October Spotlight: National Disability Employment Awareness Month
As we celebrate National Disability Awareness Month, we consider the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has influenced how all within the United States receive and approach services. While much has been accomplished, there is still much to be done to destigmatize disabilities and create a truly accessible legal market and world for all. Our alumni and current students have embraced the challenge to make the law accessible to all!
Danielle Lewis (JD '17) is an advocate for disability rights, stemming from her personal experiences and her professional commitments. As she says, "My journey with disabilities started when I was a child, but my current job is the first that tries to meet my abilities and benefit from my potential. There is a poster in our office that reads Because We Are Equal To The Task, and that's how I want you to think about this. Accessibility does not give people a leg up or a head start, it allows us to do our best work. In whatever position you're in, you will make an impact, it is up to you to make sure it is a positive one."
Danielle also shared tips on supporting those with disabilities, both within and outside the Pepperdine Caruso Law family.
1) Be conscious of accessibility. There are many reasons why people don't think about accessibility when they create documents, products, events, and tasks. Start thinking about how this world looks to others- this will make you a better lawyer, a more empathetic person, and will make the world a more just place.
2) Wherever You Are, Speak Up. You don't need to be the boss or work in disability law to be an ally and reduce the stigma around accessibility and counseling. Raise accessibility considerations during event planning (can people using wheelchairs attend) and in the documents you create (use resources like this guide to creating accessible documents).
3) Be Kind. You don't have to fight every battle for every person, but you can refuse to add to others' burdens. I was not the only student struggling at Pepperdine, even with the support of the Counseling Center and Accessibility Office. We encountered bullying, shame, and callousness, mostly from fellow students. It should not be that way. It is imperative you keep this in mind during this strange and stressful academic year. Consider your actions and be kind.
Our current students advocate for disability awareness through the Health Law Society. They note that disability awareness is important for our society to progress and to create a positive and inclusive world. As future and practicing attorneys, disability awareness allows us to be more effective advocates for all clients. Like any form of diversity inclusion, disability awareness provides further education, greater empathy, and encourages change in law and policy.
For 30 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has incorporated health law and policy to increase equity and better the lives of those with disabilities. The equal opportunity law prohibits discrimination and guarantees individuals with disabilities the opportunity to participate and subsequently improve the society in which we live. As the Health Law Society Board, we strive to support Pepperdine students, promote inclusivity, and continue to educate both ourselves and the community we so proudly serve."