Elizabeth Pendo, Taking it to the Streets: A Public Right-of-Way Project for Disability Law, 54 St. Louis U. L.J. 901 (2010), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/971
I teach a course in Disability Discrimination Law, which is designed as a civil rights course focused on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When the ADA was passed in 1990, it was celebrated by many as one of the most significant civil-rights victories of this century. The ADA was enacted to "provide clear, strong, consistent, [and] enforceable standards [for] addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities" and prohibits discrimination in employment, public services and transportation, privatelyowned places of public accommodations, and telecommunications. Although the ADA is not the first federal law addressing disability, its passage made clear that the continued exclusion of people with disabilities from full participation in all aspects of public life is a civil rights issue.
As the subject of a freestanding course, Disability Discrimination Law is a relative newcomer to the field of civil rights, with most courses devoted to disability law appearing after the enactment of the ADA in 1990. Disability law has aspects in common with other civil rights courses, but also some important differences. The employment provisions of Title 1, for example, are modeled in part after Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, national origin, sex, and religion, but face distinctive challenges, including the definition of "disability," the requirement of reasonable accommodation, and the issue of cost. Although Title I has received the most attention, similar issues are presented by Title H, which prohibits discrimination by public entities, and Title III, which prohibits discrimination by places of public accommodation.
People with disabilities face a wide range of discrimination, including the thoughtlessness and indifference of non-disabled people. Often, issues critical to the lives of people with disabilities go unnoticed, and therefore unaddressed, by others. Although there are many reasons for this, one key reason is the failure of people without disabilities to identify with the experiences of people with disabilities-a lack of "experiential accessibility" to borrow a phrase from philosopher Anita Silvers.
I wanted to design a project that would introduce students to significant issues of doctrine, theory, and policy under the ADA. I also wanted to equip them with the practical skills to employ that knowledge on behalf of clients and in their own communities. Finally, I hoped to provide a meaningful context for exploring issues and tensions underlying disability law and the disability rights movement, and to notice and address an issue of importance to people with disabilities in the community. A service-learning project seemed especially appropriate in meeting these ends, and in keeping with the movement towards integrating pro bono and public service opportunities into doctrinal courses.' 3 It also resonates with the mission of the School of Law to educate "legal professionals who use their knowledge to serve others."' 14 This Article describes the public right-of-way project that I designed with these goals in mind.