SAFAYA FAWZI: Should we get started?
KARL BELANGER: Sure. Yes.
Welcome, everyone, to this session on Connecting Disability work with Broader Diversity and Inclusion work.
I would ask all attendees to keep their microphones muted and video off to aid the interpreters in the room.
With that, I will turn it over to our presenters.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Thank you, Karl. Thank you to our interpreters and our captioner. I will be your moderator. My name is Safaya Fawzi. I am honored today to present our two panelists who will be in conversation around this topic.
First we have Lydia X. Z. Brown, who is policy counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, privacy and data project, and is also the director of policy, advocacy, and external affairs at the autistic women and nonbinary network, and Salomon Chiquiar-Rabinovich, who is the chair of attorneys with disabilities committee of the Boston bar association and is counsel at Moreno Law.
I mentioned already I am Safaya Fawzi. I work at the American Bar Association in their Diversity and Inclusion Center, and I will be moderating us today.
To kick us off, I wanted to turn it over to Lydia and Salomon to provide some background on their work and experiences just to kick us off before we get into some questions. So Lydia, would you like to go first?
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. I have been working in disability justice and disability rights, which are not the same thing, and you may have heard me explain that yesterday. I have been doing that work over the last 10 years in a variety of different contexts. Currently I do policy work. I teach. I lead workshops. I facilitate. I educate. And I do work generally at the nexus of scholarship, activism, and cultural work in a number of different ways.
Personally I come to the work bringing my experiences as somebody who is multiply marginalized in many ways and who also experiences privilege in a multitude of ways. I spend a lot of my time thinking about and encouraging other people to think about the ways in which we can understand our experiences, our identities, and our community relationships in connection to the other people that we work alongside and how we each move differently through the world.
And just also for the sake of any folks who are in here whose primary language is American Sign Language, I also have a sign name, which is L Brown.
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: Thank you, Lydia. I am Salomon Chiquiar-Rabinovich, and I come here as both a dyslexic and as very much identified both by external factors and by my own experience as an immigrant. I am originally from Mexico. I am second generation immigrant from a background of Jewish refugees from Lithuania, Russia, and Turkey. I came to the United States in '81, and my dyslexia has been with me as early as I've been taught to read. And that has been very much an advantage in ways that are perhaps, like Lydia said, something that we carry with us and that it strengthens us, it opens our eyes and makes us more empathetic as well as being a challenge in the limits that exist in both activity as a student throughout, as far as I can go, grad school, law school, and more today in the practice of law.
I am a founder of the committee of attorneys with disabilities of the Boston bar association, and I was past President of the Hispanic national bar association for the northeast region, as well as from the Massachusetts association of Hispanic attorneys.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Wonderful. Thank you. The first question is how do you define intersectionality. The point of this is to really merge our understanding of how disability work is oftentimes separated from broader diversity equity and inclusion work and why that's an issue and how that's an issue. So first and foremost, though, it's important to define intersectionality. Who would like to take that question? I think Lydia has shared some thoughts.
LYDIA BROWN: I spent some time talking about this yesterday, but I want to build on that and also reiterate part of that for those who didn't have a chance to join us for the plenary.
The term "intersectionality" first entered our lexicon publicly through the work of Kimberle Williams Crenshaw. She is a scholar of critical race theory and law. Professor Crenshaw introduced the term "intersectionality" as a way of describing a need for analysis to address the absence of multiple issue and multiple identity discrimination, where it is not possible for us to consider the ways in which we exist, inhabit space, and move through the world as occupying single categories of identity or experience alone, because all of us occupy multiple positions of different identities, whether in terms of access to privilege and power and resources, or in terms of being targeted for marginalization, subordination, oppression, or colonization.
To act as though any of our identities or experiences exist in a vacuum or alone is to deny reality. When I've been able to succeed in some ways professionally is my success primarily because I use spoken English and I do not have a speech disability? Is my success primarily because I'm a light skinned person? Because I'm a citizen of the United States? Because I have attained a higher education by going to law school? Or is it a combination of those factors?
It probably is all of those things and many more besides.
And at the same time, when I've experienced oppression, discrimination, or outright hostility, it can be difficult to distill what happened. When I was represented disabled students in special education issues, I remember a hearing in which an official representing the school district superintendent's office literally spoke to me like I was 5 years old, like at one point looking across the table at me, staring down his nose at me, and saying, "Do you even know what FERPA is"?
And I was like, I'm literally the lawyer, so, yes. Like I definitely know what FERPA is, thank you. Like I have to.
But he just kept talking to me like I was 5 years old.
At one point he asked for my card. And I have an auditory processing disability, so I didn't hear what he said right away and I asked him, "Can you say that again?"
And he looks at me and goes, (speaking very slowly), "You know...like a...business card..."
Was he acting that way because of my youth? Because I was known or perceived to be disabled? Which is correct, I am disabled. Was it because of racism? Because I'm an east Asian person and someone that he might have assumed to be feminine even though that's not my actual gender identity? Or was it for some other reason?
And the reality is, it was probably a combination of those reasons plus the general hostility that certain school officials tend to have toward disability rights lawyers anyway, but that's a separate conversation.
Or in a worse story, a time almost 10 years ago when I attempted to report an attempted sexual assault to the police. And the police literally like wouldn't take my report. A white officer started to ask me, where are you really from.
And I'm like, I'm from Massachusetts.
He's like, where are you actually from?
I was like, I'm in D.C. now for my internship but my permanent residence is Massachusetts. But I'm here right now for an internship.
Where do you actually live?
During the school year I live on campus, but I'm still here because of the internship. Like I said.
No, no, no, where were you born?
I was like, well, I was born in China but I'm thinking, firstly, I know what racist bullshit you're pulling and secondly I don't know why this is supposed to be relevant, but okay.
And then the white officer says, well, okay, wait right here.
And I'm thinking why?
And the officer leaves me standing by myself, comes back, white officer comes back with an east Asian officer who starts speaking in a Chinese language to me.
I don't speak any Chinese languages because, like many survivors of transracial and transnational adoption, I've been deprived of access to my ancestral knowledge and to the cultural upbringing that I might have had if I had been raised in a Chinese family. So I don't know any Chinese language.
I stared at the officer blankly and said, I'm sorry, I don't speak that language.
The Asian officer looks at the white officer and says, "Dude, she speaks English."
The white officer says, "How is that even possible?"
I'm like, I'm standing right here. Like literally I've been speaking English to you this entire time.
And the white officer says, "Your accent is too thick, I can't understand anything that you say."
I happen to know that my accent is a very U.S.-based accent, so that sounds like racism to me.
Then both the officers decided to proceed to ask me why didn't you report this when it happened. And I'm like, well despite all the obvious reasons that many people don't feel safe or comfortable reporting at all and certainly don't feel comfortable reporting in the moment, you know, I was like, well, I have a developmental disability and I wasn't able to speak last night.
At that point the officers were basically like, okay, well, goodbye.
And nothing of happened. Not that I would have expected it to. My political framework and how I thought about the world was very different at that time than it is now. Now I am an abolitionist and very committed one and I do not believe that the police or prisons make us any safer just as institutions do not help disabled people in any way.
But at the time, I was like, well, they're supposed to help and they didn't.
So what happened to me, was this a result of just racism? Ableism? Ageism?
I couldn't tell.
The reality is, for most of us most of the time, it is impossible to suss out the different ways in which we experience privilege or marginality into a single mode of experience, into defining or recognizing what happens to us based only on one axis of identity, one type of experience, because usually the things that we experience, whether born of privilege or born of oppression or marginalization or a result of multiple compounding factors in our lives and more broadly in the histories and legacies of white supremacy, of colonialism, of ableism, and of misogynistic patriarchal oppression, and you can't separate out those leg scissor histories into little pieces because they all inevitably and extricably impact our lives and the ways in which we inhabit space and move through space.
So when I talk about intersectionality, I don't mean this as a goal, nor do I mean it as an abstract concept. It is a framework. It is an analysis. It is an offering. It is a call to action for understanding how we can both recognize what has happened to ourselves and others and how that can then inform the work that we do for advocacy, for justice, for freedom. Because if the work we're doing for advocacy likewise only contemplates one modality of identity or experience like we're focusing on gender issues, talking about race as a distraction, or we're talking about racial justice right now, talking about disability, that's a distraction. That's dangerous and deadly. As if only one can exist at a time only reinforces lines of power and privilege, that those people who have always held the most power, privilege, and resources continue to do so while those in our communities with the least privilege, the least power, the least resources, those who are at the margins of the margins remain ignored, erased, deprived, denied, exploited, and disappear.
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: So now following many of the same aspects that were raised by Lydia, I would like to connect more in terms of the definition of identity being part of a package of views. Your definition of what identity is and how it intersects with a disability is a composite of several factors. In my life, coming from Mexico, I was born in 1963, so my schooling in learning how to read, where an apparent disability would be much better understood from the outside, somebody who has a disability that is visible is likely not to be questioned about the legitimacy or the validity of a disability when this disability cannot be seen. So by the time that I was growing up, there were very few of the common knowledge and acceptance like what we have today, especially in the United States. What a developmental learning deficit can be.
The issue of dyslexia was poorly understood and stigmatized and depended on factors like the people that were really running a school having to deal with someone who is learning very differently.
I benefited I think from the tenacity that comes of being an immigrant. Mexico in particular presents the following scenario which is very different than in the United States. In the United States, with all its, as we saw in the past four years, in all of its tremendous flaws regarding acceptance of immigrants, it is nonetheless a country that has been open to immigration and open and has periods in its history that has shut down. My perception of identity as an immigrant is very, very much a parallel to that of being an individual.
The way that I can present it best is my own words. My awareness of being dyslexic really came about because my parents were literally told, "We don't think that your son will be able to learn how to read properly." This is in third grade. "So our suggestion is that you pull him out. This is a school too competitive for him. Our suggestion is that you put him into a school for kids who maybe their best achievement will be to learn some type of a trade, but the hopes of even finishing grade school are very unrealistic."
Fortunately my parents had great belief in my capacity, and there were a few exceptions within the system that I was educated in. It was a private Jewish day school in Mexico. Most immigrants — and this is not just particular of the Jewish immigrant experience in Mexico, which really comes from the 1920s and very much as a result of the 1924 Immigration Act of the United States which set quotas, so the large majority of Jewish immigrants after World War I, in between World War I and World War II that were trying to come to the United States, ended up dispossessed in whatever country in the Americas had periods of openness to immigration. That was the case of Mexico after the final, when the dust cleared after the 1910-1917 revolution.
So I come from a background that is already singled out and low profile as somebody who belongs to a group of people that are really feeling like a guest in somebody else's home, even though I was born in Mexico, my parents were born in Mexico. And that experience was even of Spanish speaking children, of refugees that came from the Spanish Civil War. So even with names that are not as staring in your face as alien, as different, like mine, Salomon Chiquiar-Rabinovich, which is not your most common name, more heterogeneous, more of what Mexico is and most Latin American republics are, which are the result of the Spanish conquest in the populations that were mostly a result as in the case of Mexico, but definitely is not a country where you find a large — like it's described in American history — melting pot.
So where that identity becomes intersect is very much a product of how you're being seen by the outside. So if you're being classified, more or less pigeonholed due to ignorance on what a non-apparent disability can be, and then also coming from a very small, in terms of numbers. The Jewish community in Mexico in its largest number never was over 40 to 50,000 and probably remains the same or low. So me being a dyslexic meant that my upbringing up to the time that I came to college in the United States and stayed on for grad school, law school, and all of the 30 years that I've been in the practice of law, has very much been nurtured by that experience in my academic years from grade school until me coming to the U.S. for what I thought it was only 4 years of college.
In terms of coming from an isolated community, and within that community growing up with the feeling of inadequacy, that you really cannot hold your own weight and you need a lot of help. I had tutors five days a week that fortunately my parents were able to provide. And with the support of some allies that came through the years in which they would recognize that there were people who, like myself, seemed not to have an apparent disability but yet the coding of language is a barrier, and it's a barrier both with written symbols as well as with numbers.
I benefited that at age 14 I came to the United States for a period from almost that whole summer in 1977 in which I was given what today is called developmental vision training, which focuses on the experience of really the eyes being the cameras but our vision and our experience visually, what we capture, and obviously the decoding of language, is how the brain is able to process with the speed and accuracy, that is decoding.
I benefited greatly from that because from there on, obviously with the constant help of tutors, but my grades improved so much that I was able to not only go through what remained of high school, I was able to graduate first in my class and be the only one from Mexico in the year that must have been 1981 that was accepted into a school of Foreign Service at Georgetown.
And once I came to the United States, the identity that I had probably first and foremost as a Jew and in my internal self as a dyslexic comes through to a transformation because in the United States, my Jewish identity is really not as relevant, but it is because of my accent and the place I come from being seen as a Hispanic and very particular as a Mexican American.
My affinity with other Hispanics then took over what was more the affinity that I came from that very peculiar immigrant religious background to one where I connected with Hispanics probably in a greater sense than even the American Jews that I came in contact with as peers at Georgetown because their identity was more as Americans. Hispanics, typically those who came from Puerto Rico or came as foreign students from Latin America, I had more of an affinity because of language and, you know, my culture was never American. It's always been very Mexican, very Latin. So that has been what's accompanied me. That's why if you look at my record, my work in terms of affinity bar associations have always been in the spectrum of the Hispanic bar association, and of course since there's been this wonderful development I think very much since the ADA's passage in 2015, in terms of opening more and in the legal profession, as we will go into more detail, how you have affinity groups of lawyers creating space for one to feel more comfortable.
So that is my intersectionality. And if I had not been dyslexic, my life would be probably much more regular in terms of the spectrum of what society, employers, teachers would expect.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Definitely.
Thank you both for sharing your experiences and providing some academic as well as work-related scenarios and situations.
So we do have several questions to get through, so I'm going to share a couple of questions at a time because we have several of them, like I said. And you can answer whichever or a combination of them.
So our next couple of questions relate to what is the current landscape of disability inclusion in the legal profession? I think both of you spoke a little bit to that, but maybe you have some more context that you would like to provide.
As well as what are current challenges attorneys with disabilities and other intersecting identities face in the workplace?
So whoever would like to take that one first, combining their thoughts on those topics.
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: Lydia, would you like to go first?
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. Sure, I would be happy to. But if you had a burning comment, I don't want to prevent you from being able to answer.
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: No. Well, my comment in the current landscape is that in larger law firms, there's been a recognition that attorneys with disabilities for the ones who have apparent disabilities, which is a question of accessibility, be it simply access both in terms of office, very different obviously now with the pandemic, but there are two heroes in the disability activism space. In Boston, we have Carol Steinberg, Professor Michael Stein, head of the disability law project at Harvard. And the main aspect there of how things have improved is there is no question that 20 years ago someone who had a nonapparent disability would have a very tough time to fit into what would be the ways in which an attorney gets measured, billable hours or just their value in a for profit organization which is where many of us make a living.
So the landscape has improved, in my experience. The law firms where I had worked had allowed me and another attorney, in the Boston office, a law firm that had a presence of more than 10 offices throughout the U.S., we did have when they started with affinity groups in 2005 the allowance of having attorneys with disabilities have their own affinity group. And that was very helpful.
The other positive aspect is something like what I have in the Boston bar association, me and colleagues who created this affinity bar, that there is a recognition which is really you want to look at it from the past 10-15 years in which attorneys with disabilities are being seen as part of the greater affinity bar organizational needs. So that is just one positive example.
There's still I would say great ignorance combined with just the view that an attorney that cannot produce the minimum 1,800 hours as it is in most of the large firms is looked at as not as profitable.
And in that, I will talk later of how I have very much concluded and suggested when I mentor other attorneys with disabilities is how to be able to find alternate ways to give value and of course internally not to feel devalued by the way that you are classified.
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. I would add to that the ways in which we are expected to be productive and to do labor and to prove that we contribute enough to legal work are not limited to corporate or private practice. And those expectations are also very much embedded into and intrinsic into nonprofit advocacy spaces. And even the disability space as well. Expectations that can harm us from being able to be supported, in the workplace and in the profession at large, often sit at the intersection of multiple forms of marginalization.
So for example, expectations of what we're supposed to look like, how we're supposed to dress to be considered successful mean that if you are a trans or gender nonconforming person and you're a disabled person, that the ways that we might present, what kinds of clothes we wear, how we might style or not style our hair could be at odds with the expectations of the workplace and a profession that has largely been much more conservative and expecting very particular modes of grooming, of dress, of comportment, and how we present ourselves which could hurt us in interviews, could hurt us in the workplace, could hurt us even on an internship, which as we all know, if it it's your 2L summer is basically a summer-long job interview.
We know students who are disabled as well as from the LGBTQ community are more likely to come from low-income families, to be first generation students, to be experiencing any number of other axes and other experiences of marginalization and discrimination. And because of that, that might mean that we also might be less likely to be able to buy interview-appropriate clothing, be able to be put into contact with and develop relationships with mentors, whether faculty or attorney mentors who could assist us in preparing for interviews or internships or associateships or clerkships. And that positions us not to be able to succeed in the same way as people that have had generational access to support, people that have more access to financial resources, people who don't have to worry about whether dressing authentically to their gender will potentially jeopardize their ability to be taken seriously in a job interview.
I know certainly for me, certainly not universally, but for me as an autistic person, it can be really difficult for me to remember to style my hair. And I can't wear makeup. I tried once and the result was I looked like a drunk owl. So every time I've successfully had make up on my face that looked okay was the result of somebody else putting the make up on my face because if I am responsible, it's not going to end well. And it's certainly not going to earn me any points in the job interview context.
But more than that, the ways in which we take up space, not just in an interview but in a classroom or on the job are often held against us. The many Black women talk about the phenomenon of being considered angry and threatening and aggressive just for existing. For me as an east Asian person, I come up against the racist expectation that I'm supposed to be submissive or quiet or docile, which just having been around me for today and perhaps yesterday, you all probably know does not actually match my personality. Or my work style.
And as an autistic person, the ways I interact with other people may not be what is expected or what is the norm. And sometimes that's because perhaps me and another autistic person is actually being rude, but more often than not, it's because the ways in which we interact simply don't align with the expectations of the dominant culture, both in the workplace in general and in the legal profession in particular.
Now, for me as a multiply disabled person, I will say that what comes up over and over again as a disabled attorney, is that many employers in the legal profession do not have a good understanding of the ways that hidden or nonapparent disabilities manifest and may affect our work. For example, this may come up with when a person is very capable of performing one or two types of tasks but not another one or two. For many neurodivergent people, their skills may be uneven, where we may be exceptionally talented, for example, at document review, which is looked down upon with derision in the legal profession but shouldn't be and at the same time, with remembering to organize papers and file appropriately, with remembering to submit reimbursement requests or to be on top of certain routine filings that don't require substantive research.
All of that impose enormous difficulty in the workplace where a supervisor might interpret this as a person above the work they've been asked to do or worse, a person who is lazy or irresponsible, when in reality, it may be a manifestation of cognitive disability, ADD, a traumatic brain injury, it could be post-concussion syndrome or psychiatric disability or any number of reasons that a person may not be able to perform certain tasks that may be presumed to be basic, easy, or fundamental but be able to on the other hand perform tasks that may be presumed to be more complex. Some may be able to do one presumptively more difficult task and not others.
When many of us request accommodation, whether or not we explicitly disclose disability, it's often the case that they'll begin to then impute incompetence to us. I've had that happen to me as well as other people that I know. And when it's happened to me, it's been impossible to separate, as I was talking about earlier, whether what was happening was purely ableist discrimination or whether what was happening was also racially motivated.
I remember in my third-year clinic in law school, after I requested a very specific accommodation for flexibility around being able to be in clinic class in a very particular time and I had also let the clinical professor know, I understand this represents actual clients and if you feel this would impair my ability to represent a client, I'm happy to withdraw from this clinic because I don't want to impact the clients. The professor said that was fine, but that wasn't true. I spent the entire period being undermined, micromanaged, publicly berated and humiliated, he wrote deliberately false information about me in my evaluation and made accusations that I was spending clinic money in a way I was not authorized to do so, which wasn't true, that I missed mandatory classes. I missed exactly two. He wrote I missed six or seven of them. And he just did like different things that were sabotaging my ability to do work. And I asked other students in clinic if they were observing this or if they had similar experiences, and only two of us had this type of experience in the clinic, and the two of us were the only two students of color. A Black student and I as the east Asian student.
And one of the things that happened to us in the course of this clinic work was that the other student of color and I were actually co-counseling our case, and I was removed from certain case responsibilities by the clinic professor who literally said to my face, this is going to be too hard for you to handle. And then dumped all of my work on my co-counsel, who was another student of color, so there was this very specific form of anti-black racism where the Black student was expected to do double the work to take care of me, plus this ableism embedded in it that I was incompetent and incapable of doing work.
This only happened to us in clinic as students of color and me making what was a mistake of disclosing my disability that would affect my ability to be in class at this particular time. If you asked me like what happened, like I don't know what to tell you. Was it just straight unablism or just straight up racism or a bunch of other factors as well? Probably all those things. But what I know is that what happened to us during that clinic experience was inexcusable. That's not how you should treat any student, disabled or not. That's not how you should treat a student who happened to be struggling. We were doing a lot of case preparation. I don't think we were struggling with preparation for our case, but even if we were, treating a student with open condescension and derision is not appropriate. But the attitudes were emblematic of broader patterns of discrimination and prejudice that happened throughout the legal profession, where disabled attorneys who are multiply marginalized often face compounded discrimination, often faced denial of access, suddenly hostile environments such as coworkers refusing to ever gender address us correctly and I don't mean the occasional mistake. I mean deliberately going out of our way to misgender us. Go seeing us only ever hired in junior level positions and almost never in senior level positions or with the expectation for promotion potential or expected always to be messing up in some way or another, constantly comments that dehumanize the communities we come from, that question whether the work we do and experiences we have lend us any amount of knowledge or authority whatsoever.
And, you know, I don't go in expecting everybody to like me. I don't go into the workplace expecting everybody to agree with my particular political framework or goals or approach to doing the work. But I should be able to be in a workplace where people treat me with human decency and respect, whether or not they like me or want to be my friend or whether or not they agree with my tactics or my politics or with what I choose to focus on. I should be able to be treated with basic human respect. And that includes being treated in and afforded the basic respect of believing me about basic access needs. I don't expect coworkers to become experts on what all the words are I might have used to describe my gender identity or become experts on other forms of neurodivergence, but it does mean if I say, this particular thing is hard for me but here's what helps, that that not be used against me to presume that I'm completely incompetent at doing every aspect of my job.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Definitely. Thank you both so much. That was a great overview in terms of understanding currently where the profession is at and in a lot of ways what you're pointing to is professionalism and standards that are very harmful and impact multiple identities, people with multiple identities in many negative ways.
So I'm going to turn to our next couple of questions. And I think these are specific, one each for each of you. So the first one is for Lydia: How is tokenization a part of current discussions about diversity and inclusion? You nodded to this, but if you can expand upon it.
And how can that change toward meaningful engagement?
And the next question will be for Salomon about his work with basically I would love to hear your perspective from both of you on this as well. But how is your organization doing on the topics mentioned so far? And how do you engage or how does your workplace engage with staff and clients with disabilities?
And this is meant to be a reflective question. This question came from Lydia in our planning meetings when we were asking the group here, you all here as participants, how is your organization doing and what are they doing?
So Lydia, if you could first take this question on tokenization.
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. Clearly I wore my "I'm not a token" shirt on the wrong day. I should have worn that today, not yesterday.
I often find because I'm a person who openly talks about experiencing multiple forms of marginalization, there are a lot of programs and groups that want to ask me to participate in committees or review processes or be in conferences or show up at an event as proof that they can say, oh, we've engaged with people from this particular community you belong to. We've checked all the boxes.
And that is tokenism or tokenization, which is treating any person from a marginalized community, whether it is on the basis of being Jewish, coming from Roma communities, on the basis of being openly trans, on the basis of being openly sight disabled or whatever else it might be that a person brings with them as part of their experiences as a representative for all people with marginalized experience. Or even worse as a representative or a substitute for people from a variety of marginalized experiences. For example, I've frequently been asked, Lydia, we would love for you to come speak on this segment about police violence against Black people with disabilities. And I always say, that's out of my lane. I'm happy to talk about this as an issue but only from the perspective or positionality of somebody who is not directly impacted. And I would much rather prefer, and I always refer the names of people who are Black disabled advocates who work on that particular issue to be the ones consulted, given the platform, given public recognition.
Or I have been asked, Lydia, could you speak at this rally honoring trans women's experiences? Well, I'm a transmasculine nonbinary person. It's out of my lane to represent this particular community. And it depends for me like what tokenism looks like. Sometimes comes from marginalized communities where we assume that we can all just speak to all experiences of marginalization and that's not true and not accurate. And sometimes it comes from places of privilege. And sometimes it's very well-intentioned privilege like when people say, well, Lydia, you're a person of color, you can talk a lot about race. Yeah, I can, and I'm happy to do that. But if I'm the only person of color in the room, that's a problem because even if we're speaking specifically about Asian community issues, I don't represent every Asian experience. I don't represent the experiences of southeast Asian or of south Asians. I don't represent the experience of first-generation immigrants or of working-class domestic laborers. I don't represent the experience of Asian immigrants who experience the brunt impact of policing and surveillance and criminalization. I don't represent every possible Asian experience. So I'm happy to speak to my Asian experience and to the communities that I do come from, and I'm happy to gesture toward and speak a little bit about some of the experiences of communities that I don't come from, but only to the extent that I can say, look, this is information you need to have, but I'm not the expert on it at the end of the day. I'm not the person who you should be going to as the authority or person who can speak to this as a leader because that's not my position. That's not where I come from.
Let alone if we're talking about race from the perspective of multiple communities of color. As an east Asian person, specifically a Chinese person, I do not at all share the experience of Black or indigenous people. None of those experiences are mine. So if you want to ask about how Black midwives do their work or how Latinx people are opening businesses or what life is like for native people living in cities, I don't know anything about any of those three specific community experiences beyond that they exist.
And the fact that I'm a person of color does not automatically mean that I'm representative of all communities of color or even my own.
And worse, what tokenism does is it enables the people who tokenize people, especially if they come from a position of power, to give themselves a pass for the ways in which they're complicit or participating in oppression by saying because we've engaged with one or a handful of people with marginalized experiences, therefore we can do no wrong. We're doing things the right way.
And what I don't like about diversity and inclusion rhetoric and the way that's often framed is that diversity and inclusion rhetoric often presumes that we can and ought to maintain status quo the way it is. That we should diversify the legal profession, but what that means for most people is, keep the profession dominated by white people, by men, by straight people, by cisgender people, and by nondisabled people. But bring in a little bit of diversity, as in bring in a few marginalized people from any of the communities that are historically underrepresented, and then we can say we've diversified the legal profession, but we've maintained the system, structures, and patterns of power intact without fundamentally shifting the lines of power and of who is able to be considered a core part of the community to begin with.
So when I think about tokenism, and when I think about moves towards diversity and inclusion, I think in particular within disability community how many disability advocacy organizations just on disability itself are not led by disabled people, who are much more likely to be in junior or mid-level staff roles and less likely to be board officers or to be in management, executive, or C-suite positions. But within both disability advocacy organizations in general and self-advocacy organizations in particular, other lines of power still exist along class, gender, and race. And I have to say, as an openly disabled person who is a disabled person of color and openly trans, I don't see a lot of people like me in positions of leadership. And when we do, we're few and far between.
So I do say in response to Ken's question in the chat, right, I see my responsibility as being lifting up and amplifying the voices, the experience, and the expertise of other people in my communities and in the communities that I don't come from, that I don't represent, to speak instead.
So for example, today Susan and Daniel's hall of fame, there will be a ceremony next week hosted by the National Disability Mentoring Coalition. I was asked to nominate people for induction this year, and I nominated 18 people who are all disabled people of color who are all doing different types of work in activism, in law, in cultural work or art, in community organizing, in scholarship and research, in policy, in all of these different ways because all of them deserve recognition for the work that they are doing. And if I have access to a platform and opportunities — I was asked to make nominations — that gives me an opportunity to lift up and amplify other people's work and say, here are 18 more people that you might not have been connected to before that other people might not have known about the work they were doing, people who weren't working already in those community spaces, so that you know there are more people to go to to ask about whether it's the issue of police violence against disabled people generally or Black disabled people in particular or to ask about trans women's issues or mental health or ask about not just to speak about our specific identities. Like I would love to be asked to be able to speak about issues related to fair housing or about the work I'm doing now on algorithmic discrimination. I would love to talk about inequities affecting students. I would like to be asked to speak on things as a subject matter expert and not just a representative for the identities that I happen to have.
So I see my role and responsibility and others' role and responsibility as being uplifting, amplifying, and supporting other multiply marginalized people in gaining access to a platform, in gaining recognition, so that no longer will it be possible for those who have always held privilege and power to say, well, I don't know anyone or I only know this one person.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Excellent. Thank you so much, Lydia. I think that really leads well into the next question, which is I would love to hear both of your perspective, but Salomon, if you could go first, on just sharing how organizations that you've worked with have engaged in these topics, engaged in not just diversity and inclusion but actual inclusion, actually changing the organization as it stands in order to be structured differently, to actually include people regardless of background. And keeping in mind different backgrounds.
So how have organizations that you've worked with done on these topics and ensuring inclusion within organizations that you've worked with around disability?
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: To be able to answer this, I'm going to give an example. Last February was one of the last in-person programs that were held, organized by the committee of attorneys with disabilities here at the Boston bar association. And the topic was how to transition reasonable accommodations from law school to the workplace. So the stakeholders both in the audience and the people who really were excited and participating in the program came with a real benefit from that program is because the panelists — I chaired the event, but we had a very good group. We had Professor Michael Stein, the head of the disability law project at Harvard University Law School. We had the head of diversity and inclusion of Goodwin Procter. We had also the head of all disability accommodations for Boston University. And we had Carol Steinberg who I had mentioned before. She became a major figure in disability advocacy when in 2017 she published an op ed standing up for what I need, about how an attorney who needs a wheelchair for mobility can have a ramp to get in to a courtroom but then when they are asked for side bar, obviously she couldn't — she was at a total disadvantage.
So what the takeaway was from there and why I bring it forth as a good example is, with the platform of attorneys with disabilities committee, in an organization which has been very serious in just giving affinity bar associations office space and tremendous support, and this has been really a great achievement of the Boston bar association, but it's been replicated throughout other state and local bar associations, and definitely, Safaya, you represent the ABA which has taken a full-time interest in addressing the eliminating as much as it's possible the issue of discrimination within the legal profession.
So my recommendation to law students was, if you got to law school and you are now interested in how you're going to transfer that type of accommodations on to the post law school, whether it's a clerkship or whether it's going in to work in a law firm setting or being in the public sector, the main question that is going to be there is, did the accommodations that you had in law school work for you?
In the case of a dyslexic like myself, I needed time and a half for exams. I needed to be able to have recorded the questions to an exam because just reading it for a dyslexic would involve much more time than what's estimated for somebody reading without any type of decoding of language disability. So I was fortunate that at Georgetown, and this is pre-ADA, there was a dean of students, now retired, who was very supportive and understood that a nonapparent disability was as valid as a disability that is unquestioned because you can see it.
So my advice to students was, recognize from what you have in law school what ingredients are essential for you to be able to go and perform as you transition into the workplace. Once you're in the workplace, the issue becomes really from the interview process onward, are you going to disclose a nonapparent disability. Because if it's an apparent disability, then the system is going to be much more open in terms of getting the accommodations that you need.
So there was a very interesting argument, because both Professor Stein was saying, well, the issue is, if you disclose it at the outset, in the interview process, you may never get a call back. You may in that sense be exposed as someone who is not going to be that productive and therefore not really of value to an organization. This could be a law firm as well as a government agency in which they're not going to think of you as somebody who can come in and do the job if from the outset you're saying, I'm going to need a proofreader, I'm going to need somebody to assist me with organization or electronic filing tasks.
So if it had not been for the existence of this very dedicated group in the affinity bar associations which within it comprises the attorneys with disability committee, then these issues wouldn't even be able to be aired.
Showing value can be tricky if you just follow the traditional what are the standards of productivity or performance in a particular job. And there are attorneys with dyslexia that have risen to the top because their value has been shown. Lydia mentioned very well, for example, in thinking on your feet and being somebody in oral argument who is exceptional, dyslexics tend to have a greater verbal facility and very unique capacity for seeing the total picture rather than individual segments.
In my case, as is the case for many big law firms, they have the dilemma of how to work in close collaboration to benefit their corporate clients with local law firms in multiple jurisdictions internationally. So my language abilities, my training, which is actually a formal part of the school at Georgetown, called international business diplomacy, and my own experience as an immigrant came in very handy because the law firm where I was was part of an international alliance of labor employment law firms that was serving clients with needs of labor employment that could arise very quickly and needed to be addressed but needed the work and collaboration international projects by law firms in England, in Argentina, in Spain, in Israel, in Egypt. And that type of putting together a team and being able to offer a client a uniform response did require those skills that are definitely not for the typical attorney that can just crunch out billable hours.
So the organization that by necessity came about from attorneys with disabilities that regardless of what intersection they may have, like I had with the Hispanic bar, others may have had with other bars that came through that affinity connection, for me it was a great opportunity to be open, to see how many attorneys, many of them extremely successful, have been able to navigate the legal profession with disabilities, both apparent and non-apparent.
So that program itself in February illustrates how the landscape changes obviously from law school on to the practice of law, and even moving laterally in progression within your career, you have to be able to deal with the issue of disclosing or not.
I am 57. I think that disclosing in the long run is much better than once you're seen as devalued because of spelling errors because cranking out billable hours may not be seen as optimal.
So I left it as an open question the same as my fellow panelist in terms of disclosing or not disclosing of a non-apparent disability is tricky, but in the end you're going to have to prove your value in the way that you know you can make your contribution. And that has carried you thus far on to being a successful law student or being able just to get through it.
There are barriers. Standardized exams. Starting from the LSATs, bar exams, those are killer for somebody with the type of disability that I can attest to.
But there were allies that helped me very much in that task. The difference is that in law school, you're going to have a much more collaborative disposition because you are a student. You are in a way the client of the law school because they have to impart to you the education and they have more accessibility tools for you.
When you get to the workplace, you have to prove your own value. And that is my admiration to many of the colleagues that I've seen thus far with attorneys with disabilities. There are ways in which you can really amaze the organization that you are in be it a law firm or be it in public service where they're going to need you because of that. You need capacity that you have. But without accommodations, you're not going to be able to go through the day-to-day performance requirements.
So it's a combination of that, and that is the best way in which I can address this question.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Great. Thank you so much, Salomon, and Lydia of course as well. Thank you both.
Again, I would just encourage all panelists to think through this as a reflective question and think through some of the things that Salomon and Lydia shared related to, is your organization fundamentally changing? Is it not just providing a one-time support, but is it really making inclusion and changing structures part of its norm in the way that it operates and in the way that it engages with people from different backgrounds and historically marginalized backgrounds specifically?
So I wanted to move on to our last couple of questions. I'm sorry for the typo there. What can your organization do — again, these are meant to be reflective questions while also learning from Salomon and Lydia's experiences and opinions. What can your organization do to foster a more inclusive environment for attorneys across multiple diverse backgrounds. I think Lydia spoke to that briefly.
And the next question is: How can bar associations, and I would add affinity groups in general, employee resource groups, how can they advance equity through intentional partnership with other bar associations of color and with other affinity bars?
So kind of the answer is in the question with that one, but these two questions, again, about organizations. How can they be structured differently, how can they continue to make change. Would love to know more of your opinions about that before we move into some Q&A time.
So Salomon, because you have some experience with affinity bars, could you share a little bit about your thoughts?
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: Yes. And it is a very positive experience because at some point the Boston bar association, and you could see it if you sit in the main conference room of the BBA, they have pictures of those who were the leaders, the heads of the Boston bar association. It's very monochrome. The first two or three rows are mostly, they look all the same. White males, pin striped suits, button down shirts, and you didn't really see any women. In the beginning you saw mostly very Anglo sounding last names in the names.
Progressively as you get to the more current, you have women, you have what would be much more representative of what the bar association is.
But they really took an active stance because there were bar associations like the local affiliate in Massachusetts of the Hispanic bar association of which I was President in 2007-2009, and then again for the Massachusetts association of Hispanic attorneys in 2015. The big change that happened was that they literally left a floor which was the lower floor of the building, and they made offices for each one of the affinity groups that were part of that umbrella. So you had the Hispanic bar, the LGBT, you had women's bar association, the national bar association, Asian-American, the south Asian bar association.
There were about six or seven of these affinity bars that got office space. And office space made a big difference because affinity bar associations even if the law firms are issuing a check of $25,000 to be bronze or silver patrons in the annual gathering of that association, it doesn't mean that they're going to be constantly allowing for the regular in many cases monthly meetings of this affinity association. So it was a big break to have office space, office equipment, and the ability, like when we needed to promote in 2015 Boston as the host of that year's annual meeting of the Hispanic national bar association, the ability to be able to have the Boston bar association, big shipments, all of the logistical support was there and it paid off, because there was a lot of collaboration between the bar associations because we were next door in that office space that had two bar associations per office with a door, with a printing machine, with computers that were provided, exclusively dedicated to the affinity bars.
The results were tremendous. And also the diversity and inclusion section, which is part of the governors of the Boston bar association, in that same year, in 2015, parallel to my role in the Massachusetts Hispanic attorneys, it allowed me and four other attorneys, that we all had our own disability and we all were very much craving for the opportunity to have a formal association where this could be, like, you know, in the Hispanic bar, the HMBA became our home for the Hispanic attorneys where we could share not only professional experience, camaraderie. This is something that was lacking for attorneys with disabilities. And we took advantage of the anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act to have this group.
The big difference between this group and other affinity bars is that there are attorneys with non-apparent disabilities that have gone to events but they've asked, Salomon, just make sure that my name is not in the roster. They're very hesitant. Both solo practitioners or attorneys with disabilities in the large law firm setting that preferred to be anonymous even though they participated with the attorneys with disabilities committee.
That doesn't happen in other of the components of the diversity and inclusion section in which affinity groups are proud to have members.
It's a reflection of the fact that having a disability, even with all the advancements, even though we have Safaya heading the center of the ABA addressing disability and inclusion in the legal profession, disability discrimination exists and is perhaps analogous to when we see housing discrimination, Martin Luther King in 1968 when he moved to south Chicago, to the area, he gave to Meet the Press a very poignant observation. He said desegregating lunch counters, the whole effort on voting registration, and of course what was Brown versus Board of Education, making sure the rights of everybody to an education was there, all of those factors were by 1968 gains that had gained not only for the civil rights movement, but in terms of general culture, even at that time, you see how it's been challenged especially during the last 4 years, but what he said was, there's a big difference when somebody is going to be a next door neighbor from somebody who is very different than them. And he went through the experience of having even bricks thrown at him when he was making a peaceful demonstration in a suburb that was very restrictive.
Safaya, you're in Chicago so you probably know how the struggle was very much a tremendous stumbling block which remains until today.
So the way that I am comparing it with disability discrimination, particularly in the non-apparent disability discrimination within the legal profession, is that you can have a law firm that is a true and very active ally of the minority corporate bar association and gives for example handsomely to a Disability Law Center in their location, etc., but yet providing accommodations or promoting an attorney with a disability, is a different question.
Perhaps like housing discrimination that Dr. King identified as the last frontier or the tremendous challenge that was to have free housing, as it was called but not free because free of payment but free because people of very different ethnicities, color, background could have access to housing, I think that you do have a challenge when it comes to diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. I think the way that the ABA, you produced a video on why hiring attorneys with disabilities, which is excellent. I think the more that you have successful attorneys with disabilities through channels like the center at the ABA, making their voice heard, will you have more advancement. But we are definitely not in a stage comparable to the achievements in affinity bars that are based in terms of ethnicity or color.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Thank you so much, Salomon. That's great.
So Lydia, do you have thoughts or closing information about how organizations can change and bar associations as well before we move into some Q&A?
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. I would add to that that I want us to turn more to young people, to our current law students, to people who are prospective law students, planning to go into law, and to recent graduates, because I think many of us, the longer we spend in the field, unfortunately it's easy to become inured to things as they are, to how things are practiced, because even if we can recognize the wrongness of certain conventions or the innate inequity and injustice in certain expectations, it can be easy to say, well, that's not great, we should change it, but it's going to be too difficult to change it at this point, like there's no way we can do anything about that, that's just the way it is. I'd heard that sentiment through a lot of people in senior positions at different organizations for a long time. And I don't think that it's because if you are older, you can't change. I think it's more that if we become too wedded to or too enmeshed in an institution, our continuation in that institution can outweigh a desire to push for change.
And I think that younger people have had less time to become wrapped up in institutions. It doesn't mean that they can't be oppressive or that they can't contribute to that dynamic, nor does it mean that people who have been in longer positions for a long time cannot be the ones leading change. But if all the people making decisions serving as leadership in bar associations that are making the policies for whole law schools, the people who are setting policy within particular firms or nonprofit organizations are the people that have always been invested in that institution, that's not a reliable point of departure to begin thinking about what we need to do to change what is fundamentally wrong with the way we've always done things.
So when I think about what bar associations can do to form better partnerships and coalitions with affinity bars and with people from marginalized communities in the profession, I think about partnering with the young students who are part of the Balsas, the students who just formed the national law student alliance. Thinking about their work and what they're doing, how it can inform our policies we create and recommend for recruitment, for hiring, for retention, and what kinds of policies we put into place and policies that we recommend for developing client relationships, for auditing claims of discrimination in hostile work environments and even for being able to recognize what can constitute discrimination and hostility beyond what might have made the list 20-30 years ago. That list may not represent fully what many folks are talking about today.
So for example, when I talk about what it means for me to feel that my name and my pronouns are respected at work, there are a lot of people who might say, okay, that makes sense, but then fail to do it. I find so frequently even among people who claim to be progressive and claim to want to support marginalized communities, that they don't do so when it counts are or they'll do so in name only or in the policies that they advocate for but not internally. They won't clean up their own house first.
And it just strikes me as horrifyingly sad but not at all surprising that I know dozens and dozens of young lawyers, mostly people of color, mostly queer or trans, mostly disabled, and oftentimes experiencing more than one of those points of marginalization, who told me that over and over again, even and especially in public interest oriented firms and nonprofit organizations, they are routinely denied access to accommodations, to support, to basic respect, where in one case a Black disabled attorney was literally physically threatened at work and the workplace didn't do anything about it until the second time that it happened.
I know of another example where a disabled and trans person was literally subjected to such a hostile work environment that they had to quit their job. And that was after a very short amount of time working at the job, and it was focused on surprisingly on a civil rights issue.
For me, I don't relish talking about this. It does not give me any pleasure or joy. This pains me to think about the ways in which even and especially the organizations that are supposed to be on the front lines of fighting for rights for access and for justice can sometimes be among the worst perpetrators of injustice inside of our own houses.
And I want us to think long and hard about what we can individually do to actively create environments that are more just and more affirming within the organizations where we work. And I think the bar associations can play a role in doing that, but more importantly, this has to do with ceding and redistributing power because the same ones setting policy, making decisions, making the final adjudications, performing the audits as has always been, we won't see any change.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Lydia, and Salomon, for your time so far.
We do have a few minutes for Q&A, so if anybody, I see that one question just popped up, which I can read out loud. "I'm working with a small group of disabled colleagues to start a disability-related employee resource group at the policy organization where I work. Do you have any advice or insights about starting such a group to advance access and inclusion, and to ensure that disability is centered in our policy research and advocacy?"
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: My recommendation is based on the narrative I gave before of building alliances with the leading organizations like I gave the example of BBA here in Boston. But I'm sure especially with the work that the ABA is doing, you must identify who is really going to be, and not just one, multiple allies and get them to back you in a very formal way.
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. I've advised a lot of affinity groups or disability resource groups for — or employee resource groups, sorry, for employees with disabilities. I can't speak English anymore.
And one thing that I try to remind people of is that it can be really easy for ERGs to become used in an extractive or exploitive way by the organizations where they are located, which is not to say don't create them. I think they're very important. And I hope that in different places where I go in the rest of my career, there will be employee resource groups for disabled people and for other communities that I belong to.
But I point that out just as a word of caution that it can be very easy if and when you are able to create that group for your employer to constantly want to use the members of that group for free labor that is not additionally compensated, that is outside the scope of your existing job duties, and that can place members of that group in the very awkward position of having to choose between whether you want your priority for the group to be primarily one of advising the organization's work, which is a worthwhile and important endeavor, or whether you want the purpose of that group to primarily be to provide a support and affinity space for employees who share being disabled as an identity or as an experience.
And sometimes those two purposes can come into conflict or into tension. And that's not because they ought to but it's because of the structures within which we operate, where there are not that many of us, especially not that many of us who are open or out about being disabled in many workplaces. Sometimes even at disability-specific organizations.
So I think you probably should in conversation with the colleagues you mentioned talk about to what extent you want that group to be about supporting one another versus advising or promoting infrastructure within your organization related to disability.
I don't think those goals have to be in conflict, but I do want to note that they can pose that particular tension for disabled people who are part of the group.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Great. Thank you both.
There was one other question that came up. Lydia, you had referenced it while you were speaking but I just wanted to read the question out loud around tokenism, if that's okay.
"So isn't there tension between tokenism and opportunity or leadership? For example, if you work for a disability rights organization, can you get an inquiry from the media or public official about police interaction with people with disabilities, who do you offer to speak? A white dude who does not have a disability? A person of color who does not have a disability? Or a person with a hearing, developmental, or mental health disability who has experience with the issue or at least is closer to the issue? If you offer the third person, is that tokenism?"
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. I did speak to that earlier, but just more broadly on that type of question, it is tokenism if you only ever go to someone who is marginalized to always speak for everything related to that particular issue or experience of marginalization. If you are always expecting that person to provide a personal story, put their trauma on display for the benefit of the other people around them who don't experience that form of marginalization.
But it is not tokenism to say, look, there are experts on this topic, this is actually their work as an advocate, as a researcher, or as a professional, and they come from the directly impacted community. So it's not actually my place to do this because it's not that other experts don't exist. There are experts who exist who actually come from the affected communities. So if you said, well, is it tokenism to just ask a queer disabled person to speak about anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the disability community, well if just picked a random queer disabled person off the street or because you happen to know this person you met once and all you know is they're queer and disabled, yeah, that's tokenism. But if you know the person is, for example, Nora Parves, an openly trans person who works on LGBTQ and disability issues, or Gabriel Arcletz, openly queer trans disabled people, openly public about that part of their identities, and actually work as experts on LGBTQ and disability law and policy, that's not tokenism to say, here are the names of people who actually come from the community and are experts to on this issue.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Thank you, Lydia, and I do want to be respectful of time but there is one other question in the chat box. So if you both can stay for a couple more minutes, that would be great.
It reads: "I'm a disabled 17-year-old from California and want to go into law and disability policy. I am hearing back from universities that offer disability studies, am currently taking a class taught by Professor Michael Stein, and am working to make my high school more accessible, but otherwise don't know how to further my work as a teenager. Do you have any guidance or advice?"
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: I think you're on the right track. Who are the people willing to bat for you and support you? If you're 17 years old, if you're in college already or going on to, universities are going to be, and then law school as I said before, a much more accommodating ground if you go to the dean's office or find people who are going to be with you throughout being the intermediaries with your professors, etc.
Once you're out, you have to find the allies within the law firm, the government agency, the nonprofit where you are.
LYDIA BROWN: This is Lydia. I am so happy that you're here and at this conference, Maddie. Thank you for coming. I would love to connect with you later if you would like to more.
You do have to study a particular program or major in order to do work in an area that you're passionate about. There are very few universities that offer disability studies majors. You've already figured that out since it looked like you've already looked that up. There are so many ways for you to end up doing disability-focused work, whether or not that ends up being in law and policy. If so, great. If not, you could be doing work focused on disability advocacy in a field that isn't law or policy and that's also great. Or you might end up focusing on something different but bring a disability-informed perspective to that work.
None of us know yet where you're going to be. And I think it would be great if you end up in law and policy and great if you end up doing disability-focused work in another way. And I don't want to say that, to be clear, either to discourage you from or presume that you wouldn't end up doing law and policy, because you might, but I also want to let you know that you don't have to decide now and whatever you say you want to do now have to be set in concrete or stone for the rest of your life either.
And you could end up taking courses that focus very much on disability through anthropology, through education, through courses that have a lot to do with disability through occupational therapy which frankly is full of ableism but you could be the person who is like, I'm disabled and I'm in this field anyway. You could do work in social studies, the humanities, English, literature, women's studies, gender studies, sociology, social worker, through any number of different ways of learning about how society and culture work, whether through the social sciences, humanities, the sciences, or otherwise.
And I think that it might behoove you too to research not just what universities offer programs specifically in disability studies, although that would be great if you could find one that you like and that has other things about it that you like as well, but also to look at which schools have disabled student activist organizations there, which schools are located in areas where you might be close to organizations where you could volunteer or intern that are focused on disability advocacy, whether specifically through law and policy or otherwise. And I would be happy to talk to you about that, again, outside of this time, but I'm really glad that you are here and I'm really glad that you are already thinking about what you can do within disabled communities. And you're not too young and being a teenager doesn't mean you can't do work. I was your age or a little bit younger when I started doing advocacy work and when I was your age I filed legislation in the state of Massachusetts. So you are exactly in the right place.
SALOMON CHIQUIAR-RABINOVICH: One recommendation is, there's a very good tool, LinkedIn, and other of the social networks. That's a very good way to be informed. So I would encourage you as well as any other stages that can be from beginning to a career of many years to be active in LinkedIn. I think that's a very good way to check the pulse of where the issues that we're talking about are moving.
SAFAYA FAWZI: Excellent. And I'll just read out one last comment, which is just a comment, not a question, from the chat box, which is "Also, one of the most fulfilling things I ever did in law school a million years ago and at a very conservative law school, was start a class that they didn't offer on feminist jurisprudence. It was great." So another recommendation for you.
We are a few minutes over. I want to thank Lydia and Salomon for their time and contributions and for this conversation and insights. Really appreciate it.
Also really appreciate the organizers for making space for this conversation and our interpreters and captioners for making this conversation accessible and helping us to continue to just move this conversation forward.
So thank you again so much. Thank you all for participating, and looking forward to continuing to engage people on these topics. Thank you.