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Why we need NDLSA

My accommodated LSAT exam was moved to a new location at the last minute, causing me unnecessary stress as I scrambled to find the new testing site. In the process, I fell and sustained a concussion.

I chose my law school because I saw rents were much lower in Pittsburgh than they were in other cities with law schools I was considering. Even though I visited campus in a wheelchair, no one told me it is complicated to find accessible housing near the law school. They did suggest one place in campus housing with some accessible apartments, but they failed to mention that the building is straight uphill from the law school, a trip only Wonder Woman could manage in a manual wheelchair.

My school invited me to attend a diversity event, which they held in a building with stairs. Unfortunately, I do not own a stair-climbing wheelchair. 

It wasn’t just the school. Student groups seem clueless about accessibility. I asked classmates not to hold events at inaccessible locations, not only to meet my needs but because other students might have hidden mobility issues or any student who may be suffering a temporary disability like a broken leg. They responded that they would make sure to hold events at accessible locations, “sometimes.” They did not understand this meant I was invited to attend student events “sometimes.”

We need NDSLA because when I broke down my costs of attendance, it would cost me $30,000 more than an able-bodied peer to attend the same school once I factored in disability-related expenses such as testing adapted for school (which is not covered by insurance) and higher rent for an accessible apartment near the law school. My time in law school has been far from ideal.

We need NDLSA because my experiences are not unique. There is no way for disabled students to attend law school without being harmed by systematic barriers, and it is beyond time disabled law students have a unified voice for advocacy and support.

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Grace Burnham

Grace Burnham

Director of Outreach and Advocacy for NDLSA. Outgoing Co-President of Lawyers and Scholars for Disability Justice at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

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