When it comes to the ADA's 25th anniversary, should we celebrate? Do better? Or both?

When it comes to the ADA’s 25th anniversary, should we celebrate? Do better? Or both?

Yesterday, I pointed you toward a few news stories regarding the 25th anniversary of passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Today, I suggest some additional resources and reading.

Begin with an insightful op-ed by Erica McFadden. She’s an analyst at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU. As she opens her piece:

“Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and there is reason to celebrate the progress it ushered in over that quarter-century. But needed still is a call to action to affirm equality — especially in terms of employment.”

“Just one in three Arizonans with disabilities ages 16 to 64 were employed from 2008 to 2012, according to the census. That’s compared to more than two in three (71 percent) Arizonans with no disabilities who were employed during that time.”

“Perhaps even more sobering is the percentage of Arizonans with disabilities not even in the job market: 59 percent.”

And then follow it up with a My Turn column in the Arizona Republic by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi where she examines the sad statistics surrounding employment of people with disabilities.

Understanding-the-ADA-Goren ABA bookThird, for the law practice-minded among you, head over the ABA website to consider purchasing a new book titled “Understanding the ADA,” by William D. Goren and described by the publisher:

“This new edition of Understanding the ADA delves deeper into many of the complex topics of disability claims. The updates offer expanded guidance on remedies if the law is violated; advice on when you have a right to sue; the statute of limitations for ADA claims; when a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss; and whether a class-action is a viable thing to pursue. There are new areas of discussion regarding standing, when a complaint is sufficient, statute of limitations, and mixed-motive jury instructions, and additional information on disparate treatment cases, class actions, jury selection, and Batson challenges. Expanded and new topics include: ADA as it relates to sports including the Office of Civil Rights guidance on § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act Utilizing negligence and negligence per se actions as an alternative to title III claims Highly detailed chapter on remedies and procedural issues Improved checklists and litigation forms.”

Finally, please enjoy the great article by Judge Randall Howe that we published in May. It reminds us how important advocacy is to progress. In the judge’s case, it was his mother who was driven for equity in her son’s education. For you? Well, everyone may have a different advocate.

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.

Bill Scott

This past month, we received the sad news that Bill Scott had passed away. Bill was a great friend to lawyers, and he cemented it in the pages of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Way back in December 2002, we published a roundtable of attorneys and judges on the topic of lawyers with disabilities. The roundtable transcript and accompanying photos were a great hit.

Funny thing was, I had always moderated any panel discussions and roundtables we sponsored. That, and unlimited Post-It Notes, are a few of the greatest benefits of the editor job. But in the months leading up to the roundtable, someone introduced me to Bill, who ran a business called Abilities Unlimited.

At first, I thought Bill would make a wonderful panelist. But as we talked more, I determined that he would make an even better moderator. Fortunately for me, he had made the same determination—weeks before I did.

Never enjoying the role of potted plant, I had some trepidation in turning over to a newcomer the reins of a roundtable that included a state Supreme Court Justice. But I needn’t have worried. Bill cajoled a wonderful conversation out of those assembled. Read the whole thing—“Ready, Willing and Able: Our Lawyers With Disabilities Roundtable”—here.

(Bill also contributed to the work of the State Bar of Arizona Committee on Persons with Disabilities in the Legal Profession.)

A very nice remembrance of Bill’s contributions can be found here in the Arizona Republic.

And here is a piece from the National Fire Prevention Association, to whose mission Bill contributed:

“Bill Scott, founder and president of Abilities Unlimited, Inc., and chair of NFPA’s Disabilities Access Review and Advisory Committee (DARAC) died on March 31, 2011. Bill, a nationally respected disability expert and advocate, also served on NFPA’s “Fire Safety for People with Disabilities Task Force” and contributed many hundreds of hours to committees, groups and organizations all in the interest of improving fire and life safety for people with disabilities. “Bill’s passion, quick wit, gentle demeanor, incredibly positive attitude, broad smile, and unfailing devotion to making life better for all people will be forever remembered by his friends and colleagues,” said NFPA President James Shannon.”

Farewell, Bill.

Casey Martin at the Disability Empowerment Center, Phoenix, Ariz., Dec. 1, 2010

It should not have been a surprise, I suppose, that a story about a professional golfer would have some Arizona connection. And so it was the case with Casey Martin, who stopped by Arizona to speak at a State Bar event.

And yet his nexus with the Grand Canyon State was a part of his instructive tale I had never heard. But more on that in a bit.

Like most Bar committees, the Committee on Persons With Disabilities in the Legal Profession strives to create relevant and dynamic seminars. But (surprise!) the life of the law can sometimes be, shall we say, a bit dry. How to educate well enough to provide CLE credit, but edify enough to keep them coming back for more?

Their December 1 seminar achieved both goals. Titled “If You Let Us Play: Sports, Disabilities and the impact of the Law,” it included not only Casey Martin (of sports and law fame), but also lawyer Jose de Jesus Rico, who golfed cleanup after Martin spoke.

JJ Rico kept everyone alert and entertained on the back nine (OK, that’s my last golf joke) as he explained the facts and the law of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Like any great instructor, he made the law comprehensible through examples. His accessibility stories came from sports arenas we all know. As he described real-life scenarios involving coaches, players and spectators, we could picture the venue and understand the unmet need.

Jose de Jesus (JJ) Rico

His six-page “cheat sheet” of Title III cases is one I will hold onto—at least until the next time the Supreme Court renders a new ADA decision. His talk was a birdie, if not a hole-in-one (OK, I lied about the golf jokes).

Rico’s success is all the more noteworthy given Casey Martin’s presentation that preceded him.

Martin was introduced by Michael Somsan, a Community Legal Services attorney who is also non-sighted. Somsan explained how he had committed himself to the task of bringing Martin to the state to speak. Gesturing toward Joe Mikitish and other committee members, Somsan laughed, “They got the blind guy to hunt him down.”

Michael Somsan

The stories Martin told circled around his legal case that ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001. But it began and ended with his love of sport.

The young Martin grew up in Eugene, Ore., idolizing the Ducks. He discovered he could golf, despite a problem with his right leg.

He suffers from something called Klippel Trenaunay Weber syndrome. Or, as he told the audience, “My blood goes down the leg, but won’t come back up so well.” Despite the painful condition, he performed well enough to get offered a spot on the Stanford golf team (where he played with Tiger Woods, among others).

And that’s where Arizona’s initial role in his career arose.

While with the team, Martin played 36 holes at the ASU Karsten Golf Course. On a hot day, he struggled over the mogul-filled course, all while his leg felt worse and worse. The Arizona State coach urged him to use a cart, but Martin got through the round entirely upright.

L to R: Emily Johnston, Randall Howe (back to camera), Joe Mikitish, JJ Rico, Casey Martin

Back in Oregon, his coach insisted that he use a cart. So for two years, he would occasionally ride rather than walk.

His difficulties grew worse as he got into the qualifying tournament for the PGA Tour. He knew a cart was not permitted, but with the assistance of a lawyer friend, he put together a package of materials, asking the PGA for cart permission.

It was returned unopened.

That non-response led to his legal efforts. (Martin says that because the ADA requires an individualized assessment of a person’s needs, the PGA may have made a significant mistake in failing to make a substantive response.) He filed for an injunction, and won.

As his case wound through the courts, Martin saw the attention on him grow.

“There was Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson, and all of the other top players with all their media attention—and then there was me,” also with a growing parade of media correspondents.

He won at trial, and then at the Ninth Circuit. At every stage, the PGA appealed. But his lawyer told him that the U.S. Supreme Court was unlikely to take “a golf cart case.” But the Court confounded expectations, and Martin won his case, 7 to 2. (Read the opinion here.)

Casey Martin

As Martin speaks, he shifts from leg to leg, transferring his weight on and then off the limb that only four years ago he thought would have to be amputated.

In 2006, Martin stopped playing professionally. He is now the head golf coach at the University of Oregon.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” says Martin with a smile. “No pun intended.”

Martin says that he learned some lessons through the experience.

First, he came away with added respect for lawyers, whom he saw “brutalized” by the Justices in the Supreme Court oral argument.

“For all the bad press you guys get, it was impressive to see all the pressure the lawyers were under.”

In that regard, he also praises his friend Bill Wiswall, the Oregon personal injury lawyer who initially persuaded the golfer to pursue a legal remedy.

Martin also learned to accept the mixed message that the sport he loved was conveying to him. For instance, in his trial the PGA had golf legends such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer testify for it. They stated that the game’s purity required that carts not be allowed.

“It’s not a great feeling when the pillars of the game tell the court that you are harming the sport.”

Martin puts the comments into context.

“Golf doesn’t have a great history of being forward-thinking in a lot of ways.” He speaks about the reception that women and people have color have gotten from the game, and the changes they wrought.

But things change, Martin says.

“The family of George Bush has been big in the PGA,” he says. “And then George Bush signed the ADA.”

“I’m hopeful that as golf progresses, it will not just be a crusty, white, wealthy sport.”

With that, Martin thanked the audience and left the room. With a limp, he headed back north to his new generation of student–athletes.