[blindlaw] About the American Bar Association

Scott C. Labarre slabarre at labarrelaw.com
Fri Feb 10 19:16:01 UTC 2017

Greetings Friends:


Recently there has been a fair amount of discussion here and elsewhere about
the American Bar Association and a perceived lack of commitment to
disability rights.  I write today to offer what I believe to be a fuller


I first joined the ABA in 1992 as a law student, and it has been a long road
to now where I hold significant leadership within the ABA.  As many of you
know, I have begun a three year term on the ABA's Board of Governors.  My
intent over the last twenty-five years, now, and into the future has been
and will be to fight for a more inclusive profession and to make sure that
the ABA stands for that goal and helps to achieve it.  I fully disclose my
leadership role because admittedly I feel some need to defend the ABA and I
want to make sure that everyone is aware of the full story.  Although the
ABA has been far from perfect at times from providing real opportunity to
those of us with disabilities, I believe firmly that ABA's leadership is
commited to providing a truly inclusive environment.


The recent discussion about the ABA is centered around two events.  First,
we learned that the Litigation Section was to offer a roundtable discussion
on the so-called "drive by" litigation occurring under the ADA.  At first,
the panelists identified were heavily biased and would have likely provided
a highly unfair and skewed view of disability rights.  We alerted the ABA's
Commission on Disability Rights (CDR) about this issue, and under the
leadership of Staff Director, Amy Allbright, CDR intervened with the
Litigation Section and successfully fought for inclusion of two disability
rights lawyers many of us know well, Andy Levy and Robin Powell.  This
change of course occurred almost immediately, and as a result, a much more
balanced presentation was achieved.  Because the CDR has gained a much
higher profile over the last several years within the ABA, we had the
ability to get involved and prevent something completely unfortunate from


The emerging presence of CDR has been no accident.  Many of us from the
National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and other disability rights leaders
have served on the Commission and have helped it grow.  That involvement has
also led to many of us getting involved more broadly throughout the ABA and
thus changing the organization's view towards disability.  We still have a
long way to go, but reall change has been happening.


The other recent event surrounds a CLE program that was to be offered last
Friday by the Young Lawyers Division of the ABA at the Midyear Meeting of
the Association  in Miami.  Deepa Goraya, a member of the Disability Rights
Bar Association, National Association of Blind Lawyers, and the NFB,
organized a program on Access to the Courts at which Matt Dietz from Florida
and a prominent member of DRBA, a blind lawyer from Kentucky, Chris Stewart,
and a deaf lawyer from New York, Sheryl Eisenberg-Michalowski, were to
speak.  Even though Deepa  had  requested an interpreter  for the panel in
November of 2016 and revisited that request a week before the program, there
was no interpreter available on site and the program could not proceed.


For some time, significant resources have been available to ABA staff
regarding how to provide accessible metings etc.  CDR in fact has a tool kit
designed for this purpose.  When I learned about this incident, I brought it
to the attention of Jack Rives, Executive Director of the ABA.  I suggested
to him that ABA staff be reminded of resources available and that such a
reminder should come from his office.  One week later, this is the message
Jack sent to all staff, a staff consisting of over 900 individuals.  



From: Rives, Jack 
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2017 9:59 AM
To: All Staff 

Subject: Mandatory Accessibility Training


Colleagues -- 


Our top priority as staff is to serve our members, ensuring that everyone
has the opportunity to take full advantage of the benefits, services, and
activities the American Bar Association offers.  Ensuring access for members
with disabilities frequently entails providing reasonable accommodations,
such as a sign language interpreter or Communication Access Realtime
Translation (CART) services for a deaf member, materials in an electronic
format for a blind member, or an accessible entrance to a meeting room for a
member who uses a wheelchair.  


In December 2014, I appointed a staff task force to examine the current
accessibility practices across the ABA, identify best practices, and develop
recommendations on how to enhance accessibility for our members with
disabilities.  The ABA Staff Task Force on Accessibility drafted a
rtments/staff_task_force/taskforce_on_accessibility_report.pdf> final report
with recommendations.  Its primary recommendation was accessibility and
disability awareness and sensitivity trainings for all staff.  To enhance
accessibility across the ABA, the task force created a repository of
ility.html> accessibility resources on the intranet, including available
trainings and the ABA Commission on Disability Rights'
isability/Accessible_Meetings_Toolkit.authcheckdam.pdf> Planning Accessible
Meetings and Events: A Toolkit, for staff to use.  The task force also
ation_form.docx> model language for entities to use in their registration
forms to collect information about the accommodation needs of their members
and attendees. 


With enhanced awareness, sensitivity, and training, the ABA can foster a
diverse, inclusive, and welcoming environment for everyone, including
persons with disabilities.  With all this in mind, I am pleased to announce
a new accessibility training initiative for all ABA staff as described in
detail below:


By the end of FY 2017, everyone on staff is required to:


1.      Take the  <https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/Study?tid=-1>
Harvard Disability Implicit Association Test 


2.      Review
isability/Accessible_Meetings_Toolkit.authcheckdam.pdf> Planning Accessible
Meetings and Events: A Toolkit and create a policy to ensure that all
meetings, events, and programs are accessible.


3.      Learn how to:


a.     Ensure your
-d9bf3683-87ac-47ea-b91a-78dcacb3c66d> MS Word files are accessible

b.    Use the built in
bat/pdfs/acrobat-x-accessible-pdf-from-word.pdf> Word Accessibility Checker
within MS Word to check accessibility 

c.     Convert from
bat/pdfs/acrobat-x-accessible-pdf-from-word.pdf> MS Word to PDF, while
ensuring your content is accessible

The following members of the original task force are available to provide
staff with assistance on accessibility issues: Amy Allbright, Sarah Bolm,
Kevin Borek, Roseann Federico, Mitch Higgins, Robert Horowitz, Earnestine
Murphy, and Jennifer Nelson.


Thank you for helping the Association provide accessible services to all
members.  I expect most to complete the training soon; no excuses will be
accepted for failing to do so by the end of the current fiscal year.  Jack



The ABA's fiscal year neds on August 31, 2017.  By then, all staff,
regardless of their role, will receive the above identified training.


On other fronts, this year's President, Linda Klein of Georgia, has
appointed more individuals with disabilities to ABA entities than any other
time in the past.  The ABA House of Delegates has increasingly adopted
policy positions that benefit lawyers with disabilities and people with
disabilities generally.  For example, earlier this week, I shared with you
the news regarding the adoption of ABA Resolution 114 calling for the
adoption of laws all throughout the United States clearly asserting the
right of persons with disabilities to parent.


The meaningful change within the ABA over the last several years signifies
that our advocacy makes a difference.  Yes, there are sstill hick ups here
and there, but the ABA is becoming a model for how a professional
association can be fully inclusive.  We need to remain vigilent and continue
pushing in the right direction.  Also, I need your help.  The more of us who
get involved, the stronger our ability to shape this profession will be.  I
am proud to be a member of the ABA, and if you are not already, I encourage
you to join me as a member.  


I thank you for your attention to this rather long message.  Please do not
hesitate to contact me about the ABA or anything else.






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