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Title:Lessons from the Past Fifteen Years: Accessibility and Disability Rights

October 31 2022 McGill Faculty of Law About: Many shifts have occurred over the past fifteen years. While COVID-19 is an incredibly significant global event in sheer scale, and certainly contributes heavily to our examination, it is hardly the only thing that has affected or been affected by disability issues within our period of study. There have been great strides in accessible policy and technology and incredible adaptation in the face of adversity (COVID-related and otherwise), but also tense reminders of how tenuous disability rights are when they become costly or inconvenient in practice. The pandemic exacerbated existing disparities but also accelerated the practical implementation of many technological innovations, some of which helped create new paths of accessibility and inclusion. Through scholarship and discussion from people with disabilities, legal scholars, legal practitioners, and activists within and outside the legal profession, we seek to illustrate exactly how far we’ve come and what remains to be worked on in fighting social, financial, and institutional barriers. This year’s theme of “Lessons from the Past Fifteen Years: Accessibility and Disability Rights” hopes to create a conversation on what accessibility looks like in practice and in theory, what can be learned across jurisdictions within and outside of Canada, shortcomings in contemporary disability rights, and future steps. The 2022-2023 Series builds on previous efforts to engage with disability About the Disability & Law Initiative The CHRLP is pleased to present the 2022-2023 Disability and Human Rights Initiative. Building on work dating back to 2012 and inspired by the fifteenth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Initiative’s events this year focus around taking a look back at the last decade and a half with a critical and analytical lens. We ask: What advances have been made? What are some of the lessons learnt? What we should draw from experiences of disability policy, accessibility implementation, and social advocacy moving forward? Speakers Jewelles Smith (she/her) - Feminist disability activist, scholar, writer, and artist Dr. Jewelles Smith is a feminist disability activist, scholar, writer, and artist. She uses an intersectional, anti-racist, anti-ableist, culturally humble approach to human rights, research, and relationships. Smith uses her voice to amplify the issues of human rights, disability and women through research, mainstream media, and education. Smith completed her PhD at UBC, Okanagan in November 2021. Her dissertation documented narratives of disabled mothers in Canada from a human rights perspective. Smith is trained in human rights monitoring, disability human rights justice, and methods in using legislation, policy, and human rights treaties to challenge inequality. Smith works with communities and government to bridge between ideas and action. In particular, she focuses on how to bring meaningful change by implementing practical actions arising from the voices of those with lived experiences through legislation, policy, and practice. Smith resides in British Columbia, Canada with her service dog, DaVinci. Anne Fracht (she/her) - Self-Advocacy Associate, Harvard Law School Project on Disability Anne Fracht is a renowned, award-winning self-advocate. She moved out of a group home in 1992 and has been living independently ever since. She began advocating for herself and others in 1998. She has testified and joined in rallies on Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, and beyond to advance the rights of individuals with all kinds of abilities. She has been elected multiple times as Chairperson of Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS), the statewide self-advocacy organization, and she has repeatedly served on the board of the national self-advocacy organization Self Advocates Becoming Empowered. She also currently serves on the Disability Law Center’s Board of Directors, the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services’ (DDS) Self-Determination Advisory Board, and the DDS Human Rights Committee. Hezzy Smith (he/him) - Director of Advocacy Initiatives, Harvard Law School Project on Disability Hezzy Smith, Esq. is a trilingual attorney, a proud sibling, and Director of Advocacy Initiatives. He's responsible for much of HPOD’s self-advocacy programming. He has worked closely with self-advocacy and disabled peoples' organizations both in the United States and abroad to advocate, research, and produce awareness-raising materials. His Spanish, English, and Bangla language materials have shaped disability rights strategic litigation and important decisions by national and regional courts, and his disability rights scholarship has appeared in collections published by Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press, as well as both U.S. and international law reviews.


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