Thursday, December 2, 2010

Closing Reflections - Series on Disability Rights

By: Gary C. Norman, L.L.M. Candidate 2011 & Vice President of the American Association of Visually Impaired Attorneys

During the previous twenty years, the United States has bludgeoned the walls of exclusion of people with disabilities downward.  As far as the employment rate of people with disabilities, including law students and attorneys with disabilities, is disproportionately low when compared to the able-bodied populous. These walls, once the height of the Berlin Wall, continue to have a noticeable presence in society.

Because of the commitment of people with and without disabilities trained in the law, progress is positively achieved all the time.  For instance, the positive legislation addressing accessibility to technology that the FCC will implement in coming months as well as the affirmative mandates of the Executive Order issued by President Obama may result in more of these walls of social and economic exclusion to crumble, leading to a richer, a compassionate, and a better society.  These remaining walls will not erode into dust should the legal profession, as a leading force in civic society, not behold itself to a high standard of affirmative inclusion.

In furtherance of this call for progress, the issues that the legal profession must address, include but are not limited to, reasonable accommodations to the LSAT and to the bar exam, reasonable accommodations at work, inclusive of, for instance, assistance dog issues (near to my own life), and the sensitivity of members of the field.  The cost of assistive technology as well as the access to fruitful training of assistive technology is an important issue on which I have perhaps not rote on a sufficient enough basis.

The lack of the LSAC to constitute a reasonable partner in providing reasonable accommodations to the LSAT is an example where progress through action is needed.  The simplest solution to the LSAT would be – to the pleasure of all pre-law students - disbanding this superfluous gatekeeper to law school.  The bar examiners in California would evidently appear to constitute another example where good faith collaboration would not impede the entrance of other law students to the field and would clearly inure to the fair opportunity of people with disabilities to be legal professionals.

The case of a woman with a sight disability, recognized as a leader in the disability civil rights arena, will shortly be before in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to redress the position of the bar examiners in California that a reasonable accommodation will not be furnished.  As you combat against the tyrants of regression, all of us should provide a salute to you in urging that civic society take notice of its ethical, moral, and legal obligations. 

As opportunities are increasingly robust or as opportunities become increasingly robust to me as a blind person, I hope that I will continue to be in the service of my fellow citizens, including but not limited to, campaigning for public office in the future.

In conclusion, my desire is not for emoluments, if any, that might inure to me from penning these entries; rather, I hope that readers will have learned of, the challenges obstructing the inclusion of, but also the opportunities, like no other epoch in history, that are increasingly present to, students and attorneys with disabilities.  This is to note that as a person with a sight disability and also as an attorney and civil rights Commissioner, I have been pleased with the professional like conduct and the kindness of myriad students at WCL with whom I have interacted.  The legal field could acquire lessons from our fellow students.


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