ADA Rights & Responsibilities Conference

Disability advocates Judy Heumann and John Wodatch will be the featured speakers at the upcoming “Rights & Responsibilities Under the ADA and More” conference.  This free, one-day seminar is being sponsored by a coalition of Minnesota disability organizations to provide education on the rights guaranteed by disability-specific laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the responsibilities each person has to maintain the integrity of these laws.  The event will be held on Friday, July 26 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sullivan School and Communications Center at 3100 East 28th Street in Minneapolis.

From recent Supreme Court decisions to individual lawsuits, the ADA has changed its shape from the original law that was passed 12 years ago.  Many people are familiar with the rights guaranteed to them under such laws as the ADA, but few understand the responsibilities that accompany those rights.  In celebration of the 12th anniversary of the ADA, this conference offers an opportunity to learn legal do’s and don’ts, hear how recent changes affect individuals, and ask questions of the experts.

The event’s first speaker, the Honorable Judy Heumann, is well-known for her active role in advocating for integration of people with disabilities into society through the effective implementation of public policy.  As former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education, from 1993- 2001, Heumann was responsible for national programs serving children, youth, and adults with disabilities in areas such as special education, disability research, vocational rehabilitation, and independent living.  She has been integrally involved in the development and passage of numerous pieces of legislation, including the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1998.

Currently the head of her own consulting firm, Heumann & Associates, she works with various foundations, corporations, and other organizations to further their integration of disability issues into employment, education, grant programs, and other areas.  Heumann is a frequent speaker and regularly interacts with the media as an internationally recognized leader and lifelong civil rights advocate.

The afternoon speaker,  John L. Wodatch, will offer insights into the U.S. Department of Justice system and how it determines which cases are best to undertake on behalf of the disability community.  Wodatch is a civil rights attorney with over 25 years experience with the federal government, specializing in the rights of persons with disabilities.  He is Chief of the Disability Rights Section in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, responsible for enforcement of titles I, II, and III of the ADA.  He plays a key role in developing administration policy on the ADA, and is the chief author of the Department of Justice’s ADA regulations and of the federal regulations implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Beyond the information presented by the two speakers, attendees can learn more throughout the day about their rights and responsibilities with a variety of morning and afternoon workshops on topics such as self-advocacy, filing actions, starting to work, personal care attendant issues, building access, and service animals.  A display fair of disability organizations and business vendors will offer conference attendees additional information on community resources.

Sponsoring organizations include Access for All, Access Press, ADA MN, Courage Center, Disability Law Center, Goodwill/Easter Seals, Great Lakes Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, Metropolitan Center for Independent Living, Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota State Council on Disability, National Multiple Sclerosis Society-Minnesota Chapter, Northwest Airlines, United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota, and VSA Arts of Minnesota.

Admission to the conference is free, but registration by July 12 is appreciated.  If you have questions regarding the conference, contact Cindy at ADA MN at 651-603-2015, 1-888-845-4595 (toll free), 651-603-2001 (TTY), or cindyt@mcil-mn.org.   If you are a business or nonprofit organization interested in exhibiting at the conference, contact Abby at 651-646-7588 or e-mail pmn@isd.net.

This information in this article was compiled by Deb Olson, who is the Public Relations and Media Manager at Courage Center, and a member of the planning committee for this conference.