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Court: Chiropractic college must accommodate blind

June 27, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court ordered the leading chiropractic college in the U.S. on Friday to make accommodations to allow blind students to complete degrees, in an important victory for the rights of the disabled.

The court rejected Palmer College of Chiropractic’s contention that eyesight is a requirement for the profession, which involves adjusting patients’ spines to treat back pain. The college argued that chiropractors must be able to read X-rays to deliver safe and effective adjustments, and that allowing blind students to rely on assistants for that information wasn’t feasible.

Writing for the majority in a 5-2 decision, Justice Daryl Hecht said the college discriminated when it did not allow student Aaron Cannon to pursue a degree with the help of a sighted reader.

Advocates noted that blind people have been successful chiropractors for generations. Hecht wrote that medical schools were increasingly making accommodations for the blind.

Cannon said he was “pretty thrilled” and hoped the ruling would help future blind students enter health care fields. He said the ruling meant colleges have to try to accommodate disabled students, rather than assuming they will not succeed.

“The only thing I’m asking for is some accommodations, which is a sighted reader and the opportunity to stand or fall based on my own abilities,” said Cannon, 34, married and the father of four.

Cannon’s lawsuit was supported by the National Federation of the Blind, which warned that blind students would be excluded if Palmer’s policy was upheld. Palmer, founded in 1897, is considered the field’s birthplace. Other professional groups backed its position in the case.

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