February 2016 E-News

In This Issue

Letter from the Executive Director

Happy New Year friends,

In 2015 we looked back on 25 years with the ADA. In 2016, we look forward. Forward to a future where people with disabilities enjoy the same civil rights as their non-disabled peers. To that end, we’re building our organization and ability to deliver on our mission:

  • We launched our new website, dralegal.org, to better share DRA resources, updates and opportunities;
  • We moved our New York offices to 675 Third Avenue, Suite 2216, New York, NY to serve our growing family of East Coast clients and staff;
  • We’re continuing to grow our stellar staff and leadership team—I’m excited to introduce DRA Board Member, Nana A. Antwi-Ansorge to you via this newsletter; and
  • We’re working to ensure DRA’s civil rights legacy continues in perpetuity by finishing our Wolinsky Fellowship campaign.

DRA tackles major systemic inequities and our unparalleled ability to impact change is made possible by each and every one of you who supported our work in 2015. We thank you, profoundly, for your partnership and look forward to working with you in the year ahead as we take on important issues facing people with disabilities including health care access, access to technology, transportation, education and more.

With great expectations for the year ahead,

Laurence Paradis Headshot

Larry Paradis
Executive Director

Growing Our Leadership Team

Introducing Nana A. Antwi-Ansorge

Nana A. Antwi-Ansorge joined DRA’s Board of Directors at the end of 2015. A fierce advocate for disability rights and graduate of Oxford University, American University and the London School of Economics, Nana brings a wealth of experience, passion and expertise to DRA. When we asked Nana to tell us why she thought DRA’s work was important, she had this to say:

Nana_Antwi-Ansorge“Disability is the ultimate cross-cutting issue: it can affect any one regardless of age, socio-economic standing, race, religion or family name. DRA’s work contributes significantly towards creating a more accessible world for everyone…A rights-based approach such as the one spearheaded by DRA is essential to protecting the rights of people with disabilities.”

For more on Nana and DRA’s other impressive Directors, visit our website.

Creating a Lasting Civil Rights Legacy

Since inception, DRA has hosted more than 35 legal fellows—almost all of whom have gone on to public interest careers.  This year, DRA hopes to finish our campaign to establish a permanent fellowship named in honor of DRA’s Co-Founder and Supervising Attorney, Sid Wolinsky.

Fellowships are a crucial lifeline enabling recent law school graduates to pursue careers in public interest law.  At DRA, fellows receive stellar mentorship and ample opportunities to work on cutting-edge civil rights cases that better the lives of people with disabilities across the country. DRA’s Wolinsky Fellowship gives preference to lawyers with disabilities.

To date, DRA has raised more than 80% of the funding needed to ensure that DRA can host a Wolinsky Fellow in perpetuity. We intend to finish our campaign by year’s end. To learn more about DRA’s Wolinsky Fellowship and how you can help us reach our goal, click here.

Sid Wolinsky Headshot

Sid Wolinsky
Co-Founder and Supervising Attorney

Sean Betouliere

Sean Betouliere
Current Wolinsky Fellow


Impact Report

Making Scribd’s digital library accessible to blind readers

In November, 2015, DRA, working on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, achieved at settlement agreement with Scribd, Inc. to make content available to the blind by the end of 2017. The settlement came after DRA successfully defeated Scribd’s motion to dismiss DRA’s lawsuit challenging the inaccessibility of Scribd’s massive online library of reading materials for blind customers.  In a powerfully-worded decision, the Court ruled that the access provisions of the ADA apply to Internet-based businesses.  The Court’s ruling will ensure that more websites and apps will become accessible to people with disabilities.  To read more about the case and precedent-setting settlement, click here.

Ensuring equal access to taxi cabs in Arizona

In November, 2015, DRA filed a lawsuit challenging discriminatory charges for wheelchair accessible taxi services.  DRA alleges that Total Transit Inc. (“TTI”), doing business as Discount Cab, violates federal and state law by charging wheelchair users a $10.00 fee per trip—in addition to the standard fare—because they require accessible taxis.  To read more about the lawsuit, click here.

Victory for travelers in Sacramento International AirportPhoto of a vehicle in Discount Cab's fleet, a bright green Toyota Prius

In November, 2015, DRA achieved a major victory in its case challenging the County of Sacramento’s failure to address the needs of travelers with disabilities when it completed its $1 billion renovation to Terminal B at the Airport.  The court ruled that the County violated the ADA when it installed luxury gate counters at all Terminal Gates, but, rather than providing lowered counters for wheelchair users, installed narrow shelves that did not allow wheelchair users to conduct face-to-face transactions with airline staff.   The ruling is a significant precedent for public facilities nationwide and will undoubtedly encourage other Airports to ensure they provide functional, lowered counters and other accessible features for wheelchair users whenever they conduct renovations.   To learn more about the ruling, click here.

Overcoming Kaiser Permanente’s barriers to healthcare for people with vision disabilities

Lisamaria stands smiling in front of a microphone with her right hand raised and her left hand reading and pressing a braille sheet against her hips.This week, DRA announced a historic agreement to improve the accessibility of Kaiser Permanente’s health services for patients with vision disabilities. The agreement includes adoption of new policies and practices regarding alternative formats (such as braille, audio, large print, and talking prescription labels), ongoing training, removal of architectural barriers, and more.  According to blind Kaiser Permanente patient Lisamaria Martinez, “This Agreement ensures that Kaiser’s patients with vision disabilities have the benefit of health care information that Kaiser makes available to all of its patients.” To learn more about the Agreement, click here.

In this photo, Lisamaria Martinez, a Kaiser Permanente patient who is blind, speaks at DRA’s 20th Anniversary Gala in 2013.

Juvenile justice in Contra Costa County

In December, 2015, a judge approved the settlement in DRA’s case banning solitary confinement for juveniles in Contra Costa County’s juvenile hall.  According to Director of Litigation, Mary-Lee Kimber Smith, “We believe there should be a successful transition to the Juvenile Hall becoming a model facility.”  To read more about the case and settlement, click here.