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Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act

With passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq., Congress noted that there are 43 million Americans with disabilities who continue to experience segregation, exclusion and other forms of discrimination. Included in this pervasive social problem is the lack of access to the legal system. For many thousands of Pennsylvanians with disabilities access to legal representation is simply nonexistent. Since 1990, the Committee on Legal Services to Persons with Disabilities has worked to provide Pennsylvanians with disabilities physical access to our state's court system, including access to courthouses. In time, however, the committee realized that its focus was too narrow.

Full and adequate legal services to persons with disabilities do not end with lawyers and clients being able to enter the courtroom. Realizing that not every legal problem involves litigation, the committee is now focusing its work to ensure citizens with disabilities access to a full range of of legal services, including representation and counseling by private attorneys who practice in a variety of areas. Persons with disabilities encounter the same type of legal problems as persons with disabilities, yet they are very often unable to seek the advice of legal counsel.

In an effort to eliminate or reduce the injustice that exists because persons with disabilities do not have access to adequate legal representation, the committee is establishing a statewide lawyer referral service for clients with disabilities. The referral service will be premised on four primary objectives:

  • identifying attorneys in diverse areas of practice who are interested in representing clients with physical or mental disabilities
  • identifying attorneys or law firms whose offices are either accessible to clients with disabilities, and/or that are willing to accommodate clients by making necessary arrangements to meet with clients at an accessible location
  • providing participating attorneys with technical assistance and continuing legal education in core disability-rights area of the law
  • establishing a statewide Lawyer Referral Service through the Pennsylvania Bar Association to provide clients with disabilities and particular legal problems with a list of attorneys

If you, or your law firm, are interested in enrolling in the referral program, please contact:

Louann Bell
Pennsylvania Bar Association
P.O. Box 186
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17108-0186
ext. 2276, (800) 932-0311