A Conversation with Stuart Seaborn
DRA’s team is busier than ever tackling inequities and bringing about justice for people with disabilities across the nation. To help lead this charge in California, we’re thrilled to welcome Stuart Seaborn back to DRA. Stuart has worked for DRA as an administrator, a lawyer, a Director of Litigation and now, after a short stint away, Stuart is DRA’s Managing Director, Litigation—joining Sid Wolinsky, Michelle Caiola and Kate Hamilton in guiding the organization forward.
A seasoned litigator and passionate civil rights advocate, Stuart spoke with Kate Hamilton about what he learned while he was away, DRA’s current work and what is ahead.
Kate Hamilton: How did you first learn of DRA?
Stuart Seaborn: I came to work at DRA as someone who answered the phones and did filing back in 1995—before I went to law school. I went to college at Cal Berkeley. A good friend from the dorms told me about an exciting small agency working on a new law—the ADA. I’d never heard of the law or DRA. DRA felt like an exciting start-up that was chaotic and fun. DRA’s unique approach to creating broad societal change on behalf of people with disabilities stuck with me.
KH: Why did you decide to return to DRA?
SS: I left DRA to pursue solo and contract work with a number of different firms, nonprofits, and individual attorneys. I directly experienced a variety of practice styles and found myself missing DRA’s targeted approach to systemic litigation. One of the things that I’ve come to appreciate most is how DRA works in partnership with the disability community to identify an issue, a goal, a set of facts, and then the most effective, efficient litigation strategy to achieve the broadest possible relief. DRA is small, but mighty and a driving force for disability rights nationally. DRA is THE BEST targeted-litigation, public-interest shop I know.
KH: What are you most excited about working on right now?
SS: I’m most excited about a couple of types of issues that DRA is taking on right now. The first is cases on behalf of students with mental health disabilities in higher education. College age people are reporting more incidents of mental health disabilities and the practices of schools haven’t caught up with the law. DRA is working at the forefront to stem the tide of discrimination and stigma that shouldn’t be happening.
Second is DRA’s juvenile justice work. Young adults and kids with disabilities are strongly represented in juvenile halls and adult facilities and routinely being denied their rights to education and rehabilitation. DRA has established strong precedents for ensuring equal access for incarcerated youth and young adults and I’m happy to see this work continue.
KH: What is your vision for DRA’s future?
SS: I want to ensure DRA maintains the targeted, efficient model of systems change litigation that has allowed the organization to have such a tremendous impact on the community over the last 25 years. I also want to make sure that DRA is a fun, exciting, and sustainable place to work as we continue to grow and train attorneys to do cutting edge legal advocacy for the public interest. Finally, I want to make sure that DRA remains at the cutting edge—especially when it comes to technology. DRA was the forerunner in ensuring the accessibility of websites, kiosks, and apps. Now we’re getting into the accessibility of sharing economy with our cases involving ridesharing companies. We can and we must stay ahead of the curve in our work to ensure society includes people with disabilities in all areas of life.