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73 Bar Examiner 7 (2004)


All jurisdictions provide reasonableaccommodations for applicants with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to sit for the bar examination. The provision of accommodations is primarily a result of the comprehensive federal law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“the ADA”), passed by Congress in 1990 to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The ADA protects both applicants with physical disabilities and those with mental disabilities, and accommodations include not only additional testing time, longer and more frequent breaks between testing sessions, and private testing rooms, but also other auxiliary aids and services designed to enable effective communication to and from bar examination applicants.

Prior to the adoption of the ADA in 1990, jurisdictions provided accommodations primarily to applicants with physical disabilities, including visual and motor impairments. While applicants have continued to request accommodations for physical disabilities under the ADA, the more challenging cases for bar examiners arise when applicants claim they have mental impairments, as those impairments are not always easily diagnosed or documented. A more detailed discussion of how the ADA affects testing accommodations for bar examination applicants follows, with recommendations as to how bar examiners should address requests for accommodations from applicants with disabilities.