“Arlene’s contributions as an attorney, policy architect, and scholar are unparalleled in disability law and policy. Her foundational legal principles and innovative approaches to addressing complex, intersectional injustices continues to this day and will be invaluable to future advocates. Arlene’s work is built to last and to evolve,” said Claudia Center, President and Chair of DREDF’s Board of Directors.
We are incredibly proud to announce that DREDF Directing Attorney Arlene B. Mayerson, will receive the American Bar Association’s Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights. The ABA Commission on Disability Rights selected Mayerson for her commitment and service as a disability rights advocate.
Devoting her career exclusively to disability rights practice, Mayerson has represented clients on a wide array of issues. She has provided representation, consultation to counsel, and coordination of amicus briefs on pivotal disability rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She was appointed to the Civil Rights Reviewing Authority, which is responsible for reviewing the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights decisions.
One of the nation’s leading experts in disability rights law, Mayerson has been a key advisor to both Congress and the disability community for well over three decades on major disability rights legislation, including the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act, as well as other legislation ensuring the special education rights of students with disabilities, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At the request of members of Congress, Mayerson supplied expert testimony before several committees of Congress when they were debating the ADA, which was quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Following the ADA’s passage, she filed comments on behalf of over 500 disability organizations on federal regulations implementing the Act.
While she is renowned for her work on the ADA and its implementation, she is also a national expert on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and other laws governing the education of children with disabilities. Her work on behalf of schoolchildren with disabilities includes:
- Serving as a key legislative consultant during several reauthorizations of the IDEA, drafting language and advising Congressional staff. She worked to communicate to lawmakers the profound difficulties parents and children often experience as they struggle to navigate the special education system. Throughout, she consulted with special education attorneys and advocates across the country.
- Together with Diane Lipton, Mayerson represented Rachel Holland in a historic victory for the inclusion of public school children with disabilities in general education classrooms. The resulting Ninth Circuit case affirmed the right of Rachel to be educated full-time in a regular classroom with her peers, and adopted a test that has been used by other courts in inclusion cases.
- Pioneering the application of the ADA and IDEA to the care of children with diabetes in pre-school and K-12, through litigation and subsequent settlements with private pre-school chains and the California Department of Education (CDE) establishing the right to the care that students with diabetes need to attend school safely.
Mayerson’s work includes important victories in the area of communication and sensory disabilities. For example, she initiated litigation that, after a bench trial, required the Social Security Administration to provide communications in alternative formats for blind and visually impaired individuals receiving benefits. American Council of Blind v. Astrue, 2009 WL 3400686 (N.D. Cal., Oct. 20, 2009). She also spearheaded litigation that resulted in a landmark opinion finding that internet-only businesses are covered by the ADA. National Ass’n of the Deaf v.Netflix, Inc., 869 F.Supp.2d 196 (D. Mass. 2012). This ruling, and the resulting comprehensive settlement agreement, triggered a cascade of commitments from streaming entertainment companies to caption their videos for deaf and hard of hearing viewers. Although this settlement can be appreciated purely for its value in increasing access to online entertainment, it has implications for the ever-growing provision of education, public benefits, healthcare, and other materials and services through streaming video and other technology. The ability to recognize and respond to such far-reaching issues emerging in disability rights law has been a hallmark of Mayerson’s work throughout her career.
Mayerson’s current work also includes the development of special education-related legal remedies to combat the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately affects African American students in public schools. Mayerson provided Congressional hearing testimony to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights in December 2012 on this and hosted, with the National Council on Disability, a groundbreaking meeting of civil rights and special education advocates, entitled Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Children of Color with Disabilities, in October 2014.
Ms. Mayerson is also a John and Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer in disability law at Berkeley Law, University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall), and serves on the Advisory Committee of The Impact Fund. She won the Spirit of Independence Leading Advocate Award from the Center for Independent Living in 1993, the American Diabetes Association Public Policy Award in 1997, and the John and Elizabeth Boalt Lecturer Award in 2013. In 2014 she was a recipient of the Henry Viscardi Achievement Award and received the Starkloff Disability Institute’s Open Door Award in 2015. She has published many articles on disability rights and is the author of a comprehensive three-volume treatise on the ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act Annotated-Legislative History, Regulations & Commentary (Clark Boardman Callaghan, 1994), which sets forth the legislative history and regulations for each provision of the ADA.
Created in 1999, the award honors the work of Paul G. Hearne, a lawyer with a congenital connective tissue disorder who became a leader in the disability rights movement. The award, co-sponsored by Starbucks Coffee Co., will be presented at the commission’s Reception for Lawyers with Disabilities during the 2016 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The reception, sponsored by Microsoft and Wal-Mart, will take place Monday, Aug.8, from 6 to 8 p.m at the Moscone Center West, Room 3014, 3rd Floor.