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Blind Student to Attend FIU Law School

May 28, 2019
Source: Daily Business Review powered by

[Note: The news website requires registration.]

Dory Mancebo overcame the odds and will be a law school [student at Florida International University (FIU)] in the fall.

From the time she was born, Dory Mancebo had poor vision. She was born with a condition called iris coloboma, meaning there were holes in her irises. She completely lost her eyesight at age 14. But in the fall, she will become a first-year student at Florida International University’s College of Law.

“My mom always told me: Focus not on your problem but on helping others with their problems,” Mancebo said.

Mancebo’s first true experience with the law came when she was still a teen—less than a year after she went completely blind. She was working with a United States immigration attorney to help secure a visa for her mother’s friend, who wanted to visit her daughter in the U.S.

She helped gather documents, fill out forms. She accompanied her mother’s friend to the U.S. consulate.

“She got her visa, and we traveled with her to the U.S. so she could see her daughter,” Mancebo said. “I said ’OK I think I found out what I was supposed to do. I want to be somebody who uses the law for a good purpose.’”

The experience carried her through college. This summer, Mancebo graduated summa cum laude from FIU with a double major in international relations and French.

Next stop: law school. She still wants to be an immigration lawyer. But after an internship at the Broward County Courthouse, family law has piqued her interest too.

Despite countless challenges, Mancebo is not the first blind student to attend law school. Isaac Lidsky became the first blind U.S. Supreme Court law clerk in 2008. Scott Greenblatt graduated from Florida State University in 2009. Richard Bernstein became the first blind Michigan Supreme Court Justice in 2015.

Mancebo’s undergraduate years were characterized by frequent trips to the FIU Disability Resource Center (where she says she met “her biggest fans”) and long nights transcribing class lectures. Studying for the LSAT was similarly difficult. She couldn’t diagram logic games or sentences. Her screen reader didn’t account for bold words or pictures.

These challenges also are not new, although little has changed over time. The National Conference of Bar Examiners has been sued more than six times by blind and visually impaired plaintiffs. It was only in 2011, when Vermont law school student Deanna Jones sued the NCBE, that screen readers were allowed at all when taking the LSAT.

And despite her familiarity with FIU, law school will be a whole different animal, Mancebo said.

“It’s going to be a learning process for both me and the school,” she said. “I will have to say what I need, what would work for me, what makes it easier, and listen to what the school needs and what they can give.”

But she’s not nervous. She knows she has the backing of FIU, which has supported her through her undergraduate studies. Others have also affirmed their support. The other day, she got an email from Elisa D’Amico, president-elect of the Miami-Dade chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers’ president-elect.

“She told me ’don’t worry, we have your back.’ That was so calming and at the same time so encouraging,” she said.

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