August 2015 E-News


August 2015 E-Newsletter

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Celebrating 25 Years of the Americans with Disabilities Act: 1990-2015

In This Issue

DRA Celebrates Summer Accomplishments & Gears Up For The Fall

Dear DRA Family,

It’s been a whirlwind of a month, and even after our packed newsletter on the 25th anniversary of the ADA (here if you missed it), there’s still more to tell.

On the East Coast, we gear up for new battles while also enjoying the fruits of past victories. After lengthy investigations and many conversations with Bronx residents with disabilities, we filed suit on July 29 against a health center in their neighborhood riddled with barriers to accessibility. Meanwhile, our case calling for the City of New York to fix its sidewalks has been bolstered by a report from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, which found that less than 10% of curb cuts along Broadway are in full compliance with the ADA. Finally, we share in NYPD officer Dan Carione’s delight at returning to his job. Mr. Carione had been forced to retire after he started wearing a hearing aid, but thanks to our suit against the NYPD, he’s back to serving the city he loves.

The 25th anniversary of the ADA was a great opportunity to take stock of past accomplishments, and also to set our sights on the work to be done in the years ahead. To this end, we introduced the next generation of DRA leadership, our new Co-Directors of Litigation Mary-Lee Smith and Stuart Seaborn. Also, one of the key ways we invest in the future is by training and mentoring the next generation of attorneys committed to public interest law. We’re currently hiring attorneys and fellows—see below for a link to the application process. In addition to our staff and leadership team, we’re also growing our Board, and this newsletter will introduce you to some of the new faces at DRA.

I hope you enjoy this summer’s e-news. From the DRA family to you: here’s to a bright future ahead, where all our paths are clear.

DRA Executive Director Larry Paradis

Larry Paradis
Executive Director

DRA Is Hiring!

For our Berkeley office, we are seeking two (2) dynamic, motivated litigators interested in making a long term commitment to a civil rights career.

  • One position for 2-4 years of experience
  • One position for 6-8 years of experience

Also, for both our Berkeley and New York City offices, we are hiring fellows and summer law clerks. Please see our main job page for information on each of these positions.

Attorney Spotlight

DRA’s work is fueled by a talented legal team. This month we introduce Senior Staff Attorney Christina Brandt-Young, who joined our New York office in July.

DRA senior staff attorney Christina Brandt-Young
“In the world of privately funded nonprofits, no one is more effective at using the law to obtain broad practical change than DRA. We have held New York accountable for lack of accessible taxis, lack of accessible polling places, and a lack of disaster planning that left people with disabilities literally in the cold and the dark.  Now we’re working on sidewalks, subways, and more things than I have space for here.  I love this job because every day, we are making New York a better place for everyone.”
Read the full conversation here.

Board of Directors Spotlight

DRA is thrilled to welcome two new Directors to our Board, Scott Smigel and Jeff Miller. Scott and Jeff each bring a passion for DRA’s mission as well as a wealth of diverse skills and experience. Read on to learn more about them and why they’re excited to join DRA’s Board:


DRA board member Scott Smigel

Scott Smigel
Attorney, Executive and Real Estate Investor
Santa Barbara, CA“I’m convinced that if DRA wasn’t advocating and litigating for a population too often ignored, their rightshuman, constitutional and legalwould not be enforced. The importance of class actions to prosecute for compliance and change on behalf of that population can’t be overstated. It would be wonderful if education and advocacy were enough, but I believe history has shown that an ability to effectively enroll and use the legal system to obtain fair and just results is an extremely powerful tool.”
Read the full introduction here.

DRA board member Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller
Co-Head of U.S. Trading at Point72 Asset Management
New York“DRA is an organization that makes people with disabilities’ lives easier—through the law and common sense. DRA works on such basic issues: train stations, taxi cabs, airports… It’s shocking that in 2015, people with disabilities still face access barriers to these basic services.  DRA just makes a ton of sense.  And they are a winning team.  Who doesn’t want to be a part of a winning team?“
Read the full introduction here.

Awards & Events

First, a quick recap from our previous newsletter…

  • Senior staff attorney Michelle Caiola and Skadden Fellow Haben Girma both attended the White House Celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the ADA. If you missed it, Haben’s introduction of President Obama is here.
  • DRA celebrated the 25th anniversary of the ADA in our Berkeley office—please enjoy the photos here.

…and now, some new updates:

Impact Report

Health Care

July 29, 2015We filed suit on behalf of Bronx Independent Living Services (BILS) against Union Community Health Center (UCHC), focusing on their medical facility at 2021 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. In this suit, we allege the facility has widespread architectural barriers for patients with mobility issues, including wheelchair users; employs woefully inadequate practices for communicating with deaf patients and patients with hearing loss; and fails to provide medical information in large print, Braille, or other alternative formats for blind and low-vision patients. Ultimately, this discrimination jeopardizes the health of Bronx residents with disabilities.

Previously, BILS had offered to work with UCHC to resolves these issues, but UCHC refused. Read more about the case here, and read the NY Times‘ coverage of the suit here.


June 1, 2015The City of New York attempted to have our major class action suit dismissed, but fortunately, the court denied this motion. As our suit on behalf of the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York (CIDNY) points out, far too many existing curb cuts are dangerous and difficult to use. In addition, some intersections are still entirely lacking one or more necessary curb cuts. (Read past coverage of the case here and here to learn more about why proper curb cuts are essential.) Indeed, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer recently released a report on the status of curb cuts along Broadway—which, as Brewer says, is Manhattan’s “longest, most recognizable commercial street.” Of the 1,356 locations where, by law, there ought to be curb cuts, the survey found:

  • 10.5% either entirely absent or obstructed by barriers
  • 6% leading directly into a pothole
  • 18% blocked by street furniture such as garbage cans, newsstands, or scaffolding
  • 24% crumbling
  • 28% too steeply sloped to comply with ADA specifications
  • nearly 90% missing the required “bumps” to warn vision-impaired New Yorkers of the presence of a ramp

Ultimately, only 9.5% of these curb cuts were in full compliance with the ADA. Read Gale Brewer’s full report here.


Deputy Inspector Dan Carione standing with fireworks in the sky behind him.

“What a thrill for my first day back. Thank you for all you have done to get me here. Happy fourth!”
Photo description: Deputy Inspector Dan Carione standing with fireworks in the sky behind him.


Police officer Dan Carione was forced by the NYPD to retire after he started wearing a hearing aid. (Read past coverage about the case here.) Thanks to the settlement achieved by DRA and Meenan & Associates, he is now back to work. He sent the following text and photo to one of our attorneys:

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