Paul L. Caron
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Thursday, April 28, 2022

Disabling Ableism In Legal Education: Law Students With Disabilities Are Often Torn Between Trying To Fit In And Seeking Accommodations

Law.com, 'I Felt Afraid to Ask': Law Students With Disabilities Are Often Torn Between Trying to Fit In and Seeking Accommodations:

This is the first installment of a new Law.com series called, “Disabling Ableism: Making the Legal Profession More Accessible," which aims to highlight both the challenges and opportunities law students with disabilities face before, during and after law school, as well as how the legal industry can better embrace disability as a form of diversity.

“There is a stigma that a person in a wheelchair is slow or not capable” of succeeding in law school, Ron Kort, who is a 1L at New York Law School pursing his second graduate degree, told Law.com recently.

But Kort, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, added: “the argument can be that [people with a disability are] some of most loyal and battletested people out there.”

Those currently in (or applying to) law school and those working in the profession struggle between trying to fit in to an incredibly competitive environment and trying to get the accommodations they need while fighting the constant worry that they will be viewed as less capable.

“I can do anything you can, but I may need to do it a little differently,” La Shuana Cole, a Bronx assistant district attorney who has a visual impairment due to cancer, told Law.com.

There is a strong desire among people with disabilities to be treated the same as everyone else, Haley Moss, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 and was sworn in to the Florida bar in January 2019 after graduating from the University of Miami School of Law, told Law.com.

Cole acknowledged this as well, saying that she has always been “treated so differently by my family because of my visual impairment that I felt resistant to accept accommodations [in law school] because I didn’t want people to view me in that way.”

suggests that between 2.5% and 3.5% of law school graduates self-identify as having a disability, according to 2Civility, an Illinois-based commission devoted to eliminating bias within the legal profession.

Beth Karp, director of accommodations at the National Disabled Law Students Association (NDLSA), added that “you can get a very rough estimate of the percentage of disabled law students using [Law School Admission Council] data.” In a 2016-2017 report, LSAC reported having “3,789 test-takers who requested accommodations out of 113,583 overall, coming out to about 3%.”

Beth Karp, director of accommodations at the National Disabled Law Students Association (NDLSA), added that “you can get a very rough estimate of the percentage of disabled law students using [Law School Admission Council] data.” In a 2016-2017 report, LSAC reported having “3,789 test-takers who requested accommodations out of 113,583 overall, coming out to about 3%.”

A 2011 American Bar Association report states that 5,292 (3.4%) of the 157,598 law students at ABA-accredited law schools requested accommodations, according to the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law’s 2011 Goal III Report.

“The range of disabilities is so broad, and often the stigma attached to self-reporting is so strong, that there are many who might prefer to not openly reveal their disabilities,” according to 2Civility.

That stigma is what often stops law students and prospective law students with disabilities from seeking accommodations.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2022/04/disabling-ableism-in-legal-education-law-students-with-disabilities-are-often-torn-between-trying-to.html

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