Bagenstos speaks to Disability Rights Ohio staff on current, future trends in disability law

August 16, 2013 / ADA

Disability Rights Ohio welcomed Professor Sam Bagenstos to Columbus on Thursday, August 15. Bagenstos is currently a Professor at the University of Michigan Law School. He served in the U.S. Department of Justice from 2009-2011, where he was the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, the number-two official in the Civil Rights Division. His accomplishments in that role include announcing the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act Regulations, which were the first comprehensive updates of the ADA Regulations. He also strengthened the enforcement of the Olmstead v L.C. decision, which guarantees people with disabilities the right to live and receive services in the community.

Bagenstos spoke with the staff of Disability Rights Ohio about his experiences in the Department of Justice, as well as current and future trends in Civil Rights Law pertaining to people with disabilities. Bagenstos explained how, with the annoucement of the 2010 Regulations, we have moved beyond legal questions about whether or not a person meets the criteria to be considered disabled. Instead, courts are now examining cases that look at descrimination and whether people are getting accommodations for their disabilities.

Bagenstos also explained his work in shifting the Department of Justice’s focus on institutions. Instead of solely focusing on conditions in facilities, the department is focusing on whether a person needs to be in a facility. He cited examples of states that have successfully moved large numbers of people with disabilities from institutions to the community. However, Bagenstos warned that these projects need to be monitored with measurable goals and outcomes to make sure that people in the community have the supports that they need to live successful lives.

Bagenstos informed staff of what the future probably holds in civil rights law for people with disabilities. A big issue will be making the Internet accessible for people with disabilities. Bagenstos cited a case where Netflix agreed to provide captioning of all of its online streaming content. According to Bagenstos, the return of soldiers from Iraq with a wide variety of physical and mental disabilities is likely to shape disability policy for years to come.

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