Cohen and Wolf's Lunch & Learn Series: ABA’s Commission on Disability Rights
On October 26, in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, our DEI committee welcomed guest speakers Robert (Bob) Dinerstein Esq. and Attorney Brandon Lee Wolff. Bob serves as the Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Disability Rights, and Brandon serves as a Commissioner on the ABA Commission. As part of Cohen and Wolf’s Lunch and Learn Series, Bob and Brandon discussed the importance of the ABA’s Commission, the problems law students and professionals with mental, sensory, and physical disabilities face, and options for assistance.
“Disability is a core issue with DEI matters,” Brandon explained. “Many individuals have disabilities that aren’t apparent.” For instance, attorneys or students with an auditory processing disorder need more time to read and write. As a result, billable hours and different rates may come into play. Brandon emphasized how it is important for law firms to address these types of issues for those with different types of disabilities.
According to Bob, one disadvantage is that there are a lot of stigmas associated with those who have mental disabilities, including anxiety, ADHD, and depression. As a result, people are conflicted about the possibility of being flagged as unable to accomplish tasks. Bob stated that there is such a low number of attorneys and law students who disclose their disabilities because others are not willing to take the risk.
“Sometimes it takes time for people to share their disability,” Bob revealed. It is difficult for people to come forward, he said, because they have many issues surrounding them, and it can be overwhelming. He encouraged those with disabilities not to look at disability as a defect, and if accommodations are needed, then it should be mentioned to employers. Overall, law firms should look for ways to communicate and accommodate so that disabilities can be supported.
Fortunately, the ABA offers resources to assist law students and professionals with disabilities, and many law firms are working toward breaking barriers and setting up accommodations to help those in need. Established in 1973, the ABA’s Commission works together with the Diversity and Inclusion Center on many initiatives to support the professional needs of lawyers and law students with disabilities through webinars and publications. The ABA’s Commission established a diversity plan to help eliminate bias by promoting and tracking diversity throughout the legal profession and justice system.
Robert (Bob) Dinerstein, Esq, is a professor of law and director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL), where he has taught since 1983.
Brandon Lee Wolff is an attorney with Kaufman Dolowich Voluck, LLP, focusing his practice on employment litigation and commercial litigation matters in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Florida, and the District of Columbia.