Helping the justice system help itself: certified ADA advocates as part of the litigation team
Litigants with disabilities often need advocates in addition to legal counsel. The advocate manages the extra-legal symptoms freeing the attorney to concentrate on the legal aspects of the case. The role of the advocate is the missing link in the judicial system by arranging accommodations to offset symptoms. Advocates take on even a more important role if litigants do not have attorneys making their role as supportive counselor greatly needed.
Advocates serve a unique and critical function in implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act to secure equal access. Opposing counsel will sometimes accuse them of unlicensed practice of law (UPL). However, the law is clear that an advocate simply ensuring the functionality of the client is protected under the ADAAA against all harassment, retaliation, false accusation and, when brought to the court’s attention, a stop is generally put to such tactics (pg. 32 Unlocking Justice, 2012).
Certified ADA advocates:
• come onto your case as a consultant and if needed expert witness.
• reviews each case to determine what accommodations based on their symptoms are needed in the courtroom or during legal proceedings.
• arrange evaluations to assess what your needs are apart from formal accommodations.
• prepares a request that is confidentially provided to the access coordinator of the court requesting the accommodations.
Certified ADA Advocates are needed in:
• Legal professionals need to know that law schools customarily don’t teach training in the new regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of October 11, 2016.
• A client with an invisible disability must be accommodated privately per federal mandates. A diagnosis cannot be used to determine custody, guardianship, financial management of assets – only behaviors can be used to adjudicate, not a disability.
• Invisible disabilities must be accommodated in parity with physical disabilities.
Professional legal and medical services
• Certified ADA advocates can practice in any state. Many lawyers practice law where they are members of the Bar but then use their ADA advocacy in other states where they are needed.
• Sometimes a person needs a person to help them get through stressful times.
• Did it feel like you went to court but did not get heard, did not have access, felt like the entire system was rigged against you? If you don’t have equal access pre-arranged through court administration, this is how court can feel. Once you have a certified ADA advocate, these feelings are eased because increasing communication in the court’s makes the process fair.