This case is important to the understanding of issues relevant to adults
with learning disability who request accommodations when testing provides
a gateway that widens life's opportunities. Ms. Bartlett brought legal
action against the New York board of law examiners under the ADA
Act, The Rehabilitation Act (504), and the Fourteenth Amendment stating
that she had been deprived of due process and equal protection
under the law. The New York State Board of Law Examiners had
refused provide accommodations for her learning disabilities.
Ms. Bartlett had presented documentation requesting accommodation that
included psychological and educational assessments. The board had ruled
that the opinion of their psychologists had precedence. Ms. Bartlett
contended that the information provided by her psychologists should be
considered since the court psychologists did not know her and were more
In looking at this issue the New York Supreme Court suggested that
the following critical questions were relevant.
- Under ADA and 504 is she substantially impaired?
- Does the Board of Law Examiners need to prove the disability?
- Is test taking a major life activity?
- Is the lack of accommodation due to malicious intent?
- Does the government or the board of law examiners have the right to
review the documentation presented?
- Does the government have the right to determine if Ms. Bartlett is
capable of engaging in the activity of being a lawyer?
- Can the Board of Law Examiners set a "policy"?
- Is there a base group for comparison?
- Is the assessment appropriate for the determination of learning
- Are the requested accommodations "reasonable"?
The answer to each of these questions sheds much information on what is
required of both candidate and testing programs. In brief, each of the
questions is reviewed below. For a more complete discussion, review of
the entire case is recommended.
Under ADA and 504 is the candidate substantially impaired?
Both ADA and 504 provide accommodations if there is record of impairment
and if this impairment substantially limits one or more of life's
major activities. Major life activities include walking, seeing, working,
performing manual tasks, etc. The critical word here is substantially
limit. If one had difficulty reading but the reading skills did not fall
significantly below those to be expected could one say that the impairment
Does the granting agency need to prove the disability?
The answer to this question under both ADA and 504 is "no". The burden of
proof is on the plaintiff (in the case of Ms. Bartlett) or the candidate.
Candidate's need to have documentation that clearly defines the
Is test taking a major life activity?
Test taking can be defined as a major life activity under ADA and 504. If
not passing a test would limit the ability to move forward then it limits
a major life activity.
Is the lack of accommodation "malicious" intent?
Where there is a standard policy that meets the intent of the law it does
not follow that failure to accommodate was malicious in nature.
Can the agency requested to grant accommodations review the
Does the granting agency have the right to determine if the
candidate is capable of engaging successfully in the activity for which
accommodation is requested?
Does the agency have the right to set "policy" or
Is there a base group for comparison?
Is the assessment appropriate to the disability?
Is the requested accommodation reasonable?
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