July 2021 Newsletter

"Disability Rights Advocates: July 2021 Newsletter"
Image: “Disability Rights Advocates: July 2021 Newsletter”


In This Issue

Letter From the President & CEO

Portrait of Kathy Martinez
Image: Portrait of Kathy Martinez

Dear Friends,

Happy “ADA Day!” As you likely know, today marks the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), making it a special day for those of us here at DRA.

The ADA provides the foundation for so much of our work, and its passage and DRA’s history are closely intertwined. We opened our doors just three years after the ADA became law, and through our high-impact, precedent-setting work, we’ve helped make the vision of the ADA a reality on behalf of millions of Americans with disabilities.

From safeguarding the ways that people with disabilities live, learn and earn, to protecting the rights of those who are houseless, incarcerated or held in immigration detention centers, we’ve been tackling the most pressing disability equality issues of our time. And what a time this is—another era when, as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it, “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

As we consider the challenges and opportunities of the post-pandemic world, as well as the long overdue racial and social justice movements sweeping our nation, we at DRA believe that the potential of the ADA is clearer than ever. We are, quite literally, rebuilding our society, and as we do so, DRA has an opportunity—and an obligation—to expand on the promise of the ADA and shape a more inclusive world.

Of course, ADA Day is important to not just DRA, but really everyone who cares about civil and human rights for people with disabilities—and I know that includes you. So, I hope you’ll take a moment out of your busy day to reflect on the wheels it set in motion, and then continue your efforts to keep them rolling.

On that note, I’m pleased to introduce three people who recently joined us on our righteous journey: board member Brian Frumkin of Bank of America and summer interns Danielle Menz and Gabrielle Birog. I’d also like to note that we are seeking new talent to join our team. I encourage you to view our current job openings and share as appropriate.

Finally, don’t forget to mark your calendars for DRA’s October 7 gala, which is shaping up to be a truly sensational event. Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement of several high-profile special guests and other program details. Please read on to learn more about the gala and its sponsorship opportunities.

With gratitude and hope for the future,

Kathy Martinez signature
Image: Kathy Martinez signature


DRA’s 2021 Virtual Gala

"DRA Virtual Gala: Save the Date: 10.7.2021"
Image: “DRA Virtual Gala: Save the Date: 10.7.2021”

There’s still time to join our growing list of generous sponsors, register to attend, or donate to DRA’s October 7th virtual gala.

Visit our gala web page to sign-up today and stay tuned for more exciting event updates coming soon

Special guests confirmed to date include: Attorney General Eric Holder, musician Raul Midón, and former Democratic congressman, disability rights icon, and founder of The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation, Tony Coelho.

Tony Coelho, Founder of The Coelho Center for Disability Law, Policy & Innovation
Portrait of Tony Coelho
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., 82nd Attorney General of the United States
Portrait of Eric Holder
Valerie Jarrett, President of the Obama Foundation
Portrait of Valerie Jarrett
Lee Merritt, Civil Rights Attorney
Portrait of Lee Merritt
Raul Midón, Singer-songwriter and guitarist
Portrait of Raul Midón playing guitar
Jason Mraz, Musician and social justice advocate
Portrait of Jason Mraz
U.S. Senator Alex Padilla
Portrait of Alex Padilla


New Board Member Profile – Brian Frumkin

Headshot of Brian Frumkin
Image: Portrait of Brian Frumkin

DRA is excited to welcome Brian Frumkin to our board of directors! Brian has been an attorney with Bank of America for over 30 years, specializing in consumer financial services and digital payment solutions. He also provides legal advice on accessibility matters to the retail bank and is especially proud of his work in helping the Bank maintain a leadership position in accessible banking services.

Why did you decide to join DRA’s Board of Directors?

“I felt that my experience as an ADA lawyer on the corporate side would provide a useful perspective to DRA. I’m also very proud of the leadership role Bank of America has taken in making its services accessible to persons with disabilities. As I approach the next chapter in my life, I look forward to using my experience, commitment and enthusiasm to help DRA achieve continued success on behalf of people with disabilities.”




Introducing DRA’s Interns

DRA’s passionate new interns are working hard to advance DRA’s disability justice mission. We are excited to have them aboard!

Portrait of Gabrielle Birog
Image: Portrait of Gabrielle Birog
Portrait of Danielle Menz
Image: Portrait of Danielle Menz

Learn more about Gabrielle Birog and Danielle Menz


Impact Report


Inaccessible sidewalk in Baltimore
Image: Inaccessible sidewalk in Baltimore (via Google)

In June, DRA filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Baltimore for its failure to properly install and maintain curb ramps and accessible sidewalks. These widespread and ongoing violations of disability law severely impact the ability of people with mobility disabilities to fully and equally participate in Baltimore civic life.


An envelope being held up "Absent Voter Ballot Secrecy Envelope" with instructions
An envelope being held up “Absent Voter Ballot Secrecy Envelope” with instructions (via Flickr/Nadya Peek)

In response to a class action lawsuit filed by DRA against the North Carolina Board of Elections challenging the state’s inaccessible absentee voting program, in June, a federal court ordered that immediate steps be taken to ensure that blind voters in North Carolina will have equal access to the 2021 municipal elections and all subsequent elections.


Empty school cafeteria with chairs and tables
Image: Empty school cafeteria with chairs and tables (via Flickr/Adrian Sampson)

Chicago Public Schools students with disabilities will now have access to free school lunches just as their non-disabled peers do, thanks to a class action lawsuit filed by DRA. In June, a judge preliminarily approved a settlement that will end the discriminatory policy of excluding students with certain types of disabilities.

Housing and Houselessness

RV parked outside
Image: RV parked outside (via Flickr/Trela S)

In July, DRA filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Mountain View, CA on behalf of RV residents fighting to stay in their homes. The lawsuit argues that the citywide RV parking ban is unconstitutional, inhumane, and disproportionately impacts people with disabilities, in violation of federal and state law.


Last week, DRA filed a landmark class action lawsuit against the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the largest professional human resources membership association in the world, challenging its failure provide Deaf professionals reasonable accommodations that would provide them equal access to SHRM’s educational programs, professional certifications and events.