Current Weather
The Spy FM

Blind Law Student Claims Discrimination In Testing

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
June 15, 2011

A prospective law school student in Michigan is suing the American Bar Association over a case he argues is truly a matter of blind justice. The student says he is being denied access to top-tier law schools because of a test he says no one who’s blind could possibly pass.

The Law School Admission Test, commonly known as the LSAT, typically features more than a dozen questions where test takers are strongly encouraged to draw out a written diagram to solve the problem.

Law school hopeful Angelo Binno was born blind and has overcome many obstacles. But, the 28-year-old says, he could not overcome the low test scores he kept getting when taking the LSAT. And, because of those scores, he was rejected by the three law schools he applied to.

“But I can’t work any harder, I can’t study any harder. I can’t figure it out because I can’t draw out a diagram like a sighted person can, to figure out the answers to these questions,” Binno says.

Binno is no slouch. He graduated from his high school a year early, had an internship at a law firm after graduating, and speaks three languages. He also worked for the Department of Homeland Security before funding cutbacks led to a lay-off.

But Binno says he was stymied in his attempt to become a lawyer because the American Bar Association requires law schools to use a “valid and reliable” admissions test. Only the LSAT qualifies.

“The ABA’s supposed to be standing up for justice,” he says. “What are they standing for in this situation? I’m not saying that I should receive an automatic entrance into law school. All I’m saying is, give me a level playing field,” he says.

Binno turned to a sympathetic friend for help.

Attorney Richard Bernstein is blind, but he says he received a waiver to enter law school 15 years ago. Bernstein says shortly thereafter, the ABA revised its standards and, Bernstein claims, threatened to penalize schools that gave too many waivers or did not use the LSAT.

Now, Bernstein is suing the ABA, arguing the LSAT violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“They are basically forcing U.S. law schools to break federal law by requiring applicants to take an illegal exam. The Americans with Disabilities Act is very clear about this,” Bernstein says. “It is illegal to require someone to take an exam which, on its face, is discriminatory.”

In a written statement, the ABA says it requires universities it accredits to conform to federal law, and that accommodations are made for people with disabilities.

Those who have judged law school applications, like Wayne State University Professor David Moss, say some universities do accept students with low LSAT scores. But, Moss says, the company creating the LSAT directs that tests given with special accommodations — like those granted to blind students — should not be given the same weight as regular LSATs.

“They’ve got this flag on it that screams out, ‘Beware of this test result, it could be dangerous to your health,’” Moss says.

Schools are concerned it might damage their rankings — and prestige — in the annual ratings by U.S. News and World Report.

Donald Polden, dean of Santa Clara University Law School, chairs an ABA committee reviewing accreditation standards. He says the ABA does grant some schools exemptions from using the LSAT, but top-tier programs don’t want to risk their rankings.

“The stories are legend,” he says. “About a five or six position swing in a school has caused the loss of jobs of administrators or students to flee for other law schools.”

Polden says many on his committee think the ABA should eliminate the use of the LSAT as a prerequisite to enter any law school.

In the meantime, Angelo Binno waits for his day in court — not as the attorney he hopes he’ll eventually become, but as a plaintiff arguing that his disability should not prevent him from reaching the top ranks of his chosen profession. [Copyright 2011 WDET-FM]

Leave a Reply

11PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 6AM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

6AM to 7AM Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves

"Travel with Rick Steves" is a fun, hour-long, and practical talk show with guest experts and calls and questions from travelers. This weekly program is a lively conversation between travelers and the experts as we learn to explore our world smartly, smoothly, and thoughtfully.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center