Thirty years ago on July 26, 1990, the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was a victory for the disability rights movement. Sidley joins in celebrating the 30th anniversary of this transformative civil rights legislation on the lives of individuals with disabilities. The past three decades of progress have demonstrated why it’s essential to foster a disability inclusive culture.
As part of our commemoration, we asked Sidley lawyers to share what the ADA means in their own lives. You may read a collection of their inspiring responses in the section below entitled, “Sidley’s Stories: Reflections on the ADA at 30.” On this page, we have also provided an overview of the firm’s initiatives to further our mission to provide better support for lawyers, clients, law students and others with disabilities.
Sidley Adds Voice to ABA Commission on Disability Rights Pledge for Change
Lawyers with disabilities remain significantly underrepresented and underreported in the legal profession. In 2019, only .5% of lawyers in large U.S. law firms self-reported as having a disability — although one in four adults in the U.S. live with some type of disability.
Sidley is proud to join the American Bar Association’s Commission on Disability Rights to address this disparity as a Pledge for Change signatory. In doing so, we affirm our commitment to recruit, retain and advance lawyers with disabilities.
The story of the ADA is also the story of individuals, families, struggles, perseverance, freedom, and joy. As Sidley reflects on the 30th anniversary of the ADA, we are pleased to share with you a personal side of the ADA as lived through the experiences of our own lawyers.
“The ADA means that my son has opportunities. He is learning independence. He can attend school with other children in our neighborhood. He can go on field trips with his classmates. He can play sports. He can go to overnight camp. He has his own pace and his own path, but because of the ADA, it is a very different and better journey than it would have been 30 years ago.”
“I am so grateful to all of the advocates with disabilities that fought for the passage of the ADA. Because of their work, I grew up as part of the ADA Generation that benefited from the law’s protections. I am thankful that the ADA has helped create access for people with disabilities and has helped foster a strong disability community.
Some of my favorite memories of the disability community include my teammates on the U.S. Paralympic Swim Team, with whom I represented the United States in competitions all over the world.”
ELIZABETH KOLBE HARDCASTLE
“I lost my prior job when I became disabled following a motorcycle wreck. About that, I cannot complain. I flew jets for the Air Force and, after paralyzing my right arm in that wreck, no amount of accommodations would have allowed me to continue flying those jets one-handed. It was after that wreck that I decided to become a lawyer.
What I appreciate about the ADA, and the people with the passion and will to get it passed 30 years ago, is that it has allowed me to pursue my second career without fear, or really even concern, that my disability would hold me back. From the moment I arrived at Sidley, the people here have always worked to accommodate me. Much of that is the great people at Sidley, but having the ADA in place no doubt helped shape Sidley’s policies, just as it has so many others.”
“When you’re a parent of a child with disabilities, a significant part of your job is identifying ways to ensure that your child’s abilities — and not his or her disabilities — are the focus of their lives.
My son Charlie learned to ski at the Adaptive Sports Foundation (ASF); he later decided that snowboarding is infinitely cooler and is now a snowboard racer. Through his participation at ASF, in a sport that is challenging for many able-bodied individuals, Charlie has not only developed as an athlete but also has developed social skills, teamwork, and confidence. The day Charlie was invited to join the ASF snowboard race team was truly one of the happiest days of his (and my) life.
Charlie and the ASF are inspirations to entire the Kleiman family — so much that my husband, Norman, and my other two adult children, Daryl and Gabe, are volunteer ski and snowboard instructors, and I volunteer by coordinating the weekend lunch program. Earlier this year, I was honored to join the ASF board.
ASF has changed all of our lives for the better — and for that, we are incredibly grateful.”
LAURIN BLUMENTHAL KLEIMAN
Sidley has been a welcoming place for students and lawyers with disabilities for many years, but recently, we have focused more time and attention on this aspect of our culture. Accordingly, Sidley has built an active and productive initiative to better support firm lawyers with disabilities, as well as clients, law students, and others with disabilities in the legal profession.
Sidley’s Disability Diversity Alliance (DDA) is driving much of this effort. Launched in 2017, the DDA is an internal network of lawyers with disabilities, those interested in disability-related issues and those with family members or loved ones with disabilities. The DDA has spearheaded a number of firm improvements, including bringing the firm’s website into compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, overseeing accessibility changes, raising awareness of mental health matters and the broad range of disabilities, and educating practice leaders about disability in the profession.
The DDA is another step in Sidley’s ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Please contact Maria Melendez with questions about disclosure or if you are interested in joining the DDA.
In addition to our affinity group outreach, law school students with disabilities are welcome to apply to the firm’s 1L Diversity Mentorship Program.
Sidley lawyers and law school participants at the firm’s 1L Diversity Mentorship Program farewell dinner in Washington, D.C. The 1L Diversity Mentorship Program is one of Sidley’s signature pipeline initiatives for diverse law students.
Lawyers with disabilities take part in the firm’s general programs and initiatives designed to support diverse associates. These include the Diversity Mentoring Program (DMP) for diverse lawyers and the Partner Up! program, where associates receive a quarterly reimbursement for an informal networking activity with a Sidley partner or senior counsel.
On July 8, 2015, Sidley hosted a conversation and celebration on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as part of the firm’s annual Diversity Dialogues. A distinguished panel of speakers discussed the ADA in the context of this significant 25-year milestone, exploring the past successes and the challenges that remain since the ADA’s passage. Speakers included Samuel Bagenstos, professor of law at the University of Michigan; Rebecca Bond, chief of the Disability Rights Section at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division; and Maria Town, associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement. Michael Gamel-McCormick, associate executive director for research and policy at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, moderated the panel.
Guests listen to the panel discussion during the 2015 Diversity Dialogues on the 25th anniversary of the ADA.