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November 30, 2021From A DRP Advocate

“The Legal System Needs More People with Knowledge of Disability”

“The Legal System Needs More People with Knowledge of Disability”

Elysia Duerr


Photo of Elysia DuerrGrowing up with disability in my family, I, from an early age, became familiar with the barriers society and individuals place before disabled people. While community members often find themselves in positions advocating for their accessibility, many still need allies and advocates to help have their needs met. There is still work to be done in educating those in disability law, advocacy, and understanding the community. Prior to working with Disability Rights Pennsylvania, this is something I carried with me into private practice. When I became involved in the work of this Protection and Advocacy Agency, the ability to understand the disability community—particularly those who are neurodivergent—proved to be invaluable.

One moment that I will always keep with me is when I aided a young man in his early 30s with removing him from guardianship. For his entire life, his parents had made every choice possible in how he should live his life. Legally, they had the ability to say where he should live, what his job was, and how he should spend his money. Removing him from that guardianship felt like the work I am doing at DRP is worth it and empowered him as an individual. His status as a person with a disability remains, but now he can begin the life he has always dreamed of for himself. It is the little things, like choices that are often taken from people with disabilities for fear that they are unable to make the right ones, but realistically, we are all at the mercy of our choices and often find ourselves having to deal with things that are beyond our control. Choice and self-direction should not be restricted based on the stereotypes of what society thinks disabled people are capable of.

Nondisabled people often think of themselves as not being affected by disability advocacy, but disability can affect anyone’s life at any time—as the pandemic has shown us. The question is “if it were you, how would you want to be treated—would you not want your decisions, goals, and voice to be respected?”

People should be invested in the work because not only is the disability community underrepresented, misunderstood, and often ignored, but it is an investment in all our futures.

You can help pave a path forward for people with disabilities by donating to the work of Disability Rights Pennsylvania. Empowering the voices of people with disabilities to create systemic change for all is our utmost goal. Help us get there.

You can donate to DRP by clicking the link below.

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