Disability Law Symposium
April 17, 2009
As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),1 the disability community finds itself facing new challenges and opportunities. The ADA has been amended to strengthen its protections through the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA); the Obama Administration has expressed a renewed commitment to disability rights; and disability civil rights have been recognized internationally through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, barriers to enforcement of disability rights persist, negative public perceptions of disability rights linger, and many courts remain committed to the old charity and medical models of disability.5
The Second Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium, held on April 17, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland, brought disability advocates together from around the world to discuss "New Perspectives on Disability Law: Advancing the Right to Live in the World." The Symposium carries on the legacy of Jacobus tenBroek, a constitutional law scholar who introduced the concept that civil rights should extend to Americans with disabilities, and who founded the National Federation of the Blind. The Symposium brings together leading legal scholars, policymakers, and practitioners in the field of disability rights to consider current barriers to full inclusion of people with disabilities and to identify legal and policy solutions.
Colleagues at the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI), authors Hill and Blanck participated in the planning and presentation of the Symposium and offer this closing article. BBI, a university-wide institute at Syracuse University, is dedicated to advancing the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities worldwide through a global network of research, education, community development, and advocacy. BBI's central areas of focus include employment, entrepreneurship, economic empowerment, civil rights, and community participation, each touching dimensions of the experience of people with disabilities.
BBI's multidisciplinary approach facilitates the inclusion into the disability rights movement of valuable perspectives: those of scholars, lawyers, policymakers, social science researchers, advocates, community members with and without disabilities, and providers of funding at the national and international levels. BBI impacts national and international civil rights through diverse efforts, including management of the Association of Disability Rights Counsel (ADRC); publications, including the casebook "Disability Civil Rights Law and Policy"; operating the Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC): ADA Center; hosting the World Bank's Global Partnership on Disability and Development (GPDD); and hosting the BBI Disability Policy Internship for Law Students in its Washington, D.C. office.12
This closing article reflects discussions and ideas of the Symposium, focusing on the roles of the federal government, private plaintiffs and their attorneys, the international community, and the disability community. We draw from and build on the remarks of the speakers at the Symposium. 3 We are very grateful to them for their thoughtful, intelligent, and forward-looking ideas.
Part II of this article, drawing from comments from Kareem Dale, Samuel Bagenstos, and Christine Griffin, discusses disability issues facing the Obama Administration and possible responses in a variety of areas, including community integration and health care, housing, education, employment, and access to goods and services. Part III, inspired by the comments of Tim Fox, Amy Robertson, Samuel Bagenstos, Peter Blanck, and Scott LaBarre, discusses barriers and solutions to private enforcement of disability civil rights laws. Part IV, based on comments by Maura Healey, Tim Fox, and Amy …