs to accompany her on the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. According to an Associated Press article, the NCBE had argued that the use of electronic assistance would compromise the security of the test and proposed letting her take the test in Braille, in enlarged print, and with the use of an audio CD.

Product Package for ZoomText screen reading software
Screen Reader Software

The U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont ruled that the NCBE’s actions constituted discrimination against Jones, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, because the use of the requested programs qualified as a reasonable accommodation. Beginning a decade ago at age 30, the programs have allowed Jones, who originally dropped out of college, to return to her academic studies and develop an interest in disability law. The NCBE is expected to appeal.

Jones took the test August 5 with the use of ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, which magnifies text, and Kurzweil 3000 screen reader, which reads the text aloud, according to the article.

“I just sort of broke into a fit of bawling for a moment,” she told the Associated Press shortly after completing the exam. “It was unbelievable to me what it had taken just to be able to sit in that chair.”

The National Federation of the Blind represented Jones in the lawsuit.

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