About

Click here to view DRA’s 2021 Annual Report

DRA Overview

With offices in California and New York, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center.

Vision

A world free from discrimination, where people with disabilities are valued members of their communities with equal access to opportunity.

Mission

To advance the rights, inclusion, and equity of people with disabilities through high-impact litigation, education and advocacy.

Strategies

DRA accomplishes our mission and strives towards our vision using four strategies.

The organization’s primary strategic tool is:

  • High-impact litigation to protect the rights of people with disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people across the disability spectrum and achieves justice for people with disabilities seeking fair access to key activities of life.

DRA’s other strategies to achieve systemic change for people with disabilities, in support of our core litigation, are:

  • Education: DRA is committed to equipping the broader public and our own community with the information and tools needed to participate in accomplishing our mission. To that end, DRA provides continuing internal education to our board, staff and general community through activities including but not limited to conferences, media, know-your-rights workshops, one-on-one referrals and technical assistance.
  • Advocacy: DRA is committed to leveraging our unique tools and knowledge to advocate for positions that move society towards our vision. To that end, DRA contributes to and drafts amicus briefs, letters, and white papers. DRA comments on relevant government regulations, participates in regulatory and administrative proceedings, and court rulemaking advocacy and education.
  • Capacity-Building: DRA is committed to leading, training and collaborating with people across the country to help us achieve our Mission. DRA can leverage its existing expertise and program in ways including, but not necessarily limited to, training and/or co-counseling with other civil rights attorneys and organizations, providing fellowships or other support to aspiring civil rights attorneys and training / empowering other stakeholders in investigating potential violations and monitoring changes we achieve.

Goals

Between October 2021 and December 2025, DRA will work to increase our diversity, impact, capacity-building, financial stability, and internal strength through these goals and objectives.

Cases and Clients

DRA represents people with disabilities whose civil rights have been violated. It identifies and dismantles barriers in partnership with a broad network of local and national client organizations, representing people with the full spectrum of disabilities, including mobility, sensory, cognitive, and psychiatric. DRA represents these organizations in complex, system-changing class-action cases. DRA never charges its clients for representation.

DRA uses litigation, structured negotiations, advocacy, community education, and media to reform systems and practices that discriminate against people with disabilities.

DRA is small but mighty. In the organization’s 28-year history, DRA has taken on more than 500 cases, achieving dramatic improvements for people with disabilities seeking health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing.

Staff

DRA was founded in 1993 by visionary attorneys and disability advocates Larry Paradis and Sid Wolinsky. Today, DRA is led by President & CEO Kathy Martinez, Managing Director of Development & Operations Kate Hamilton, and Managing Director of Litigation Stuart Seaborn.

The work of DRA’s twenty attorneys, many of whom have disabilities, span multiple practice areas including education, employment, emergency planning, health care, access to public and private facilities & services, technology, telecommunications, transportation, and housing.

Fellowship Program

DRA has a long-standing commitment to educating the next generation of public interest attorneys.  In the organization’s 28-year history, DRA has trained more than 40 legal fellows—almost all of whom have gone onto careers as public interest attorneys.  DRA has established a Wolinsky Fellowship Program that provides ongoing, two-year fellowships in honor of DRA’s Co-founder Sid Wolinsky. If you are interested in applying for a fellowship, please check our active job postings.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

DRA uses the law as a tool to advance the cause of justice for people with disabilities across the country. We work with people with all types of disabilities to promote and ensure equality, inclusivity, and change through high-impact litigation, education, and advocacy. Our goal is to ensure that all people with disabilities are valued, have access to opportunity, and can live with dignity.

We recognize disability as a key component of diversity, and It is a high priority for us to foster and maintain an inclusive environment where diverse perspectives are welcome and where everyone can feel valued. People of color, particularly Black, brown, and indigenous people with disabilities, are especially impacted by disability rights violations. Therefore, we commit to listen to, honor, reflect, and elevate the voices and participation of cross-disability and cross-movement advocates. We commit to serve as a partner with culturally diverse communities of cross-disability and cross-social justice movements to build trust and advocate for societal transformation. 

Finances

DRA’s annual operating budget is roughly $6.5 million.  Less than 15% of DRA’s expenses are allocated to administrative costs.  DRA relies on a mix of contributed and earned revenue to fuel its high-impact pro-bono legal work. DRA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and your donation is fully tax-deductible. You can make a contribution online today.

Awards

DRA and its attorneys not only have a strong track record of success but have collectively won more than 25 prestigious awards for their work including: California Lawyer of the Year awards, Top Women Litigators in California awards, Super Lawyer awards, Trial Lawyer of the Year awards, and Top 100 California Lawyer awards.