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Golden Gate University Guide to Disability Services for Law School Applicants

Law school is a challenging and rigorous environment for every student regardless of background and experience. Due to law school's driven and fast paced nature, it is often critical that every student has the opportunity to perform at his or her potential.

For this reason, the decision of where students with disabilities attend law school may be weighed by the quality of reasonable accommodations provided. Read the guide for law school applicants with disabilities to familiarize themselves with the resources available to them in order to facilitate their search for an accommodating and successful law school experience.

I. Americans with Disabilities Act ( ADA ) of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.)

An amended version of the ADA is awaiting approval, but currently the 1990 legislation oversees all mandated accommodation requirements. The area of education is covered by Title III of the ADA and guarantees that reasonable accommodations will be provided for people with disabilities by private and public institutions to ensure that they have equal access to learning environments. For more information, visit www.ada.gov or go directly to the ADA Guide on Disability Rights at http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm.

II. Unruh Civil Rights Act ( California Civil Code Section 51)

All places of business in California are required to provide reasonable accommodations and equal access to people with disabilities. The Unruh Civil Rights Act protects students with disabilities from discrimination from both public and private law schools within the state of California . For more information on the protections afforded by California 's laws visit www.disabilityaccessinfo.ca.gov .

III. The Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and Accommodations

As aforementioned, law school applicants with disabilities are guaranteed reasonable accommodations by the ADA in order to grant equal access to education. For many applicants with disabilities, accommodations requests first become relevant for purposes of taking the LSAT. In order to request accommodations for the LSAT, an applicant must first register for the exam and then submit the required documentation and accommodations request packet. For more information on LSAT accommodations requests, please visit http://www.lsac.org/LSAT/accommodated-testing.asp .

IV. Disability Services in Law School

Due to the individual protocol of each law school institution, applicants who would like to research the different accommodations procedures of law schools should research and contact each school of interest. Generally most law schools will have a Disability Services Coordinator or ADA Compliance Officer assigned to accommodating students with disabilities. However, some schools may consolidate this role into other positions. Prospective students who require accommodations should contact the relevant coordinator to submit accommodations requests for class visits or tours of the law school.

Upon enrollment to a law school, a law student may decide on a voluntary basis whether or not to request disability services. All accommodations requests should come from students who self-identify themselves as having a disability. Upon receiving a request for services, the Disability Services Coordinator will ask for verification of the disability and notify the student of their privacy rights under the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ( 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99). For more information on the privacy of disability information in schools, visit http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html .

V. National Association of Law Students with Disabilities (NALSWD)

In addition to an enriching educational environment, law schools offer wonderful opportunities to network with law students and attorneys on a local and national level through the creation of law student organizations. NALSWD is a newly formed student organization that focuses on disability rights and activism. One aspect of disability rights that NALSWD has highlighted in the past is the employment of lawyers with disabilities. Thus far this growing organization has held two national conferences and has student representatives from law schools across the nation. For more information, visit http://www.nalswd.org

VI. The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF), Diversity Program in Disability Rights

In addition to the interesting curriculum and activities offered at law schools, bar associations can be a great way to get involved with local attorneys and programs. The Bar Association of San Francisco sponsors a Diversity Program in Disability Rights. The program includes a Disability Rights Committee which hosts conferences dealing with the employment of lawyers with disabilities and other pertinent topics each year. For more information, visit the Disability Rights Committee page.