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Law School Using

Assistive Technology

By Ptahra Jeppe, M.S. Ed, J.D.

I knew that I always wanted to be a lawyer. Now after my four years at Adelphi University, I was sure of it. I wanted to help others like myself. In many ways, we were not treated fairly. If I was a lawyer, maybe I could help.

If you want to be a lawyer, you need to go to law school. You need to take a test just to get into law school. But guess what. The law schools would not let me take the test the way that I had taken tests in high school and at Adelphi.

“Sorry,” they said. “It’s the rule.”

Oh, no! My dream was gone!

But if I learned anything from my past, it’s this: never give up hope!

So, for the next few years, I went to work. I got a job doing something I knew a lot about — dyslexia and learning challenges. My job was at a business called “Everyone Reading”. People at Everyone Reading know that reading is an important skill. Reading is the key to a person’s success. If I couldn’t help people as a lawyer, then I would help them as a leader here.

I also worked for a woman named Jo Anne Simon. Jo Anne was a New York State Assembly member. That means, she represented the people of New York.

Working at these jobs taught me a lot about different ways to use special programs on a computer. I used speech-to-text, text-to-speech, and word prediction software. I was also introduced to Co:Writer and Snap and Read. For the first time, I was able to independently read text. I was also able to write with correct spelling independently. These products made it possible for me to be truly independent and successful!

I was finally succeeding in my work life and personal life. In fact, I have a memory of writing a letter with Co:Writer. I asked a family member to edit the letter for spelling. I had been doing this for years. They told me it was the first time they checked my work and there were no miss spellings. I knew that was a turning point for me.

In the meantime, the United States Department of Justice had a case against the Law School Admission test. What happened? The Department of Justice said that people like me could take the law school exam in our own special ways. Hooray!

I was finally accepted to the Syracuse University College of Law. I still had to stand up for my rights, but I was able to use assistive technology. Even with assistive technology, law school is hard. But I was used to hard work. At last, I will be a real lawyer! Now I could help people with all kinds of disabilities.

I am 30 years old now, and I still struggle in reading. But now I can read words that most students learn to read in 4th grade. That doesn’t matter. Why? I’m a well-connected tool user. What do I mean when I say that? I’m well-connected because I have a fantastic family, great friends, wonderful educators, and advocates — people who fight with me for my rights.

I’m a tool user because I know how to use a computer and assistive technology. If you are reading this, then you are using one of my favorite tools: Snap and Read. I also use a program called Co:Writer. It makes writing a “snap”, too.

I was able to beat the odds. You can beat the odds, too. But it takes hard work. You must never give up. There are tools and people who can help you. My dreams came true and  I will help to make someone else’s journey a little easier. I am so very excited about this next chapter in my life. I am finally becoming a disability and civil rights lawyer and advocate. I want to make sure that every person has the tools they need to succeed.

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