October 2015 E-News



October 2015 E-Newsletter

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

In This Issue

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DRA Welcomes New Faces & Prepares for Eagles and Turkeys!

Dear DRA Family,

Fall is here, and we’re fast approaching DRA’s annual disability rights fundraising celebration: our 2015 Eagle and Turkey Awards! This networking luncheon is a great way to meet heroes of the disability community, learn about progress made, and support the work that remains to be done in advancing the rights of people with disabilities. Read on for more details on how to support our event, whether by sponsoring, attending, or spreading the word.

This season brings new faces to the office, and in this issue, we’ll introduce a few of our new legal fellows. We’re proud of what they’ve accomplished in their burgeoning legal careers, and eager to guide their continued growth as lawyers and as civil rights advocates. Congratulations to former fellows, Rebecca Rodgers and Haben Girma, as they have both been recently promoted to staff attorneys.  We’re incredibly grateful to all who have supported DRA’s fellowship programs—DRA’s fellows gain invaluable experience and DRA gains talented new lawyers.

Last week, DRA welcomed new advisors to our East Coast Advisory Board at a reception hosted by our Chair, Steve Foresta at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP’s Manhattan offices.  Our veteran and new advisors celebrated DRA’s work to increase access to health care, transportation, entertainment, emergency preparedness and more in the East.  They laid plans for a 2016 New York event and growing DRA’s national impact.  We’re thrilled that DRA’s family of supporters is growing nation-wide and look forward to expanding East Coast visibility and high impact work.

We can’t be happier about DRA’s growing family as we continue taking on important cases, and we look forward to seeing many of you at the Eagle and Turkey Awards Celebration next month.

DRA Executive Director Larry Paradis

Larry Paradis
Executive Director


Join us as we honor our 2015 disability rights heroes and call out the turkeys at DRA’s annual holiday awards presentation and networking luncheon:

image of a turkey


Eagle and Turkey Awards Luncheon
November 18, 2015
Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street, San Francisco
11:30 am – 1:30 pm
     image of an eagle
We are grateful to all who’ve generously committed to sponsor. If you haven’t submitted a sponsorship form yet, it’s not too late! Contact us by TOMORROW, October 21st with your pledge to ensure your sponsorship is recognized in all print materials for the event.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a nomination for a 2015 Eagle or Turkey.  This year’s awardees have been selected and will be unveiled at the ceremony on November 18th!

Individual tickets are now on sale! General admission is $150 per person. Visit our EventBrite page to purchase yours today before this popular event sells out.

If you need assistance or have any further questions about tickets or sponsorship, please contact Kate Hamilton at khamilton@dralegal.org.

East Coast Advisory Board GROWS!

DRA’s Advisory Board is comprised of 23 individuals located on both coasts. Through lending their expertise and time, advisors partner with DRA to advance the civil rights of people with disabilities across the country.

On October 8th, DRA welcomed Rebecca Alexander, Josef T. Ansorge, Andrew Brozman, Robert Egan, and Emma Rhodes to our East Coast Advisory Board through a reception hosted by Steve Foresta at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, in New York City:

Managing Attorney Michelle Caiola on the left and Advisor Steve Foresta on the right speak to our Advisors during the reception.

The future is looking bright for DRA and its impact in New York. Stay tuned for more from our Advisors and the DRA team about an event in Spring 2016 in New York City to raise awareness and support for our work.

Attorney Spotlight

DRA’s work is fueled by a talented legal team. This month we introduce second-year fellow Julia Marks, who joined our Berkeley office in September 2014.

Julia Marks
“For me, it’s very important to use my law degree to advocate for people in society who are not historically given power. I joined DRA because I really wanted to do impact litigation—big, complex cases which lead to solutions that are far-reaching. We try to change the way whole systems are operating, so that moving forward, people won’t face discrimination again.”
Read the full conversation here.

New Fellows Spotlight

DRA is thrilled to introduce our newest fellows who joined the team in September. DRA has a long-standing commitment to mentoring and training the next generation of public interest attorneys. Since our inception in 1993, we have sponsored over 30 legal fellows—almost all of whom have gone on to careers as public interest attorneys. These essential mentorship opportunities are supported by charitable donations, and we thank you for your continued generosity; we couldn’t do it without your help.


Sean Betouliere

Sean Betouliere joined DRA’s Berkeley office in 2015 as our second Wolinsky Fellowship Attorney. Sean received his law degree from Berkeley Law in 2015 and his Bachelor of Arts in English (with highest honors) from U.C. Berkeley in 2005. During law school, he served as an extern to Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu in the Northern District of California, and interned with Disability Rights California and the Disability Rights Program of the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center. Sean also worked as a clinic student with the East Bay Community Law Center’s Immigration and Community Economic Development clinics, and volunteered in the Legal Aid Society’s Workers’ Rights Disability Law clinic. As a former special education teacher and someone born with cerebral palsy, Sean has  a personal understanding of the barriers that people with disabilities still face, and he’s very excited to work with DRA to continue bringing those barriers down.
Sean’s fellowship was made possible through generous support from donors passionate about ensuring a future for civil rights litigation and lawyers with disabilities. Click here to learn more about DRA’s Wolinsky Fellowship and how you can support more fellows like Sean in perpetuity.
Seth Packrone
Seth Packrone joined DRA’s New York office in 2015 as a DRA Fellowship Attorney. Mr. Packrone received his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2015, his master’s degree from the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education in 2011, and his B.A. magna cum laude from Harvard College in 2010. During law school, he interned with UNICEF’s Disability Section and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia’s Special Education division. Seth also worked as a clinic student with the Education Law Clinic, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s Homeless Child Protection Project, and the Criminal Justice Institute, for which he was awarded Harvard Law School’s 2015 Exemplary Clinical Student Award.
Freya Pitts
Freya Pitts joined DRA’s Berkeley office in 2015 as a Liman Fellowship Attorney, focusing on the rights of young people with mental health and learning disabilities who are confined in juvenile halls.  Ms. Pitts received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2013, and her B.A. summa cum laude from Yale University in 2008.  Prior to joining Disability Rights Advocates, she clerked for the Honorable Judith W. Rogers of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the Honorable Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.  While in law school, Ms. Pitts was a member of the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic, the Immigration Legal Services Clinic, and the Advocacy for Children and Youth Clinic.

Impact Report

Fixing Long Beach’s Broken Sidewalks

Long Beach, CAOn September 17, Federal Judge Dale S. Fischer granted DRA’s motion to certify as a class action its lawsuit challenging the City of Long Beach’s failure to make required accessibility improvements to ensure that wheelchair users have safe and independent access to the City’s vast network of sidewalks and pedestrian routes.

People who use wheelchairs in Long Beach face intersections with no curb cuts, uplifted and cracked sections of sidewalk, hazardously steep slopes, and sidewalks blocked by poles and other obstacles. These pervasive barriers restrict the ability of wheelchair users to travel to work, meet with friends, and all the other essential activities of full participation in the community.

Longtime Long Beach resident and wheelchair user Ben Rockwell stated, “I have lived in Long Beach for almost thirty years and I’m thrilled that the unsafe sidewalk conditions throughout the City will finally be addressed, not just for myself but for everyone.”

Following the Judge’s decision to certify the class, DRA hopes to work with the City to reengage in settlement negotiations on a comprehensive, City-wide barrier removal plan. Read more about the class certification here.

Ensuring Equal Access to Healthcare in New York

New York, NYDRA filed suit in July 2013 on behalf of United Spinal, Inc. and five disabled individuals against Beth Israel Medical Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, together part of the Mount Sinai Health System. The lawsuit challenges pervasive architectural barriers, ineffective policies and procedures, and inaccessible medical equipment, which lead to substandard healthcare that jeopardizes patients’ health.

DRA is working diligently with Mount Sinai Health System in negotiations. We’ve made progress in surveying physical facilities and developing new policies, and we look forward to ensuring that everyone can access health care at its facilities. Read more about the case here.

The Right To Be Rescued in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C.In September of 2014, DRA partnered with other disability rights advocates to challenge the District of Columbia’s poor emergency planning for persons with disabilities. Together with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, we represent United Spinal, the D.C. Center for Independent Living, and three individuals with disabilities.

The District of Columbia had not publicized information about accessible emergency shelters, had not planned for emergency communications to persons who are deaf and blind, had not put accessible evacuation options in place, and had not planned for supply chain disruptions to medication and replacement durable medical equipment.

We continue to meet with the District’s attorneys and officials from the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) to ensure its disaster plans account for the needs of all D.C. residents. Read more about the case here.

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