The College of Law Celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities
By Professor Arlene Kanter
Each year, since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities has been observed on December 3. This year’s theme is “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.” Here at the College of Law, we are committed to the recruitment, inclusion, and empowerment of students with disabilities. The College’s Disability Law and Policy Program (DLPP) was founded in 2005 not only to foster the inclusion and acceptance of students with disabilities but also to train future lawyers in the emerging field of domestic and international disability law.
In the United States today, one in five people—or 56 million Americans—have a disability. Throughout the world, it is estimated that at least 1.8 billion people have a disability, and many are denied their legal rights. Although people with disabilities are the largest minority in the world, they have often been ignored under international and domestic laws, as well as by their own governments, education systems, employers, neighbors, and perhaps many of us too.
DLPP was founded to raise awareness about disability rights within the legal academy, the University, and the College. It is home to a joint degree program in Disability Studies, offered with the School of Education; other dual degree programs with schools and programs throughout the University; an LL.M. Fellowship Program in Disability Law, sponsored by the Open Society Foundation; the Curricular Program in Disability Law and Policy; the Disability Rights Clinic; disability-related externships; the student-run Disability Law Society; and an array of courses, research, and extra-curricular opportunities.
Since its founding, faculty and students of the Program have worked with the UN to draft the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and in more than a dozen countries to implement this treaty. Students enrolled in my International Human Rights and Comparative Disability Law course, for example, have provided research and analysis to international organizations and disabled persons organizations (DPOs) around the world. They also have published articles and testified before international bodies. Moreover, the LL.M. students and Fulbright scholars who come to the College of Law to study comparative disability law in my courses have returned to their home countries to become leaders in the field, working for the inclusion of people with disabilities in education and employment and in initiatives to stop violence against girls and women with disabilities.
Locally, students in the Disability Rights Clinic represent clients in the Syracuse community to secure their rights under US disability laws. And this year, Professor Cora True Frost organized the participation of College of Law students, staff, and faculty in a celebration of World Cerebral Palsy Day on the steps of Syracuse City Hall.
The College of Law is proud of the many accomplishments of its DLPP students. Therefore, on this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the College recognizes the accomplishments and abilities of people with disabilities worldwide, as well as DLPP’s contribution by providing future leaders in the disability law field with the skills they need to make the world more just and inclusive for all.
Arlene Kanter is Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence; Professor of Law; Director, College of Law Disability Law and Policy Program; Faculty Director of International Programs; and Professor of Disability Studies, School of Education (by courtesy appointment).