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The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, founded in 1979, is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities.
The mission of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, and public policy and legislative development.
The vision of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund is a just world where all people, with and without disabilities, live full and independent lives free of discrimination.
Americans with disabilities make up one of the United States' largest minorities. More than 25% live in poverty and only about 20% have gone to college. Seventy-five percent are unemployed. Such economic and social disenfranchisement is not an inevitable consequence of the physical and mental limitations imposed by disability; it is the result of society's historic response to those limitations: lack of accessibility in the built environment and policies that encourage or even require exclusion, segregation, and institutionalization. The result is a legacy of prejudice and paternalism that is deeply embedded in the social consciousness.
We work to replace this legacy with the core principles of equality of opportunity, disability accommodation, accessibility, and inclusion by employing the following strategies.
Training and Education
We train and educate people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities about their rights under state and federal disability rights laws so they can use the laws as tools to challenge exclusion and discrimination, and advocate effectively for full participation in the lives of their communities.
We educate lawyers, service providers, government officials, and many others about disability civil rights laws and policies
For over fifteen years we have operated a disability rights legal clinic in collaboration with law schools in the San Francisco Bay Area including Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
We represent clients in leading edge disability rights litigation
We serve as co-counsel and prepare amicus curiae briefs on behalf of parties that include disability community representatives and members of Congress in disability rights cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court
- We advocate for the legal rights of individuals and families
Public Policy and Legislative Development
We design and carry out strategies that strengthen public policy and that lead to the enactment of federal and state laws protecting and advancing civil rights for people with disabilities such as the Handicapped Children's Protection Act, the Civil Rights Restoration Act, the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and the IDEA Amendments Act.