June 2015, E-News



June 2015 E-Newsletter

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



In This Issue

Summer Awards, Anniversaries, and Achievements

Dear DRA Family,

Legal victories, awards, events, and more!  Summer is here and DRA’s office is bustling with activity.  Just this week, we welcomed our three new summer interns, received a prestigious award from the Hearing Loss Association of America, and achieved a major legal victory in our case to fix New York City’s broken and dangerous sidewalks so that New Yorkers with disabilities can safely travel.

Last month, we reached ground-breaking settlements on behalf of Alameda County voters who are blind and youth with disabilities in Contra Costa County’s juvenile hall.  And, DRA’s life-saving emergency preparedness work, on behalf of people with disabilities across the nation, was featured in a Yale Law Journal Article.

Next month, we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  DRA’s civil rights work would not be possible without this important law and we invite you to celebrate this important milestone with us at a small event at our Berkeley offices in July and, a larger event—our annual Eagle and Turkey Awards Celebration—in November.

In each of our recent e-newsletters we have featured one of DRA’s capable, award-winning, hard-working attorneys.  This summer, I’m honored to introduce you to the next generation of DRA leadership: Mary-Lee Smith and Stuart Seaborn.  These two are passionate disability rights defenders and talented legal advocates.

I hope you enjoy reading this summer’s news and I encourage you to join me, Sid, and the DRA team in the coming months as we celebrate 25 years with the ADA and 22 years of DRA victories on behalf of people with disabilities.

We couldn’t do it without all of you,

Larry Paradis

Executive Director and Director of Litigation
Disability Rights Advocates
Photo of Senior Staff Attorney, Stuart Seaborn

Senior Staff Attorney, Stuart Seaborn

What are you most proud of accomplishing at DRA?

“…our voting access work. In New York City, you have the largest board of elections in the country—also one of the most antiquated and inaccessible. I am proud we have helped changed that landscape…”

Click here to read more about Stuart and what inspires him about working at DRA.

Photo of Managing Attorney, Mary-Lee Smith

Managing Attorney, Mary-Lee Smith

What drew you to work with DRA?

“My interest started in UC Berkeley School of Law where I was interested in disability rights intellectually.  I learned that equal treatment didn’t always lead to equality.”

Click here to read more about Mary-Lee and what she’s looking forward to as we celebrate the next 25 years with the ADA.

DRA Attorney Spotlight

DRA’s work is fueled by a talented legal team. This month we want to introduce you to two of DRA’s leading attorney’s: Stuart Seaborn and Mary-Lee Smith.

Upcoming Events


Celebrate the ADA’s Anniversary and DRA’s Future

Save the evening of Tuesday, July 21st for a celebration of 25 years with the ADA at DRA’s Berkeley Offices. Meet DRA’s Board and staff. Look forward to the next 25 years and beyond.

Call for Eagle and Turkey Awards Nominations and Sponsors


Image of an eagle

On November 18th, 2015 DRA will hold our 2nd annual Eagle and Turkey Awards Luncheon at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. For event details, visit DRA’s website . Know of a company that is a champion of disability rights?  Or a company that consistently and knowingly violates the rights of people with disabilities?  Submit your Eagle and Turkey award nominations today.

Want to demonstrate your or your company’s commitment to protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities across the nation?  Want to be recognized at DRA’s annual luncheon?  Sponsor DRA’s Eagle and Turkey Awards Luncheon today.


Photo of Senior Staff Attorney, Christine Chuang
Senior Staff Attorney Christine Chuang was named one of the Daily Journal’s 2015 top 100 women lawyers. To read more about Christine’s impressive work on behalf of people with disabilities, click here.
Photo of Jerry Bergman, President HLAANY and Sid Wolinsky with his award
Founder and Director of Litigation, Sid Wolinsky received the Distinguished Leadership in Hearing Accommodation Award from Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) New York City, presented to him by HLAA NY Chapter President, Jerry Bergman. To read more about the HLAA NY’s recognition of Sid’s important work, click here.

DRA Impact Report


Suit challenging New York City’s failure to make sidewalks safe for disabled New Yorkers moves ahead — On June 1st, a federal judge cleared the way for DRA’s major class action suit against the City of New York.  The landmark civil rights lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York (CIDNY) alleges that New York City violates Federal disability civil rights laws by failing to make its sidewalks and pedestrian routes accessible to people who use wheelchairs or are blind. To read more about the case, visit DRA’s website.

Juvenile Justice

Settlement reached to ban solitary confinement for youth with disabilities in Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall — On May 19th, DRA announced a settlement requiring the Contra Costa County Probation Department to end its use of solitary confinement for all youth detained in Contra Costa County Juvenile Hall and the provision of appropriate education services to youth with disabilities.  This is the first case in the nation to being such a sweeping end to the use of solitary confinement for young people.  To read more about the settlement, visit DRA’s website.

Voting Rights

Landmark settlement reached to ensure Alameda County voters who are blind will be able to cast secret ballots on Election Day — On May 27th, DRA announced a landmark settlement reached on behalf of the California Council of the Blind (CCB) and five individuals who sued to challenge Alameda County’s failure to provide functional, accessible voting equipment at its poll sites on election day.  In this case, DRA achieved the first district court decision in the Country to hold that the ADA requires counties to provide disabled voters the same secret ballot experience they provide non-disabled voters.  To read more about the settlement, visit DRA’s website.

Emergency Preparedness

Senior Staff Attorney Christine Chuang with representatives from the City of PhoenixPhoenix announces plan to improve emergency planning — On May 19th, DRA joined the City of Phoenix as Phoenix announced its plan to work with DRA to revise its emergency operations plan to ensure that residents and visitors with disabilities are taken care of in times of crisis.  To read more about the announcement, visit DRA’s website.

*DRA’s emergency preparedness work in Phoenix and Maricopa Counties was made possible by a generous grant from CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA insurer.

DRA’s national emergency preparedness initiative featured in Yale Law Journal Article — Author Adrien Weibgen highlights the critical role DRA has played in this life-saving, national initiative: “In a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, DRA argued that the emergency plans of the city…failed to address the needs of people with disabilities.  By early 2011, DRA has received a landmark ruling in the case…the first to find the emergency response plan of an entire city to be non-compliant with the ADA.”  Download the article to read more about DRA’s ground-breaking emergency preparedness work in cities across the country and what lies ahead to ensure all citizens are protected when disasters strike.