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BARBRI, the bar exam prep company, has learned a lesson in public accommodations law.
In a legal settlement, the company agreed to make its online bar-review products more accessible to blind and vision-impaired students. The company did not admit wrongdoing in the consent decree filed in Stanley v. Barbri.
It is an important victory for blind students, attorneys said, because society often "fails to recognize the significant challenges that those with disabilities face."
The plaintiffs -- blind students who enrolled in BARBRI review courses -- sued the Dallas-based company in a Texas federal court in 2016. They alleged the company did not give them equal and timely access to digital resources, including online and mobile practice exams, guides and feedback on assignments.
When the students notified BARBRI of the problem, the lawsuit claims, the company did not fix the problems. That violated the American with Disabilities Act and Texas human rights laws, their attorneys said.
As part of the settlement, BARBRI has agreed to modify its web content, mobile applications, and study tools using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) -- a set of industry standards for ensuring web content is accessible to people with disabilities. The company also pledged to ensure that requests for accommodations, such as Braille or large-print materials, are handled in a timely and efficient manner.
"The settlement marks an important victory for blind students, who despite years of hard work and dedication, often face significant hurdles in achieving their professional and academic dreams," said Shaylyn Cochran, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and a civil rights and employment attorney at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.
Christopher Stewart, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said he was proud they were able to hold BARBRI accountable.
"Everyone who seeks to make their world a better place through hard work, diligence, and perseverance should have a fair and equal opportunity to do so," said Stewart, a graduate of the University of Kentucky Law School.
He and Derek Manners, a co-plaintiff and graduate of Harvard Law School, had paid for the bar review course only to find the materials were inaccessible to them. For example, they alleged, the company's mobile app did not allow them access to "pop-up alerts" or to track their progress after taking exams.