A new icon is available to indicate accessibility in the City of Phoenix.

A new icon is available to indicate accessibility in the City of Phoenix.

This morning, a group gathers in the Phoenix City Hall to announce the launch and allowed use of a new symbol designating accessibility (you can see it above). It’s been a long time coming.

The new icon is described as “reflecting a disabled community that is active, motivated and determined.” Phoenix is the first Arizona city to adopt the icon.

Mayor Greg Stanton will speak at the event at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Also offering remarks will be Alisa Blandford, Phoenix Equal Opportunity Department Director; Edward Kim, President & General Manager of Cigna; and Jennifer Longdon, disabled rights advocate (and a neighbor of mine!).

As an Arizona Republic article has explained, Cigna was the company in Arizona that instigated the requested use. The new icon was designed by Sara Hendren, a professor of design at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts. She also helped found the Accessible Icon Project, “a group dedicated to providing people with supplies and services they need to make the switch.”

As the Accessible Icon Project so well describes it:

“The symbol does not ‘represent’ people with disabilities, but symbolizes the idea that all people with disabilities can be active and engaged in their lived environment. Our active accessibility symbol helps re-imagine how society and individuals view people with disabilities.”

The Project also provides a timeline of sorts of accessibility icons over time:

Accessibility icons through the years (from the Accessible Icon Project)

Accessibility icons through the years (from the Accessible Icon Project)

Below you can see the symbol that is being phased out (it is called the International Symbol of Access, which was created in 1969). Congratulations to the City of Phoenix for your leadership in this area.

This accessibility icon, designed in 1969, may become less prevalent in Phoenix.

This accessibility icon, designed in 1969, may become less prevalent in Phoenix.

The American response to hateful words is traditionally more words. Is there a better way?

The American response to hateful words is traditionally more words. Is there a better way?

This spring saw a sometimes-troubling dialogue about campus speech erupt. Some of that dialogue was spurred by videotape catching the racist chants of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity at the University of Oklahoma.

Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini wrote about the incident, and some of the reactions he’s gotten.

In it, Montini says he supports the school’s expulsion of students who perform that way. But he got pushback from an ASU student who said all speech should be permitted—even the offensive speech.

First Amendment challenges have never been more challenging.

I’ve written before about the difficulties a free society faces where speech is concerned. And the newest skirmishes remind me of a book I’ve touted in the past: The Harm in Hate Speech, by Jeremy Waldron.

In these United States, we have been taught to believe that (pretty much) all speech should be unregulated. But Waldron points out that the American view is not the only possible course.

Maybe the American view is correct. Maybe the only antidote to horrific speech is simply more speech, as if the latter will shout out the former.

But other nations—even many who have a rule of law we respect—take a decidedly different tack. Their approaches are founded on a belief that the public utterance of hateful speech can cause harm, even if it is not paired with criminal behaviors.

Harm in Hate Speech book cover Jeremy WaldronThose nations could be wrong, and “speech codes” find little support in the United States. But I wonder what would happen if the next time an incident of hate speech makes the national headlines, those in the majority culture took a rhetorical pass and remained silent for a bit. It might be enlightening to hear only from people of color on the topic of how to address hate speech.

Who knows? Their response may be the same, as we are all steeped in an American culture that insists, “I condemn your speech, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

But maybe not. Maybe the response will be more nuanced than simply calling for tolerance and more speech.

It is far too easy for those who are never affected by hate speech (except to find it vaguely distasteful) to insist that such utterances are a sad but necessary part of our republic. As I’ve written before, it is offensive to maintain a position that requires people in minority communities to carry the burden of daily insults so that an American sense of fair play can by upheld.

Sure, everyone’s opinion on hate speech is welcome. But I’d prefer if we gave prime position to those opinions that arise from minority communities. Does hate speech simply “come with democracy”? Or can words alone be such a debilitating harm that they should be addressed and maybe curtailed in some way?

What do you think? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Mother's Day banner

The following information may be bad news to you: Yesterday was Mother’s Day.

If you find yourself in the awkward bind of realizing that fact a day late, here’s what I recommend: Read Randy Howe’s touching article in Arizona Attorney Magazine. Then contact your loved one and apologize—more than once. And make amends by sharing the story’s link with her.

Randy’s story and his mother’s evocative and surprising letter of advocacy for her son may heal all wounds.

The heart of the story of Randall Howe—now an Arizona Court of Appeals judge—revolves around his mother’s position in regard to her son’s education, and a letter she sent to the district on his behalf. As he writes:

“Six years old was when children in Colorado started first grade, and my mother believed that I should begin school. The fact that I had cerebral palsy, walked with walker, and had a speech impediment—all of these things she deemed irrelevant to my need—my right—to go to school. Consequently, she enrolled me in the elementary school down the street from our house. School officials had never encountered children with a severe disability before and put her off, requiring that I be mentally and psychologically tested to determine if I was intellectually capable of attending school.”

“Undaunted, she did just that. And from reading the letter, you can see what happened. I went to first grade for four days, until school officials decided that they were unable to give a child with a disability the physical assistance necessary so that he could attend school. My mother—again undaunted—proceeded to petition, cajole and argue with the school officials, and to threaten legal action against the school board to get me the public education that was provided to every nondisabled child in the State of Colorado.”

Here is Randy’s whole story, which I (seriously) suggest you share with friends and family.

The Historic Arizona State Capitol Building as it was being built at the turn of the 20th Century to today. (Photo illustration by Justin Painter, Arizona Capitol Museum)

The Historic Arizona State Capitol Building as it was being built at the turn of the 20th Century to today. (Photo illustration by Justin Painter, Arizona Capitol Museum)

In April, the Arizona Capitol Museum opened a new exhibit titled “Under the Copper Dome: The Creation and Changes of Arizona’s Capitol.” The displays include photographs and a timeline of the Capitol Complex.

As part of the exhibit, the Museum unveiled unveil “a trio of plaques signed by Gov. Raúl Castro, the Legislature, and other officials that have not been on public display since 1976,” according to the Museum.

Admission and parking at the Museum are free.

You can watch this very short teaser for the new exhibit:

And here is a news story about a Museum exhibit focused on former Gov. Raúl Castro (it opens silently, with no sound):

Be sure to follow the museum on Twitter, where you’ll find multiple video interviews in the “Under the Copper Dome” series.

And here is more information as shared via their press release:

“If the walls of the capitol building could talk, they would tell of a territory grown into a thriving state,” said Sec. of State Michele Reagan. “They also would share the story of the important transformations in Arizona government based on the needs of the state’s citizens.”

Arizona Gov. Raúl Castro

Arizona Gov. Raúl Castro

Arizona’s state government is ever changing and chronicled in the evolution of the Arizona State Capitol Complex. Dedicated in 1900, the capitol building has seen its share of lawmakers and been transformed into the Arizona Capitol Museum (AzCM) where thousands of school children from all over Arizona come to connect with their state government, past and present.

“There is no place more appropriate for people to learn Arizona civics,” said Jason Czerwinski, AzCM Assistant Director, “to learn that their government is still changing and that they can make that change happen. This exhibit will be a launch pad for their exploration of Arizona’s government.”

The Arizona Capitol Museum is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free parking for AzCM guests in Wesley Bolin Plaza at 17th Avenue between Adams and Jefferson Streets. For more information, call 602-926-3620. The AzCM is a branch of the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records, a division of the Secretary of State.

That's the Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston) to you and me.

That’s the Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston) to you and me.

In late March, I attended a conference at ASU that focused on the value of prison education—a topic easy to overlook, even in a high-incarceration society. (I previewed the event here.)

The conference was terrific, and you may still be able to see tweets by me and others by looking for @PEAC_ASU and the hashtag #PEC15. And as long as you’re online, be sure to follow ASU’s Prison Education Awareness Club.

The topic of education for correctional inmates is pretty specific, one that I would think does not recur in my life too often. But a recent trip to Boston threw the issue in stark relief again.

As I strolled through the Institute of Contemporary Art in that city, I was pleased to see so many compelling and provocative pieces. It is worth a stop—the longer the better—if you get the chance.

This is the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Yes, it’s as cool as it looks. Yes, you want to visit.

This is the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Yes, it’s as cool as it looks. Yes, you want to visit.

One particularly striking exhibition (sorry, it closes May 10) was called “When the Stars Begin to Fall.” The ICA describes it here:

“When the Stars Begin to Fall gathers 35 artists of different generations who share an interest in the American South as both a real and fabled place. Key to the exhibition is the relationship between contemporary art, black life, and ‘outsider’ art, a historically fraught category typically encompassing artists who have not received formal art training and who may have been marginalized in society. When the Stars Begin to Fall includes artworks by self-taught, spiritually inspired, and incarcerated artists alongside projects by prominent contemporary artists such as Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Kerry James Marshall, David Hammons, and Theaster Gates. It presents diverse artworks—from drawing and painting to performance, sculpture, and assemblage—unified by an insistent reference to place.”

Read more about the exhibition here.

The entire show was amazing, but I was especially struck by the work of the incarcerated artists. (That may not be a surprise, given the number of times I’ve covered corrections issues before. For instance, here is my review of the film Herman’s House, about former Louisiana inmate Herman Wallace, whom I’ve written about numerous times.)

It may be more than a coincidence that some of our most evocative art arises from people in adverse conditions. And a few artists represented in Boston cause viewers to stop and consider what we value and how fragile our sense of normalcy is.

Causing me to pause was the work of Frank Albert Jones. As I gleaned from the museum-curated detail: The artist created the drawings with colored pencils he salvaged from the accounting office of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, where Jones was an inmate at the end of his life. The pieces on display were from the late 1960s, soon before Jones’s death.

Here are photos of his pieces on display:

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Also compelling were pieces by Henry Ray Clark, as described by the museum:

“Conjuring alternate realities, Clark creates drawings populated with figures that appear to be from another planet. He builds his compositions by repeating geometric shapes to form patterns and elaborate borders around central subjects. As Clark’s titles imply, his works express feelings of isolation while humorously suggesting possible places where people can exist with their multiple identities.”

Clark also was in the Texas Penitentiary. Upon release, he got involved in Houston’s artist community and participated in community-based organization Project Row Houses. Here is some of Clark’s work:

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The work by Jones and Clark was noteworthy, but I also was struck by the artists who had never been incarcerated but whose work complements and comments on a society heavy on incarceration. Like the dedicated students in the Prison Education Awareness Club, these artists feel that prisons say a lot about us and that they have lessons to tell—about those within the walls and those without.

Among those intriguing people were video artists Kara Walker (and her video titled 8 Possible Beginnings; or the Creation of African-America, A Moving Picture by Kara E. Walker) and Lauren Kelley (and her video titled Unbleached Objects).

Kelley’s work (photo below) communicated consciously with the pieces by Frank Albert Jones on a facing wall. As the museum explained:

“Kelley’s series of videos on view are inspired by the blue and red drawings of Frank albert Jones featured in this gallery. To create these animated drawings, Kelley sourced images of miscellaneous goods on Etsy, an online marketplace for arts, crafts, and vintage items. She envisions these as ‘portraits of the playful spirits captured in the spaces Jones ornately rendered.’ The objects sourced from the free market of the internet contrast sharply with Jones’s reality as a prisoner … but they make reference to the types of mass-produced goods currently made by incarcerated individuals for large corporations.”

Prison arts Boston Unbleached Objects by Lauren Kelley_opt

Unbleached Objects by Lauren Kelley

Here are a few of the inmate-created works displayed at the March ASU conference, as described by Kyes Stevens from the Alabama Prison Arts and Education Project (click to enlarge):

And here are photos from the packed-to-the-gills room as PEAC president Jessica Fletcher opened the conference (click the photos to enlarge):

Given the wall-and-wire chasm that lies between millions of inmates and the society that imprisons them, art may be a necessary bridge. Based on the conference message, art can play a powerful role in humanizing a dehumanizing situation. And based on my visit to Boston, it can play a similarly powerful role in reminding us all of the need to remain fully human, even as we dole out justice and retribution.

Should all law-school graduates be this confident? (Reuters/Jim Bourg)

Should all law-school graduates be this confident? (Reuters/Jim Bourg)

How bullish are you on the practice of law? Are things getting rosier by the month, or is it too early to tell?

I ask because, well, it’s kind of my job to ask. But I also came across two recent articles that suggest the legal profession is in a watershed moment—not entirely great, but cautiously optimistic.

The first article (sent my way by the great communications pro Katie Mayer) examines the starting salaries of new associates, and it offers a more nuanced gaze than you might expect. Yes, the author admits, those salaries are marginally higher. But that may be due to the fact that more large firms are providing data. And even in those big firms, new lawyers are seeing lower salaries than in the heyday of law. Why? As big firms gobble up regional ones, those “new” lawyers in the smaller cities are not being paid close to the $160,000 that their big-city colleagues get.

As Max Nisen writes, “According to NALP, … many large firms have been buying up smaller, more regional firms outside major urban centers where pay is higher. Those smaller firms often don’t pay their associates $160,000, which lowers the percentage of large law firm salaries that start at that rate.”

See? Nuanced.

The second article, in the ABA Journal, explores the job market for new law grads. But its author honestly admits that while prospects may be up, that may be due to having fewer graduates in the marketplace. As fewer people opt to enter the law, those who remain may see marginally better opportunities.

Mark Hansen writes:

“Nearly 60 percent of all 2014 law school graduates were employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs, requiring bar passage, as of March 15, according to data released Wednesday [on April 29] by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.”

That is up nearly three percent from last year, Hansen say. You can see that data yourself here.

If this all is the new normal, at least it’s a slightly better version of normal.

Do the two articles reflect your experience? Are you cautiously optimistic too?

Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

On Saturday, April 25, the State Bar of Arizona once again held its annual Law Day legal-aid clinics. There, more than 20 attorneys volunteered ther time and expertise to assist more than 200 consumers.

The following update comes from my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

“On Saturday, April 25 the State Bar of Arizona held the 2015 Law Day Legal Aid Clinics where 21 of its members offered free one-on-one legal consultations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at two locations in Phoenix.”

“The clinics offered free legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure, Probate/Trust Law, and Immigration Law at State Bar of Arizona headquarters and St. Matthew Parish in central Phoenix. This year, the Bar partnered with ABC15 and Univision Arizona to promote the day-long clinics, which proved to be overwhelmingly successful.”

“Volunteer attorneys provided 216 consultations during law clinic for the 208 consumers who were seen. In addition, many attorneys offered pro-bono legal services after the clinic to consumers who needed additional help.”

To read more about the Law Day clinics—including links to media coverage and the names of all the volunteers—click here.

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