Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic

Ford Foundation Awards Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic $300,000 Grant

Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic

The Ford Foundation has awarded New York Law School’s Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic a generous grant to support the Clinic’s work over the next three years. The award will help propel the Clinic in its critical advocacy for civil rights.

The $300,000 grant will be used to support the clinic’s overall goal of “bridging the gap in legal education and the civil rights bar by examining and addressing the relationship between disability and all aspects of social justice,” said Britney Wilson, Associate Professor of Law and Director, Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic. Beyond the Clinic’s advocacy work, Professor Wilson says, the grant will provide for research and outreach.

Although only in its first year, the Clinic has already had a major impact. Understanding that disability justice is a key component of civil rights advocacy, the Clinic students have taken on a number of projects, like a lawsuit challenging allegedly discriminatory policies that harm people with disabilities who use personal ventilators and a civil rights complaint on behalf of communities of color challenging a fracked gas pipeline that runs through Brooklyn.

“The fight for disability rights cuts across all areas of life, law, and justice, yet for far too long this critical advocacy work has been under-resourced. It’s crucial that the next generation of legal minds has the foundation they need to build upon the grassroots civil rights and community action efforts that have been underway for generations,” said Ford Foundation Program Officer for U.S. Disability Rights Rebecca Cokley. “We are proud to support this initiative to address the systemic injustice that the disability community continues to face and look forward to seeing what the Clinic and its experts will accomplish. Disability rights are civil rights.”

In her proposal to the Ford Foundation, Professor Wilson outlined the next three years at the Clinic: With support from the Ford Foundation, work will continue to train law students, practitioners, and policymakers to address systemic injustice through the lens of disability and civil rights. The Clinic will take on more impact litigation and advocacy, produce scholarship, and carry out recruitment efforts to disabled students and lawyers.

“This award validates the vision, leadership, and critical work of the Civil Rights and Disability Justice Clinic,” said Anthony W. Crowell, Dean and President. “We are extremely proud of the work undertaken by Professor Wilson and the Clinic’s students, and this grant will give them the added support to take their efforts to the next level,” he said.

The work of the Clinic is intense and powerful, and the students involved dedicate themselves to advocacy with great energy and zeal. Professor Wilson said she’s extremely proud of the students and their work, which includes a wide range of social justice issues: disability discrimination in public health, prisoners’ rights, environmental justice, and more.

“They are doing all aspects of grassroots advocacy and federal civil rights litigation from the coordination and facilitation of meetings between community groups and federal agencies to interviewing potential plaintiffs, conducting legal research, and drafting appellate briefs,” she said. “They are working hard while being compassionate, strategic, and flexible, and most of all, open to growing and learning about what it means to be a lawyer and an advocate.”