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Dyslexic Who Failed Veterinary Test Sues : State Board Violated Anti-Discrimination Laws, She Contends

February 23, 1988|JESS BRAVIN | Times Staff Writer

A dyslexic veterinarian who failed the California licensing examination five times filed suit against the state veterinary board Monday, alleging that her failing scores resulted from the agency's refusal to accommodate her handicap.

The veterinarian, Linda L. Hall of Pomona, won a temporary restraining order from Orange County Superior Court Judge Henry T. Moore Jr. that bars the state Board of Examiners in Veterinary Medicine from destroying her notes after she takes the test a sixth time today in Sacramento.

A decision to pursue the suit depends on whether Hall passes today, said her attorney, Joan K. Honeycutt.

Hall, 41, alleges in her suit that the veterinary board violated state laws prohibiting discrimination against the handicapped by refusing to modify its 240-question, multiple-choice exam to accommodate her condition. Hall had sought to answer the questions through essays rather than by choosing one of four given answers.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that impairs reading ability. Honeycutt said that her client's condition made it difficult for her to answer in the multiple-choice format but that Hall had offered to answer the same questions by essay.

The board refused that request but offered Hall 24 consecutive hours to complete the test instead of the standard four and granted her permission to write her answers in longhand before choosing one of the four given answers on the exam.

Gary K. Hill, the board's executive officer, said Monday those conditions were a "reasonable accommodation" to Hall's handicap.

However, the board stipulated that Hall's longhand answers be destroyed at the end of the exam. Hall, who has sought to have an independent panel examine those responses if she fails the exam again, sued to stop the agency from destroying them.

Hill said the board wished to destroy the answers to prevent information about the test's content from leaking to applicants. "The notes themselves become part of the exam's security," he said.

Under Monday's order, the board must protect the notes until the case is decided.

The suit said that Hall's dyslexia has no effect on her medical ability. Hall received her veterinary degree from Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and holds licenses from Arizona, Massachusetts, Nebraska and New Mexico, the suit said.

Honeycutt said that Hall, who first took the test in June, 1985, was in Sacramento on Monday preparing for the exam and was not available for comment.

But the attorney said the board's refusal to grant Hall's requests reflected an insensitivity to those with learning disabilities.

"It seems they will accommodate visible disabilities (such as paraplegia), but not the invisible disabilities, such as dyslexia," Honeycutt said.

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