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Court Says National Bar Examiners Violated ADA

(CN) - A legally blind UCLA School of Law graduate has won another round in her fight to force the National Conference of Bar Examiners Inc. (NCBE) to allow her to use screen-reading and screen-magnification software to take the California Bar Exam.

Stephanie Enyart suffers from macular degeneration and retinal dystrophy because of Stargardt's Disease, and has been legally blind since the age of fifteen.

She requested that accommodations be made so that she could take the CBE, but the NCBE denied her requests, citing fears that Enyart could easily record questions on the test for use in the multi-state bar exam.

Enyart sued, and her claims have been upheld by both the US District Courtand the 9th District Court of Appeals.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted summary judgment for Ms Enyart on Tuesday.

In his 27-page ruling, Judge Breyer pointed to the 9th District's previous rulings, Ms Enyart's expert witnesses, and NCBE's inability to substantiate claims that it would be unduly burdened financially and administratively by accommodating Enyart.

Breyer also found that "NCBE has violated the ADA and the Unruh Act... (and) these violations are ongoing." The judge ordered NCBE to provide Ms Enyart with screen reading and screen magnification software on any future tests she might have to take.

Anna Levine, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates which represented the plaintiff along with Brown, Goldstein, and Levy LLP of Baltimore and the Labarre Law Offices in Denver said in a statement, "Judge Breyer's decision vindicates Stephanie Enyart's request to take the bar exam on a computer, so that she can be tested on what other examinees are tested on, rather than on how well she uses an unfamiliar reading method. We only wish that NCBE had not fought this simple, justified request so aggressively over the past two years."

"This case sought to remove barriers to employment facing individuals with disabilities," said Larry Paradis, president and co-director of litigation for DRA. "Now the federal district court has brought the case to a conclusion by granting Ms. Enyart summary judgment that the accommodations she seeks are required by law....and (we) hope this sends a message to the testing industry people with disabilities are entitled to full access on high-stakes exams."

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