Elizabeth Pendo, A Service-Learning Project: Disability, Access and Health Care, 38 J.L. Med. & Ethics 154 (2010), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/972
Last summer, I was thinking about a public service project for my disability discrimination law course. I teach the course in fall, and try to incorporate a project each year. Integrating a public service project into a traditional doctrinal course fits within the trend toward expanding teaching techniques beyond the case method in order to better prepare students for the practice of law., It was also inspired in part by the Carnegie Foundation's 2007 report, "Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law," as a way to foster "civic professionalism," and to "[link] the interests of legal educators with the needs of legal practitioners and with the public the profession is pledged to serve." That link is especially important to disability discrimination law, as issues critical to the lives of people with disabilities often go unnoticed and unaddressed by people without disabilities. Public service is also consistent with the mission of my institution, which includes the expectation that our graduates will be "legal professionals who use their knowledge to serve others.
At the same time, I was working on a project concerning barriers to health care for people with disabilities. Some of the barriers are well known, such as lower average incomes, disproportionate poverty, and issues with insurance coverage, to name just a few. I was looking at barriers of a different type, however: those posed by physically inaccessible facilities and equipment. This was a new area for me. Like many health law professors, I had focused on the more familiar issues of disability in employment, insurance coverage, and medical decision- making. I needed to learn more about accessibility requirements and the removal of architectural barriers under the Americans with Disabilities Disabilities Act (ADA), and how these apply to the delivery of health care.
I organized the project in steps: learning the law; surveying the site and documenting the findings; deciding on appropriate corrective action; and framing and following through on a request. Although this project focused on a public right-ofway, it could be adapted to focus on health care access for people with disabilities.