September 2016 E-Newsletter

Looking Forward at DRA

Dear Friends,

A great deal has changed at DRA. Since our beloved Executive Director Larry Paradis passed away on July 28, the DRA family has been grieving. So many of you have joined us in honoring his life and work, both from afar with letters, cards, and donations, and also in person, at the celebration of Larry’s life held in Berkeley on August 31.

But in this difficult time, the board and staff of DRA have also been tirelessly continuing to carry out the mission and vision Larry articulated when he co-founded the firm over twenty years ago:

  • We’ve implemented an interim leadership plan. I, Mary-Lee Smith, have taken on the role of Interim Executive Director. Kate Hamilton has taken on the role of Interim Operations Director, and Sid Wolinsky continues in his role as Co-Founder and Supervising Attorney.
  • Just this morning, we’re pleased to announce Michelle Caiola has been promoted to Director of Litigation. Please join me in congratulating Michelle!
  • We’ve begun the search for a permanent new Executive Director. You can help us spread the word by sharing the postings for this and other open positions at DRA.
  • With the blessing of Larry’s family, we’ve established the Larry Paradis Legacy Fund. This Legacy Fund will fuel the most cutting-edge, highest-impact, precedent-setting cases, of the kind that Larry was so well-known for.
  • We continue to develop and pursue high impact cases. In this issue, you’ll read about the latest case developments.

We can’t thank you enough for your continued support as we navigate the next chapter of DRA’s work.


Mary-Lee Smith and the DRA Family

Mary-Lee Smith

New Leadership at DRA

In the wake of the unexpected death of our Executive Director Larry Paradis on July 28, the Executive Committee of DRA’s Board of Directors met on August 12 and approved an interim leadership plan:

  • Mary-Lee Smith has taken on the role of Interim Executive Director while maintaining her role as Director of Litigation. Effective today, September 15, Mary-Lee oversees litigation in tandem with fellow Director of Litigation Michelle Caiola.
  • Kate Hamilton has taken on the role of Interim Operations Director while maintaining her role as Director of Development & Communications.
  • Sid Wolinsky continues in his role as Co-Founder and Supervising Attorney.

We congratulate Michelle Caiola on her appointment as Director of Litigation.

Portrait-style photo of Michelle Caiola smiling.

Sid Wolinsky says, “Michelle Caiola is a ferocious litigator and stellar civil rights advocate whose leadership has already brought about explosive growth at DRA’s New York office.”

DRA is also pleased to announce several of our fellows have been promoted to Staff Attorney. In the New York office, we congratulate Jelena Kolic, and in the California office, we congratulate Julia Marks and Meredith Weaver.

DRA is Hiring

We are seeking exceptional candidates for several key positions in our Berkeley office:

Executive Director

Candidates should have a J.D. degree with 10+ years of litigation experience and proven leadership and management experience. In addition, candidates should have an ongoing relationship with the disability community.

Senior Attorney

Candidates should have 7-10 years of systemic impact litigation experience and a long term commitment to a civil rights career. This position has the potential to grow into a leadership role. Must be admitted to the CA bar.

HR/Office Manager

Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree and 2+ years of HR and office management experience. This position requires strong communication skills and an ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

Candidates with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Visit our job page for more information on all our openings, including a Fellowship and 2L Summer Law Clerkships.

2016 Eagle Awards: Tickets Available Soon!

Our annual holiday luncheon is fast approaching. In addition to unveiling new Eagle awardees for 2016, this year’s Eagle Awards will also celebrate the 50 Eagles awarded since the event’s inception, a diverse array of individuals, organizations, and corporations who’ve done outstanding work on behalf of people with disabilities over the past 20 years.

2016 DRA Eagle Awards: Celebrating 50 Eagles
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
11:30am – 1:30pm
Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco

A networking luncheon will follow the awards ceremony.

A silhouette of an eagle.
There’s still time to pledge your support for disability rights by sponsoring the celebration, and we continue to welcome Eagle awardee nominations.

Celebrating Larry Paradis’ Life

On August 31, over 250 people gathered at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley and listened to moving testimony from family and close friends. We extend deep thanks to all who joined us in person and in spirit.

LP Celebration 1

LP Celebration 2

We are grateful to those who have already given to support the Larry Paradis Legacy Fund, established to directly support the most cutting-edge, highest-impact, precedent-setting cases at DRA. If you’d like to honor Larry and ensure DRA continues to fight for the civil rights of people with disabilities, please consider making a contribution online.

Impact Report

Ensuring Tech Innovations Leave No One Behind

LinkNYC has been hailed as a revolutionary replacement for New York City pay phones, promising free WiFi, Web surfing on a touchscreen, local and long distance phone calls, and even a dedicated button for calling 911, all on hundreds of “Links” installed on the city’s sidewalks–but blind visitors and residents of New York City have been shut out.

Plaintiffs in the case, National Federation for the Blind and several blind New Yorkers, say the Links fail to provide any audio instructions on how to use its features. Director of Litigation Michelle Caiola says the law is clear: “People with disabilities should not be an afterthought.” On July 28, we filed suit against the two entities behind LinkNYC: the City of New York, and its partner CityBridge LLC, a consortium of technology companies. Read the complaint and more details about the case on our LinkNYC press release.

Composite of two photos. Left side: a panel of buttons on a Link station, including a touch screen saying 'Tap to Begin' and analog buttons for dialing phone numbers. There is also a red button for calling 911, an audio jack, and USB ports. Right side, the Link station is shown on a sidewalk, with a bright advertising screen on its side.

Making Online Banking Accessible to the Blind and Low Vision Community

On August 2, we announced a precedent-setting agreement on behalf of two individuals who are blind, Scott Blanks and Marco Salsiccia, with the San Francisco Federal Credit Union to ensure the Credit Union’s website, online banking services and mobile apps are all fully accessible to people who are blind or low vision.

No lawsuit was necessary in this case. Since this agreement was also created in tandem with Q2 Software, Inc., an online banking platform developer, the accessibility features implemented in this settlement will also be made available to all of Q2’s current and future banking clients nationwide. When complete, SFFCU’s online banking services and Q2’s platform will meet the international accessibility standard WCAG 2.0, level AA. Read the full settlement details on our SFFCU press release.

Scott Blanks and Marco Salsiccia in front of SFFCU sign

New Report Shows NYC Lags Behind the Nation on ADA Compliance

On August 9, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio celebrated the 26th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disability Act in a reception at Gracie Mansion. But in the 26 years since the Act’s standards were established, has the City of New York ensured equal opportunity and access for people with disabilities?

On August 8, we released a report in partnership with the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY) detailing the myriad ways in which the City lags behind the nation on many benchmarks of equality for people with disabilities, including in education, employment, transportation, housing, health care access, and Internet access. Based on these statistics and the lack of progress on issues DRA and CIDNY have brought before federal court, we implore the City to do better and to put disability civil rights at the forefront of its agenda. Read the full report on the ADA at 26 in NYC to learn more.