Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 28

FEATURE

" If anything, my disability makes me better at my job, " Ditkowsky says.
" My disability helps me because I work with disabled clients. . . . My disability helps me have a unique perspective to lead this project. Given
that, I have a lot of respect from my employers. They really help me and
appreciate what I have to say. "

ADVOCATING FOR ACCOMMODATIONS
When it comes to people with disabilities in the workplace, access to
reasonable accommodations is paramount. For instance, Stearns's condition limits his ability to travel. For Ditkowsky, in addition to needing
access to certain entry points in courthouses and at her workplace, she
uses dictation technology in writing legal documents.
The ADA, passed in 1990, mandates that a " covered entity " shall not discriminate against " a qualified individual with a disability. " It also states
that covered entities are required to provide reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees with disabilities. Examples of reasonable accommodations include alternative communication formats,
service animals, accessible parking, equipment, work environment
changes, job reorganization, and reassignments.
" There are always two questions that come up in my mind: What is a
reasonable accommodation that meets my needs, and should I disclose
the need for the accommodations? " Stearns says. " That's a very individual
consideration. My answer to that [second question] is yes because if you
hide [the need for accommodations] and something goes wrong, you've
got problems. "

Courtesy of Marissa Ditkowsky

28 WASHINGTON LAWYER

*

But even with the ADA on
one's side, advocating for
accommodations is challenging for some. Morgan
suffered so much trauma
from being discriminated
against and sometimes
bullied that it's difficult for
him to address his accommodation needs. " Every
time I needed reasonable
accommodations I was
flat on my back, " he says.
" I avoid mentioning my
disability because people
in general just really
don't care, even people
who are quote-unquote
empathetic. "

MARISSA DITKOWSKY
Tzedek DC

MARCH/APRIL 2021

A PROBLEM THAT
PRECEDES THE
WORKPLACE
Ditkowsky argues that
discrimination against
people with disabilities
in the legal profession
doesn't originate in the
workplace. Rather, the
problem goes back to
colleges and law
schools.

Wyckoff-Tweedie Photography

Marissa Ditkowsky, a Gallogly Family Foundation Fellow at Tzedek DC,
agrees. She has muscular dystrophy, which causes physical pain and
fatigue, so much so that she can't walk up and down stairs; she also has
a hearing impairment. Nevertheless, she does not look at her disability
as an impediment to her lawyering.

" Fifty percent of disabled people drop out
of college, " says Beth
Karp, director of accommodations for the
BETH KARP
National Disabled Law
National Disabled Law Students Association
Students Association
(NDLSA). " And it's not
because disabled people are not capable of handling academic curriculums. It's because there was failure to provide equal access, which is
common across all educational institutions. People don't see us as
valuable in terms of diversity. They don't view us as competent. So, they
don't put structures in place that properly provide access. "
Karp says that colleges and universities across the United States have
varying degrees of accommodations for students with disabilities, in part
because there is no nationwide standard for those accommodations.
" Some schools have a centralized disability service office; others have
someone who's specific to the law school working on disability accommodations. There are all kinds of formats for it, " she says.
Karp, a law student at the University of Chicago, has a visual impairment.
Once, she asked a professor to print out the course materials before class.
" My school thought that it was acceptable for the professors to give me
their slides after class, " she recalls. " But I couldn't see them during class.
They said that if the professor gives them to you within 24 hours, then
you've been accommodated. So, everyone in the class could see the
slides except me. And the school somehow thinks that's sufficient
access. "
Tara Roslin, director of research for the NDLSA and a recent graduate
of Boston University School of Law, says the ADA stipulates that private
and public colleges and universities are mandated to engage in an
" interactive process, " which involves students with disabilities advocating
specifically for their accommodation needs. However, there's no governmental standard about what college administrators can ask regarding
the disability and how long the inquiries would take. " One of the things
that is particularly hard to deal with are these overbroad medical record
requests. We get really stymied by universities, " Roslin says. " Certain
law schools ask for way too much medical documentation. "
" The ADA has technical guidance and regulations stating that, actually,
medical documentation is not necessary to dispense an accommodation. But because there is this profound mistrust of people with disabilities, [law schools] try to use medical documentation to verify what you're



Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021

Digital Extras
From Our President
Calendar of Events
Practice Management
Toward Well-Being
Staying Put in Big Law feature
A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Worth Reading
On Further Review
The Learning Curve
Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
ABA Delegates Corner
Attorney Briefs
Speaking of Ethics
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effecy
A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 1
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 2
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 5
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Toward Well-Being
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Staying Put in Big Law feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 11
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Sisterhood of Latina Lawyers Sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 13
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Increasing Diversity & Inclusion the the Legal Profession feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 15
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cultivate Mentorships sidebar
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 17
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Tribute to Judge June L. Green feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 19
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 20
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 21
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Delicate Balance for Black Women Attorneys in Government Feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 23
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 24
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 25
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Falling Short on Disability Inclusion feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 27
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 28
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 29
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Elusive Justice in Violence Against Native Women feature
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 31
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 32
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 34
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 35
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - On Further Review
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Learning Curve
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Marcia Madsen
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Member Spotlight - Simon Zinger
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 40
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 41
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - ABA Delegates Corner
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Speaking of Ethics
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 45
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 47
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - The Pro Bono Effecy
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 49
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 50
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - 51
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - A Slice of Wry
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - March/April 2021 - Cover4
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