More than ninety attorneys, legal scholars, government officials, disability-rights advocates, and law students from across North America attended the 2009 Jacobus tenBroek disability law symposium, New Perspectives on Disability Law: Advancing the Right to Live in the World, on Friday, April 17 at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. This symposium offered a unique and historic opportunity to consider emerging trends and long-term implications in disability law brought about by the election of the Obama administration, the signing of the ADA Amendments Act, the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and recent federal and state court decisions addressing various aspects of disability law. Cosponsors of this symposium with the Jernigan Institute included the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law, the Legal Times, the Maryland Department of Disabilities, and the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. Ari Ne'eman, founding president of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, delivered a powerful and inspiring keynote address at the luncheon. An evening reception, where attendees could discuss the day's presentations, capped the event.
NFB President Marc Maurer chaired the symposium. Kareem Dale, special assistant to the president for disability policy, was the lead presenter for Panel I, "The Obama Administration's Perspective on Disability Policy." Maura Healey, assistant attorney general and chief, Civil Rights Division, Office of the Attorney General, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was the lead presenter for Panel II. Through anecdotes and a review of policy, she addressed "Perspectives on Enforcement of Disability Law." Tim Fox and Amy Robertson, principals in Fox and Robertson, P.C., provided further commentary on this issue.
During the afternoon session Professor Gerard Quinn of the National University of Ireland delivered a paper discussing the international effect of the CRPD in creating a more welcoming and accessible environment for disabled people throughout the world. Katherine Guernsey, an international lawyer and adjunct professor at the American University School of International Service, offered follow-up commentary on Professor Quinn's remarks. Finally, Samuel Bagenstos, visiting professor of law at UCLA School of Law and professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School (fall 2009), outlined ten policy suggestions for making the ADA more effective in the future. Commissioner Christine Griffin of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rounded out the fourth panel of the day with comments on Professor Bagenstos's remarks. Peter Blanck, university professor and chairman, Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University, and Scott LaBarre, principal, LaBarre Law Offices, P.C., and president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, offered closing remarks and facilitated an open forum for discussion among symposium participants.
For a more detailed analysis of the material covered during the symposium, visit the Website of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights: <www.txJCLCR.org>. The journal will publish the proceedings from the tenBroek Law Symposium later this fall.We can be proud of Jacobus tenBroek’s constitutional and disability law scholarship. His professional legacy has shaped a civil-rights-based approach to disability law in the United States. Without exception symposium presenters acknowledged his early and ongoing influence.