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November 29, 2013 President’s Message
ACBA creates Committee on Law and Disability

by Nancy L. Heilman

My request at the 2013 Bench-Bar Conference to consider forming a committee to address the unique needs of disabled attorneys and law students, clients and the general public came to fruition when the ACBA Board of Governors established the Committee on Law and Disability at its Nov. 5 meeting.

On Sept. 17, ACBA Executive Director David Blaner and I, with the substantial assistance of Alysia Keating, the director of diversity and gender equality, invited those interested in the formation of a committee to attend an organizational meeting. Twenty-five people accepted that invitation and to date, 43 people have indicated their intention to join such a committee.

At the organizational meeting, potential areas of focus for the committee were discussed and a subcommittee comprised of attorneys and law students volunteered to begin drafting a mission statement. The governors unanimously approved the formation of the committee and adopted its mission statement, which reads as follows:

“The Committee on Law and Disability is committed to providing disability-related education, advocacy, and professional services to the members of the legal profession, consumers of legal services, and the general public; promoting and supporting accessibility and fair and equal treatment of persons with disabilities; and furthering the inclusion and professional development of disabled attorneys and law students by creating programs and resources to support their professional needs.”

Consistent with its mission statement and the ACBA’s mission statement, the subcommittee identified a number of goals that the Committee on Law and Disability will seek to accomplish. These include educating the legal profession, legal services consumers and the general public about the unique legal issues that those with patent and latent disabilities face; advocating for local, state and federal legislative advances for the rights of the disabled; preserving the privacy rights of the disabled; mentoring and networking to further opportunities for disabled professionals; creating expertise among legal professionals who assist and advise with legal issues that the disabled encounter; identifying and improving ACBA programs and policies to benefit the disabled; promoting physical and online accessibility; fostering member participation in the committee; interacting with the ACBA’s Diversity Collaborative Committee to support diversity-related efforts and outreach; and collaborating with ACBA divisions, sections and other committees to provide educational programming, including CLE programming, consistent with the need for information and accommodation for lawyers and judges.

To further its mission and accomplish its goals, the committee intends to work with the judiciary, our law schools, law firms and corporations.

I have appointed attorney Paul R. Sullivan Jr. as chair. He has worked with me, Mr. Blaner, and Ms. Keating from the earliest stages of developing the committee, and he has accepted the appointment.

The ACBA is committed to recognizing and promoting diversity and inclusion among its members and the legal profession. The establishment of the Committee on Law and Disability is consistent with this goal and furthers the ACBA’s mission to advance equality and diversity among its membership. As with all members of our affinity groups, the disabled members of our legal and broader community deserve our care and support for their opportunities.