UW News

May 27, 2004

Fair to highlight advocacy for people with disabilities

News and Information

A special Advocacy Fair, highlighting the policies and legislative priorities of groups that advocate for persons with disabilities, will be held from 9:30 to 11:20 a.m. Wednesday, June 2, in the atrium of Mary Gates Hall.

The fair is a culminating project for the students in the Disability Law, Policy and Community class, one of three disability studies core courses offered jointly by the Comparative History of Ideas and the Law, Society and Justice programs. Kurt Johnson, associate professor in rehabilitation medicine and course instructor commented, “This is the second year we have offered the three quarter series of disability studies courses. We are very excited about the student enthusiasm, and are working to develop a formal minor in disability studies.”

The fair will include information from a variety of organizations that advocate for people with disabilities. Displays will focus on these organizations’ current major policy issues and their legislative priorities. Representatives from several of the organizations will be present; students from the course, who have conducted field work with the advocacy groups, will be available to answer questions.

Students in the course have been analyzing various policies from the perspective of persons with disabilities. Among the issues they have pursued in depth is the Help America Vote Act, which aims to make polling places more accessible to persons with disabilities. Students also examined the Respectful Language Act of Washington, which directs that all state laws should refer first to individuals and then to that person’s disability: Recent legislation directed that terms such as “the disabled” or “the mentally ill” be replaced with “individuals with disabilities” or “individuals with mental illness.”

Other students examined legislation aimed at promoting the use of assistive technologies, the closure of Fircrest School, and the challenges of allowing courtroom testimony by persons with cognitive disabilities.

“This is an outstanding group of undergraduates,” said co-instructor Pat Brown, a research scientist in rehabilitation medicine and clinical assistant professor in rehabilitation medicine and education. “Students have been conducting field work all quarter, working with the advocacy group of their choice, and this fair is an opportunity to see what they’ve learned, as well as the major issues that are the highest priorities for organizations that advocate for persons with disabilities.”