The registration and application process for the MPRE and the bar exam can be stressful for any applicant, but if you are seeking ADA accommodations, the process can be even more daunting. This post will provide some information that can help you to start thinking about exam accommodations.
Who makes the Accommodation Determinations for the MPRE?
For the MPRE, the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) makes accommodation determinations. After you register for the MPRE, you can submit your request for accommodations.
For the MPRE, how are Requests Processed?
The five components of a complete MPRE accommodations request include: (1) an applicant request form, (2) a personal narrative (optional), (3) medical documentation, (4) proof of past accommodations, and (5) standardized test score reports. The NCBE must receive the full accommodations request by the late registration deadline for your MPRE test date. For the full details on MPRE ADA accommodations, see the NCBE webpage, How to Apply for MPRE ADA Accommodations.
Who makes the Accommodation Decisions for the UBE, MBE, MEE, MPT?
Unlike the MPRE, accommodation decisions for the NCBE’s UBE and its MBE, MEE, and MPT components are made by the testing jurisdictions, e.g., the state bar.
For Bar Exams, how do Jurisdictions Administer ADA Requests?
All states will vary. Most provide a general instruction sheet and a series of specialized forms addressing certain disabilities.
For a centralized resource to get you started, the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights maintains a webpage dedicated to Bar Information for Applicants with Disabilities (BIAD). This site maintains a directory of state bar examination accommodation links and information. As with any directory like this, some specific links seem to be broken or out-of-date, but it could be a good starting point to get you to your jurisdictions ADA information. Aside from links, it does include interesting state-specific case law revolving around accommodation legal challenges.
What Parts of the ADA apply to Bar Examinations?
Title II (State & Local Government) and Title III (Public Accommodations and commercial facilities) apply to the bar exam. For more on the ADA generally, visit ada.gov.
Have the ADA Regulations changed recently?
Yes and no. As explained in the June 2017 edition of the NCBE’s The Bar Examiner, while changes to the federal ADA regulations were effective on October 11, 2016, “[b]ecause the regulations implement provisions of the ADA Amendments Act that have been effective since January 1, 2009, bar examiners’ current accommodation practices likely conform already to the new regulations.” For more on the specific changes, read Caroline M. Mew and Robert A. Burgoyne’s article New Regulations Under Titles II and III of the ADA Address Disability Standards Under the ADA Amendments Act.
How early should I get Started Seeking Bar Exam Accommodations?
While jurisdictions vary, the common thread is to not wait until the last minute. In many cases, the bar examiners warn that if filed too close to the exam date, challenges or a full adjudication of your request could run past your exam date. The State Bar of California guidance, for example, suggest filing the petition as early as “the beginning of their last year of law school, and should file a petition no later than three months prior to the examination they intend to take.”
Be sure to meet the requirements for filing your accommodation request. Don’t just rely on the basic application rules and deadlines. For example, in California, a petition for testing accommodations is separate from the application, so it can be filed before the application—but you do have to register with the State Bar of California before filing. In other states, the request for accommodation should be included with the general application to the bar exam.
What Kinds of Accommodations are Available?
Possible accommodations are not one-size fits all. For varying academic and physical disabilities, accommodations will be designed to fit. The State Bar of California lists the following potential accommodations: “personal assistants (readers or personal healthcare assistants), wheelchair access, permission to dictate to a typist or digital recorder, customized timing, a separate testing room, customized examination materials (Braille, large print, etc.), extended testing days and permission to bring and use specific items or medical aids.”
Also, keep in mind that accommodations for “temporary medical conditions” can also be accommodated. In this category of conditions, the State Bar of California lists examples like pregnancy, a broken leg, or mothers who are nursing.
If I am Finding a Professional to Assist in this Process, what should I Ask?
As clinical psychologist, Dr. Jared Maloff, who specializes in this area, has previously suggested to the Bar Exam Toolbox, find a professional that has experience in the field. In his practice area of California, he writes:
Many physicians and psychologists believe that if they simply recommend accommodations and provide cursory rationale, the bar will approve the application. Students seeking accommodations thus must be aware of how much experience their evaluator has in dealing with the State Bar of California.
For more advice from Dr. Jared Maloff, read Leveling the Playing Field: Testing Accommodations on the Bar Exam or listen to Bar Exam Toolbox Podcast Episode 72: Seeking Accommodations in Law School and on the Bar Exam (with Dr. Jared Maloff).
While this post only scratches the surface on how to obtain accommodations, hopefully you can take away that accommodations are available, but you will have to put in some time and effort to obtain them, and that the earlier you get started the better. But don’t let the red tape scare you off if you need such accommodations. In the long run, any effort expended to secure appropriate accommodations will be more than worth it if they ultimately let you perform at your best on exam day!