Public Policy

Harbor Island 3

Life in the Community: Know Your Rights

Thursday, November 2
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Location: Harbor Island 3

Target Audience: Self-Advocates|Professionals

Disability discrimination can pose significant barriers to a successful life in the community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), but it often goes unrecognized. It is easy to recognize prohibited disability discrimination when it is blatant. For example, if a landlord says, “I don’t rent to people with disabilities,” or a prospective employer says, “I don’t hire people with disabilities,” most would immediately recognize this conduct as illegal disability discrimination. However, many instances of disability discrimination are more subtle, but still illegal. If a landlord refuses to rent to tenants with disabilities because they are not a "good fit" for the neighborhood or an employer uses job applications that are not accessible to people with disabilities, this conduct could still be illegal. This session will teach chapter staff, board members, self-advocates, and families how to identify discrimination that people with disabilities regularly face in areas such as housing, employment, and the criminal justice system. Learning about ways to identify disability discrimination will empower participants to enforce their rights when needed. To lay the necessary foundation, attorneys from The Arc and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Disability Rights Section will provide an overview of key disability rights laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. An interactive discussion with specific examples of discrimination that particularly affect people with I/DD and their families and potential remedies will follow. An overview of The Arc's and DOJ’s legal enforcement activities will also be included. Join us for an informative and engaging discussion about protecting and enforcing the rights of people with disabilities so they can live, work, and learn in the community, free from discrimination.

Learning Objectives:

Shira T. Wakschlag

Director of Legal Advocacy & Associate General Counsel
The Arc
Washington, District of Columbia

Shira directs The Arc's legal advocacy work, oversees The Arc's relationship with its state chapter network, and performs general counsel responsibilities. Shira chairs the American Bar Association's Disability Rights Committee and serves on the board of the Disability Rights Bar Association. Prior to joining The Arc, Shira worked on civil and disability rights impact litigation in the Bay Area as a Skadden Fellow at Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and as an attorney at a plaintiffs' side employment firm. As a sister to two individuals with I/DD, Shira has long partnered with her siblings and parents to advocate for her siblings' right to live independent and meaningful lives in the greater Chicago community. Shira received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Brown University.


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Ariel Simms

Criminal Justice Attorney Fellow
The Arc
Washington, District of Columbia

Ariel Simms is the Criminal Justice Attorney Fellow for The Arc's National Center on Criminal Justice & Disability (NCCJD). In this role, she advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who become entangled in the criminal justice system as victims, suspects, defendants, witnesses or incarcerated persons. She completed her Juris Doctor degree at Harvard Law School and has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and French from Saginaw Valley State University. Prior to law school, Ariel spent two years working as a Mental Health Counselor in an inpatient psychiatric unit of a hospital. Ariel has worked on disability rights issues both in the United States and abroad, including in the realms of healthcare policy, human rights and criminal justice. Ariel has a passion for social justice reform, especially in the realms of legal capacity, supported decision-making, mass incarceration, conditions of confinement and policing.


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Kathryn Walker

Trial Attorney
US Department of Justice

Kathy Walker is a Trial Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Rights, Disability Rights Section. Her work focuses on Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Olmstead.


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Life in the Community: Know Your Rights


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