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Iowa court decision grants college admission to blind student

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The Iowa Supreme Court is handing down a landmark decision on disability rights.

Justices ruled in a 5-2 margin that Palmer College of Chiropractic must readmit a blind student.

Blind since birth, Aaron Cannon, 34, now works as a computer programmer in Minnesota. But he might revisit his dream of becoming a chiropractor.

The 50-page decision is nine years in the making. Iowa's Supreme Court ruling that Palmer College must allow a blind student to return to chiropractic studies.

"I think it does open the door to other blind individuals to be able to seek these degrees," said Cannon.

Palmer College refused to let Cannon use a sighted reader in 2005. The case has been in and out of court ever since.

"It represents a victory for all blind people because it's a victory against irrational discrimination," said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the National Federation of the Blind.

In a statement, Palmer College, which does not plan to appeal,  points out that several legally blind students have graduated from its program.

It goes on to state: "Reasonable academic accommodations are designed to provide equal opportunity for students with disabilities."

Friday's decision means that Iowa institutions like Palmer College can no longer develop a single policy for blind students. They must now consider each student on a case-by-case basis.

Judy Morrell calls it a landmark decision for all institutions. She advised Cannon as executive director of Davenport's Civil Rights Commission.

"Okay, we can't have technical standards across the board," she said. "We're going to have to look at each individual case."

A Palmer graduation was once a shattered dream for Aaron Cannon. He's reviving the dream now with this court precedent for disabled students.

"They're going to have a chance to show that, yes, they can do that," Morrell said.

"Stand and fall based on their own merits and not by any arbitrary decision," Cannon concluded.

It's an Iowa decision with national impact.