Monday, May 16, 2005

Using California Law to Get Accommodations on the MCAT

See this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. A taste:

An Oakland judge has cleared the way for California students with learning disorders to use the state's powerful disability law to seek more time on the nationwide entrance exam for medical schools.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw ruled Thursday that California law, which provides broader protections for the disabled than the comparable federal law, governs a suit filed last July against the Association of American Medical Colleges.

He said the ruling could give some California students an advantage over test-takers in other states, but the testing board could make a notation on their scores to alert medical school admissions officers. A lawyer for the disabled students did not object to that procedure, which is already used for students who qualify for accommodations under federal law.

* * *

The suit was filed on behalf of students with conditions such as dyslexia who submitted their medical and educational records to the association and asked for accommodations on the test but were turned down on the grounds that they weren't severely disabled. The most common accommodation is additional time, typically 50 percent more than the time allowed to other students, Tollafield said.

Test administrators "take the fact that learning-disabled students have been successful (in school) and say it proves they don't need accommodations, '' the lawyer said.

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires reasonable accommodations for anyone who is "substantially limited'' in a major life activity, such as learning. California law covers those who are "limited'' in a major life activity. The difference between the two laws has increased because of a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings in recent years narrowly defining the scope of the ADA.

An example of why state law can be particularly important in this area.


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