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Blind Students Sue Law Schools Over Online Applications

Three blind students and an advocacy group have sued four California law schools, arguing that their online application system is not accessible to blind students.

The four law schools—Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Chapman University School of Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law, and Whittier College Law School—highly encourage or require students to apply through the Law School Admission Council’s Web site, which blind applicants say they must seek assistance to use. Arguing that the system amounts to discrimination, the group, the National Federation of the Blind, joined the students, Deepa Goraya, Bruce J. Sexton, and Claire Stanley, in suing the schools and the admission council.

The National Federation of the Blind and Ms. Goraya first filed suit against the admission council in February 2009, in a county superior court in California. An amended lawsuit filed Tuesday added two more blind students as plaintiffs and the four law schools as defendants, said Chris Danielsen, a spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind. The admission council’s Web site is the main application system that law schools use, he added, and the National Federation of the Blind has also filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice against nine other law schools that use the same system.

The applications on the admission council’s Web site cannot be converted to synthesized speech or Braille by the software that blind people typically use to read Web sites, according to a press release by the federation.

“I don’t think anything’s going to happen quickly,” said Robert Burgoyne, a lawyer representing the admission council. The council is looking at ways to make its site more accessible, he said, though no concrete changes are in the works yet.

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