Saturday, April 16, 2005

Disabilities, Law Schools, and Law Students

This 1999 article by Professor Kevin H. Smith of Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, The University of Memphis (32 Akron L. Rev. 1), is a "must-read." (I have not yet been able to find an online version of the article to link you to - unless someone sends me a link, you need to hit the stacks or visit Lexis or Westlaw.)

In your position as an Academic Support Professional, do you work with students who have disabilities?  Professor Smith's excellent primer on disability issues emphasizes the treatment of disabled individuals who have been admitted to law school.

Consider this excerpt: "Most law schools already operate an academic support program (ASP). Though legal educators must be careful not to create the double stigma of disability and participation in an ASP, the school's ASP should be made available to students with relevant disabilities. The ASP's administrator, in conjunction with on-campus learning-disability specialists, should modify the ASP curriculum to fit the needs of disabled students, particularly those with LDs, ADD, and ADHD." Does your program include these modifications?  Read on.

Professor Smith travels far beyond an explanation of the basic legal requirements.  He champions an expansive interpretation of both "disability" and "reasonable accommodation," strongly advocating that a "wide range of accommodations and services" should be made available to disabled law students.  But wait, there's more . . .

"Similar accommodations and services," Professor Smith maintains, "should be provided to students with temporary conditions or impairments, such as pregnancy or a broken hand, which are not covered by disability laws, but which may impair a student's ability to pursue her law school education."

Eschewing the "sink-or-swim" and "Darwinian" approaches to legal education, Professor Smith grounds his positions in "...the pedagogical and normative convictions that law school administrators and legal educators should work actively to develop fully all students' skills and abilities and that they must do so in an environment of tolerance, inclusiveness, assistance, and understanding."

Let me know your reactions.  (djt)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2005/04/disabilities_la.html

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