In December 2009, plaintiff Aaron H. Hartman, a fourth-year medical student with a severe stutter, was notified by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) that he would not be allowed to use the assistance of text-to-speech software while taking the clinical skills portion of the medical licensing test.
Hartman sued the NBME for violating the Americans with Disabilites Act (ADA), seeking a preliminary injunction that would compel the NBME to allow him to use the software.
Plaintiff's counsel asserted that the use of the text-to-speech software would allow Hartman to type responses to questions posed by the patient-actors on a laptop and would not alter the results of the tests. Therefore, counsel claimed, the NBME's refusal to allow Hartman use of the software violated the ADA.
Counsel for the defendant asserted that the accommodation Hartman requested altered the skill or knowledge the examination was designed to test and the NBME was therefore justified in refusing Hartman's request to use the software. The defense maintained that its decision did not violate the ADA.
Plaintiff's counsel countered that Hartman had already demonstrated his capacity to communicate with patients and he only required use of the software in the likelihood that his disability might obstruct his ability to communicate with one of the 12 patient-actors employed for the purposes of the clinical exam. Since the particular test, in this case, was to test a student's ability to communicate, counel said that such an accommodation would not alter the skill the test was designed to evaluate.
Hartman sought only to compell the NBME to allow him to take the test with the aid of a laptop computer equipped with text-to-speech software. Counsel for the defendant denied that this accomodation should be allowed by the court.
Judge Louis H. Pollak ruled that the NBME must allow Hartman the use of a laptop computer equipped with text-to-speech software while he performed the clinical skills portion of the medical licensing test. Judge Pollak ordered that the results of the examination be released to the court by May 15. Judge Pollak also ruled that the NBME could choose to test Hartman without the use of the laptop, but in that case the defendant was still compelled to return the test results with the laptop by May 15.
No money at stake, but a great outcome for Hartman and great example of how the ADA can be used to help disabled individuals reach their goals. Share this post :