This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and there is still more work to be done to fight discrimination and promote equal access, independence, opportunity, and freedom from abuse and neglect. Disability rights issues are fertile ground for lawyers, law firms, and legal departments looking to develop or expand their pro bono practice. The range of opportunities is broad and deep, with options for both small and large-scale projects and those that would appeal to litigators and non-litigators alike. Through a variety of pro bono engagements and partnerships with advocacy organizations, pro bono lawyers can have significant and meaningful impact while being at the forefront of cutting edge legal efforts.
Many Law Firm Pro Bono Project Member Firms and Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® Signatories are devoting pro bono efforts to individuals with disabilities and groups that serve them. A few inspiring examples include:
• A pro bono team from Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld*†, along with the National Association of the Deaf, has filed suit in federal court on behalf of a deaf man who was incarcerated for six weeks with no interpreter or other accommodation for his inability to communicate with his jailers. The lawsuit claims that his treatment in an Arlington County, Virginia jail violated the ADA.
• Ballard Spahr*† partnered with the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities at the Kennedy Krieger Institute to provide pro bono support to families raising children with disabilities through Project HEAL (Health, Education, Advocacy, and Law). The program is a comprehensive medical-legal partnership that helps low and moderate-income families receive appropriate special education and related services through local school systems, appeal inappropriate denials of disability payments under the SSI program, challenge school disciplinary actions, and obtain representation in family law matters.
• Goodwin Procter*† provided pro bono assistance to 3LPlace, which seeks to empower young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities to reach their individual potential, to follow their passion, and to live meaningful lives in their communities. Attorneys created a flexible, scalable intellectual property framework for 3LPlace’s Transition Curriculum Project, which has established a comprehensive curricula supporting individuals with autism through transition to adulthood.
To read about other innovative and impactful pro bono initiatives, visit our Resource Clearinghouse and download the Law Firm Project’s publications Spotlight on Pro Bono and Disability Rights and “Autism Speaks”: Pro Bono Lawyers Can Help. If you are new to the Resource Clearinghouse, please contact Eva Richardson to register.
We applaud pro bono volunteers and activists who are working tirelessly towards a bright future of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, inclusion, integration, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities. The PBEye hopes that you will be inspired and get involved. There is an opportunity to suit the interests and talents of many pro bono lawyers!
* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project