Our idea was simple. If the problem with individuals with disabilities starts with them not standing up for themselves, why don’t we test that theory and educate them. If the goal to inclusion is promoting rights awareness why don’t we empower people by explaining what they are entitled to. If the procedures are confusing, why don’t we show how to go about them and what to expect. We thought everybody would welcome this concept with open arms. After all, we all want to help those with physical and intellectual disabilities alike reach their full potential, right? Education is key they say and the more you know the less likely you are to be brushed aside. I also thought that the general, abled body public should learn a bit about those things too. It’s a human trait to be curious about the world that surrounds us. The more we know, the less bizarre those things appear. And after all, we all share the same reality. Our idea was simple- to travel across Florida (and beyond perhaps in the future) with a traveling workshop if you will, a presentation if you will of the most common features of the Americans with Disabilities Act and related legislation, mostly the State counterparts because they are rarely taught. We also wanted to focus on opportunities in education. I consider them a great equalizer. It gives individuals with disabilities more sought after skills and unique qualifications that put them at a better position on a job market. But in order to get to those advanced degrees a person with a physical or mental condition needs to complete all the stages leading up to it from elementary school to college and often face disability related problems. And they need to know what the law allows and how to overcome them. I’m not surprised that I see so few people in wheelchairs at my American law school for example, if it’s so difficult to get there in the first place. And it’s that much harder if you have a condition that can derail you off your path at so many different junctions. A lot more things could go wrong if you have a disability. The problem is the law schools don’t really teach disability law. If they do, they do it rarely and limit the scope to mostly the federal component. What is offered to the general public, that is not studying to be attorneys, I don’t even know. I’ve written about it before. People with disabilities are often mistreated, they don’t know they should talk to an attorney or at least demand service, accommodation or access when riding the bus or frequenting a venue. We wanted to fill that void. We wanted to dedicate our careers or at least a good chunk of them to empower people, because knowledge is power, as idealistic as it sounds, make the world a better place. It would not give us a lot of money, but a sense of satisfaction. To be able to look at yourself in the mirror is priceless. Nothing would give me greater joy than doing something I believe I and feel passionate about for a living. But now, I’m sure if it will ever happen. And it’s not easy to let go of a dream. As I spent all of my life with a disability and most of in a wheelchair I wanted to use those experiences for something good.
The idea was to start a non profit with a sole purpose to explain the ins and outs of ADA, an educational structure. To my friends it was one of the more interesting career possibilities, to me it’s more of an mission. And I don’t know how to do about it, I don’t have the resources to launch a project like that, I can’t do it alone. The original concept was to involve universities to bring the program in and let us do a presentation. They are educational facilities after all. Not only do they have experience putting things together like that, it would also further their mission. I also think that students with their youth and drive will be the ones transforming the world anyway, so let’s give them the tools to be the new, driven, aware and unapologetic generation of people with disabilities. I decided to start talking to some schools.
Easy, right? Wrong. They fear us. They fear me, I should say, because I’m an attorney. In their eyes,I’m there to solicit clients. To snoop, to figure out whatever they do wrong only to sue them later. And I can understand how you would not trust a lawyer. And I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall trying to explain that I’m only here to educate, but I can’t get their guard down. Some say they have legal departments or ADA attorneys, but do they offer large-scale, structured campus wide presentations? I’m running out of options, I’m low on energy and I’m getting frustrated. Maybe it’s just not meant to be? Maybe it’s stupid to have this dream?
At this stage I’m open to suggestions, cooperation, help or anything that would let me do the things I wanted to do since I applied to law school. If you know or run an institution or a program that could be a good fit for me, let me know. If you’re an educator, a lawyer and you want to do something together, let me know also. Because it’s time for to make a decision and figure out what is realistic and what’s a quixotic dream. While I want to help others and my needs are small, I need to find a way to make a living on continuous basis. If I can’t make this work I need to refocus my goals. I may not do what I hoped but at least not only my family would never have to worry about me, I wouldn’t have to worry about them. Please share and retweet this rs@Lawyeronwheels.org