In October last year, a lawsuit against the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) was settled. The case, filed by Angelo Binno, argued that the LSAC had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, by refusing to waive the Analytical Reasoning (AR) segment of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Binno has a visual impairment which prevented him from answering the diagram centered questions on the AR part of the test, and the case raised questions about the accessibility of the LSAT. So what can educators do to help students with disabilities achieve their full potential in the test?
Standardized tests and accessibility
Due to Binno’s settlement, the LSAC will need to make the testing of analytical reasoning more accessible within the next four years. The problem highlighted by the case is not exclusive to the LSAT: accessibility is a problem with regards to all standardized testing, and what makes a test more accessible to one person makes it less accessible to another. For example, when the LSAT became fully digitalized, the LSAC was commended for improving accessibility for some people. However, there are invisible disabilities, such as migraines, that are triggered by prolonged use of a computer screen. A one-size-fits-all approach to accessibility will never work for everyone, and each individual must be catered to specifically.
What tutors can do
To help students with disabilities prepare for the LSAT, tutors will need to listen to their students’ individual needs. Two people with a visual impairment may not require the same modifications, for example. One may prefer a screen reader while the other may require Braille materials, and tutors will need to find out what each individual needs. Test administrators should carry out an accessibility audit, reviewing the resources available, assessing who they may not work for and providing accessible alternatives. It’s important to consider economic accessibility in tandem with this: unless a student can afford the accessible resources, they’re not truly accessible.
What students can do
The people who know best what accessibility requirements are necessary are the students themselves. While teaching bodies have a responsibility to provide the resources and make the test as accessible as possible, students too have a responsibility to communicate their needs. Beyond preparing for the test through intensive revision and courses designed specifically for LSAT preparation, students should make sure they’re aware of their accessibility requirements well in advance and make sure modifications are in place for them. This will allow them the peace of mind to focus on studying for the test without having to prioritize practical requirements. Many students experience anxiety leading up to the test; if this is added to by anxieties about accessibility, a student’s performance is likely to be hampered.
Accessibility continues to be a problem in standardized testing across the board. In the case of the LSAT, the Binno case has done a lot for the move towards improvement. However, in order for the test to be truly accessible to everyone, both students and teachers will need to work together to achieve the modifications each individual requires.