Big Changes in LSAT Accommodations for Applicants with Disabilities

There’s great news for past and future law school applicants with disabilities: the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has settled pending lawsuits with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) regarding accommodations on the LSAT. The plaintiffs alleged that LSAC’s accommodations process violated both the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state anti-discrimination laws. Without admitting any liability, LSAC has agreed to make substantial changes in its accommodation processes, and to establish a compensation fund for applicants who requested accommodations under its old processes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: While the parties have jointly submitted a proposed Consent Decree to the Court, as of this writing, it has not yet been approved by the judge (although there’s no reason to think it won’t be).  Nonetheless, according to LSAC, the changes in the accommodations request process will take effect for the September 2014 LSAT. This post will be updated when there’s more information about the timing for the compensation fund.

The most important changes are as follows:

  • LSAC will no longer flag scores resulting from tests taken under accommodated conditions. LSAC’s prior practice had been to flag such scores, essentially disclosing that an applicant was disabled to the law schools to which s/he applied.  This will no longer happen, and the scores will be reported the same as all others.  In fact, LSAC is scrubbing the “flag” from all prior scores they have on record (going back 5 years).  (Paragraph 9 of the Consent Decree.)

  • The process for requesting accommodations will be streamlined, especially for those applicants who have previously been granted accommodations on standardized tests for admission to higher education (e.g., SAT, ACT). LSAC will generally (with the important exception of extended time greater than double the standard time) grant the same accommodations the applicant received on similar tests.  (Paragraph 5a of the Consent Decree.)

  • For applicants who have not previously received accommodations on higher education standardized admission tests, the process will also be streamlined, with quicker and less cumbersome approval processes. (Paragraphs 5b-h)

  • Applicants who requested accommodated testing between January 1, 2009 and May 20, 2014 are potentially eligible for compensation from a newly established $6.7 million fund. (Paragraph 11b.)

  • Applicants who were previously denied accommodations (in whole or in part) between January 1, 2009 and the date the Consent Decree is approved will be allowed to submit new requests under the new standards. (Paragraph 19.)

  • LSAC will establish a panel to review its accommodation request process and develop a set of best practices for adoption by LSAC. (Paragraph 7.)

Look for additional information from LSAC in the coming weeks and months, specifically with regard to the new processes for requesting accommodations and for filing claims under the compensation fund.  This is a big win for people with disabilities.