North Carolina Firefighter Granted Accommodation on EMT Exam

The North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services has agreed to grant accommodations to a deaf firefighter with a learning disability that will allow him to retake the EMT final exam. Austin Freidt, a volunteer firefighter with the Cornatzer-Dulin Volunteer Fire Department, filed suit in 2021 after having failed the exam “multiple times.”

Freidt needed to pass the exam to be eligible for a career position. The lawsuit was filed in Davie County Superior Court alleging violations of the North Carolina Persons with Disabilities Protection Act. Copies of the court documents are not available, so this post is relying on news coverage for details.

The suit sought an accommodation that would allow Freidt to have the exam read to him, a paper copy as opposed to computer, and extra time. The state OEMS granted him extra time and a distraction-reduced test area, but declined to provide a reader or paper copy, citing concerns over test security. According to the Winston-Salem Journal:

  • “Freidt has a reading disability and processes information more quickly and accurately when he hears something read aloud and has a paper to read from. He got his first cochlear implant for his left ear in second grade and the second implant for his right ear in eighth grade.
  • “Although Freidt has had people read exams, paper copies and more time for tests from first grade to college, the OEMS, who administered the EMT exam, repeatedly declined to provide the paper copy and a reader. The OEMS only provided extra time and a distraction-reduced testing area based on its longstanding policy on exam accommodations, according to court documents. According to documents, Freidt failed the EMT exam multiple times under those conditions.”

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the settlement calls for OEMS to allow Freidt the accommodations he requested, and will pay $53,892 for his attorney’s fees and costs. More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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