AAMC sued over medical school admission exam

Applicants with learning disabilities say they were denied needed accommodations.

By — Posted Aug. 9, 2004

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Four medical school applicants with learning disabilities are suing the Assn. of American Medical Colleges for discrimination.

The students, who have conditions that include dyslexia and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, requested additional time and a room free of distractions while taking the Medical College Admission Test. They were told their conditions did not merit such accommodations, according to the lawsuit.

The AAMC, which administers the MCAT, said it was reviewing the lawsuit and that it was committed to providing appropriate accommodations on the MCAT to medical school applicants with disabilities.

Attorneys who filed the lawsuit in state court in California are seeking class-action status and expect a decision to affect medical school applicants with learning disabilities across the nation. The National Disabled Students Union and the International Dyslexia Assn. were also named as plaintiffs in the case.

Monica Goracke, learning disabilities access fellow with Disability Rights Advocates, is one of the attorneys representing the students. She said the AAMC was ignoring an entire class of applicants with disabilities.

"The AAMC says if you've done well in the past in your academic career, you can't have a learning disability, and we don't think that's the law," Goracke said. She said the four students had well-documented disabilities and had been given accommodations when taking other standardized tests.

"The AAMC is out of step with the medical profession itself, which recognizes these are legitimate disabilities," Goracke said. "We think the AAMC is being overly restrictive and not following the law in what they are determining to be a disability. The plaintiffs that we have are the kind of people who have done really well up to this point because of these accommodations, and now they are being penalized for this success."

The lawsuit claims that the ability to read or write quickly on a standardized test is not a necessary qualification for performing well in medical school or succeeding in the medical profession. It also claims that the MCAT is not designed to measure reading or writing speed, but reasoning skills, analytic abilities and subject knowledge. The suit also contends that many medical schools allow students with learning disabilities to have extended time taking tests and separate distraction-free settings.

Three of the four students took the MCAT in April without the accommodations they requested but had difficulty finishing large portions of the test. In the suit, they're requesting the court to intervene on their behalf for the Aug. 14 exam.

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