Disabled student loses challenge against KU medical school

For one former University of Kansas student, there appears to be a limit to the accommodations made for disabled students.

Last month, a federal appeals court ruled that the University of Kansas School of Medicine did not discriminate against a disabled student after it rescinded her admission.

Accommodating Emily McCulley’s disability, school officials believed, would have required them to make significant changes to the school’s educational program that would go beyond what the Americans With Disabilities Act required, according to the court’s ruling.

After McCulley’s physician indicated that she would need an assistant to help her lift and position patients or stabilize elderly patients, according to the court, school officials concluded that McCulley could not meet a technical standard that mandated students be physically able to carry out diagnostic procedures and provide general care as well as emergency treatment to patients.

“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” said McCulley, who uses a wheelchair and whose spinal atrophy limits her arm strength.

She said she would have been willing to pay an assistant out of her own pocket.

McCulley graduated from the University of Kansas in 2010. She now attends Wichita State University in preparation for becoming an audiologist.

“I tried to do the right thing by telling them that I used a wheelchair, so I wouldn’t blindside them,” McCulley said. “In the end I feel that I should have just shown up on the first day.

“They might have made room for me.”

A medical school spokeswoman declined to comment on the appeals court ruling.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.