University of Michigan to Honor Attorney Richard Bernstein

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Bernstein, who was classified as legally blind at birth, is well aware of the many obstacles that the disabled must deal with in their everyday lives. Despite the fact that he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Michigan, Bernstein had to overcome the “visual bias” of the LSAT in order to make it into law school. According to Bernstein, the test requires the interpretation of visual results and therefore discriminates against the blind. He appealed to the Law School Admissions Council, arguing that the test results were not indicative of success or failure in law school. Ultimately, Northwestern University, the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin, and Vanderbilt University agreed.

Bernstein attended Northwestern University Law School, where he had no choice but to memorize lectures and notes in order to succeed. He graduated in 1999 and immediately began working at Sam Bernstein, where he has taken on various cases involving disability concerns. In 2004, he joined forces with the Department of Justice to enforce federal legislation requiring the city of Detroit to fix damaged bus wheelchair lifts. He also prevailed in preserving funding for special education programs in Michigan.

In 2007, he sued the Oakland County Road Commission on the behalf of disabled residents after roundabout traffic circles were built but disabled access was not provided. The lawsuit resulted in a promise by the county to install safety equipment that would enable all pedestrians to cross safely. During the same year, Bernstein also represented the Paralyzed Veterans of America in a fight against the University of Michigan, which failed accommodate disabled spectators in its Michigan Stadium renovation plans.

Just this year, Bernstein filed a complaint against the American Bar Association on the behalf of a legally blind Michigan resident. According to the lawsuit, the LSAT is a biased test that requires “spatial reasoning and the ability to diagram,” thus discriminating against blind applicants. The lawsuit states that law schools feel that it is necessary to require the LSAT in order to satisfy ABA accreditation rules.

Bernstein, who specializes in pro bono, ADA compliance, and disability rights, has taken on many other prominent cases concerning the rights of the disabled. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Michigan and recently served an eight-year-term on the Wayne State University Board of Governors, including two years as the chair and two as the vice chair.

The Neubacher Award, which was established in 1990 in honor of Jim Neubacher, a University of Michigan alumnus and a Detroit Free Press columnist, will be presented at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The award, which is sponsored by the Council for Disability Concerns, the Office of Instructional Equity, and the Office of the President, will be presented by Julia Donovan Darlow, University of Michigan Regent.

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