Blind Students Sue BarBri, Demand Equal Access to Bar Prep Services

DALLAS, TXThe Washington Lawyers’ Committee (WLC) and the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) filed a lawsuit today on behalf of several blind law students and graduates against BarBri, the biggest bar exam preparation company in the nation. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and claims that BarBri failed to provide equal access to key parts of its bar preparation courses, leaving them stuck with inferior preparation to pass the bar exam and become lawyers.

One of WLC’s and TCRP’s clients, Claire Stanley, graduated from law school and is working at a nonprofit, but needs to pass the bar to represent her clients, who all have disabilities. “This lawsuit is extremely important and necessary in order to allow me and other blind people to enter the practice of law,” said Stanley. “Preparing for the bar exam is difficult enough, but it is much worse knowing that BarBri won’t make simple changes to allow me to access important study materials and puts me at a disadvantage compared to everybody else.”

“By providing an inferior service to blind people who hope to become lawyers and refusing to offer access to crucial preparation services, BarBri is violating the ADA,” said TCRP Attorney Hani Mirza. “BarBri needs to give our clients full access to its services and an equal opportunity to pass the bar exam. BarBri advertises itself as the biggest and best bar preparation service by far – it would not be difficult for it to make its educational materials accessible to its blind customers.”

“Most blind people access the internet by using screen software that vocalizes visual information or displays the content in Braille,” explained Derek Manners, a WLC and TCRP client who is graduating from Harvard Law School this spring. “Unlike others in the business of education and preparation, BarBri refuses to make many of its important preparation materials, like electronic books, practice tests, and feedback for essays, available to blind customers. I want to have a fair chance to pass the bar and start my job at the law firm of Allen & Overy this fall. BarBri said all of its materials were accessible when it signed me up for the course, but it appears that is not true. That’s not fair at all.”

“When I complained to BarBri,” said Stanley, “it did not do anything to fix the problem – for me or hundreds of other blind people. It was just business as usual for BarBri.”

WLC Disability Rights Staff Attorney Deepa Goraya said, “BarBri’s lack of accessibility is greatly disturbing, particularly given its role as the gate-keeper of the legal profession. We sent a letter to BarBri and put it on notice that it was violating the rights of its blind law students, but BarBri ignored us. Today, with so many advances in technology, individuals from different backgrounds and varying abilities are graduating from law school. BarBri must be mindful of the needs of this diverse community when offering its bar review services. BarBri cannot ignore this lawsuit.”

A copy of the Complaint is available online here.

Press contacts:

Deepa Goraya: 202-319-1000; Deepa_Goraya@Washlaw.org
Matthew Handley: 202-319-1000; Matthew_Handley@Washlaw.org 
Hani Mirza: 972-333-9200 x 1003; Hani@TexasCivilRightsProject.org
Mimi Marziani: 512-474-5073; Mimi@TexasCivilRightsProject.org

Representatives are available for broadcast interviews in Dallas, Austin, and Washington, DC.

ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: For more than 45 years, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs has represented individuals and groups seeking to vindicate their civil rights. It has handled over 5,000 civil rights cases in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other aspects of urban life. It represents people with claims of discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, and military service and status. For more information, see www.washlaw.org.

ABOUT THE TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT: For 25 years, TCRP has used legal advocacy to empower Texas communities and create policy change. Today — with high-caliber attorneys and professionals in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley and an extensive network of pro bono counsel and community allies — TCRP is among the most influential civil rights organizations in the Lone Star State.

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