Elsewhere: Blind student wins computer aid for bar exam Chron
A federal judge in San Francisco today ordered a national bar exam organization to provide technological aids requested by a blind law school graduate who plans to take the test next month.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted a preliminary injunction sought by Stephanie Enyart, 32, of Berkeley, against the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
Breyer said, “In this case, the just thing to do is to grant the injunction.
“A disability should not prevent an individual from pursuing their dream, if that’s what it is of practicing law,” the judge said.
Enyart, 32, graduated from law school at University of California at Los Angeles last year and wants to take the state bar examination beginning on Feb. 23 so that she can practice law in California.
Enyart began suffering from macular degeneration beginning at age 15 and has now lost most of her vision and is considered legally blind.
She says that in order to read material on a computer effectively, she needs a combination of magnified text and a software program that reads portions of the text aloud.
The California State Bar agreed to allow her to use the technology combination for a portion of the exam, but the National Conference of Bar Examiners refused to allow her to use it for two other sections controlled by the national group.
The group contends that Enyart’s plan would endanger security of the material and that other accommodations it offered would meet the requirements of the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act. The law mandates reasonable accommodations.
The adaptations offered by the conference included a human reader, a scribe to write down her answers and/or magnified text.
Breyer said he believes the security problems can be met if the committee sends the laptop and CD to be used directly to the testing center. He ordered lawyers on both sides to meet next week to work out details of the plan and said he will then issue a written order.
Outside of court, Enyart said, “I’m glad I now have the luxury of just worrying about the bar exam” itself.
Enyart said she needs the combination of the visual and auditory assistance because she grew up learning to read visually and has not learned how to rely solely on her hearing to process information.
She said she can use her remaining peripheral vision to read short items of highly magnified text, but suffers eye fatigue and nausea after five minutes. The combination of magnification and the auditory software enable her to navigate from one to the other without becoming fatigued, she said.
Enyart said she used the combined technology in law school and now uses it at her job as a legal assistant working on issues concerning disabled homeless people at Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley.
Breyer turned down a request from Gregory Tenhoff, a lawyer for the committee, for a stay while the group appeals. Outside of court, Tenhoff declined to comment.