"Well, I read out questions and answers, and nobody has accused me of being outdated and patronising."
The Law Society group representing disabled lawyers has criticised the SRA for barring assistive technology in the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
The Law Society's Lawyers with Disabilities Division (LDD), said it came as a "shock and huge disappointment" that disabled students, such as those who are visually impaired or with upper limb issues, would not be allowed commonly used technology (including Jaws, Dragon or Clara Read) for the SQE.
Instead, examination providers Kaplan and the SRA have decided that a dedicated person will read out questions and answers to disabled candidates, at the Pearson VUE test centres, rather than using assistive technology.
Jane Burton, Chair of the LDD, said that having a person reading out "1,440 possible answers" to candidates, was an "outdated method". She said that assistive technology is already used in university exams, as part of "reasonable adjustments" for disabled candidates.
Burton said it was "very unfair" that disabled students will "have to meet with the person assigned to them by Kaplan and practise using this method at the time when they are revising for crucial, life changing exams".
"LDD have been working with the SRA since 2017 to try to help them understand the needs of disabled SQE candidates, although this issue seems to have been too difficult for them to implement," said Burton.
The LDD Chair said she hoped the SRA and Kaplan reconsider their "exclusionary decision and ensure that the necessary technology be accommodated" before the SQE exams start in November.
Professor Debbie Foster, the lead researcher of a project 'Legally Disabled?', told RollOnFriday that she was also "very disappointed" with the announcement.
"The SRA appear to be taking an outdated and patronising approach," said Foster. "It seems obvious that to disallow assistive technology that disabled people themselves are familiar with, will place them at a disadvantage, rather than level the playing field."
An SRA spokesman told RollOnFriday that they were confident their adjustments would be "to a very high standard of provision for those requiring support" for the exams.
For those with visual impairments, "support available includes an individual reading service delivered by someone who is themselves a qualified solicitor," said the SRA spokesman.
"Not only does this provide the benefit that the reader understands the legal text itself, but it also offers the opportunity for candidates to interact with the reader. For example to ask them to repeat something or speak more slowly."
The spokesman said the SRA had "consulted extensively with a range of disability stakeholders" including the LDD. He said they would "continue to investigate a range of assistive technologies", as well as consider all requests for reasonable adjustments on a case by case basis.
Such adjustments could include additional time, a separate room and invigilation, large-print copies of materials provided in printed format, and software such as ZoomText to magnify the text and a variety of different contrast options.
The SRA may wish to just glance over the recent review of the chaotic Bar exams, which found that the Bar Standards Board and Pearson Vue failed to adequately cater for students with visual impairments, by providing an exam platform which did not support assistive technology - the same assistive technology Kaplan has outlawed.