Albany Law School's Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic: Thirty Years of Education and Experience

Posted: 3 Nov 2012 Last revised: 13 May 2013

Date Written: November 1, 2012


The New York Bar Association’s Government Law and Policy Journal devoted its Winter 2012 issue to celebrating thirty years of the Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic (Clinic) at Albany Law School to highlight the relevance of disability law to a wide range of legal practices, government entities and the lives of over 36 million Americans. In this introductory article, the authors describe how the Clinic has influenced law students, clients and the law. Former Clinic interns contributed the majority of articles in this volume.

Public education in the United States has played a significant role in addressing the disadvantages and discrimination faced by individuals with disabilities. Given the significance of education, several of the authors examine the federal and state laws that provide for a free appropriate public education for all students with disabilities. Lauren Mechaly examines special-education advocacy in New York City; Rosemary Queenan looks at the need for a change in the standard used to determine when to provide extended school year services for identified students, and Tara Moffett reveals the interplay between the foster care system and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

While great strides have been made in moving individuals out of institutional settings and into the community, New York still provides services to many individuals in institutions. There have been improvements in the care and treatment, yet disturbing incidences of abuse and neglect continue to occur in some institutions. It is critical that we have a vigorous oversight system and that we find new ways to ensure that the system prevents abuse and holds abusers accountable for their actions. Sheila Shea’s article, The Mental Hygiene Legal Services at 50: A Retrospective and Prospective Examination of Advocacy for People with Mental Disabilities, highlights the important role that Mental Hygiene Legal Services has played in ensuring that individuals in institutions have a voice. Jennifer Monthie’s article, New York Reforms Its System of Protection for Vulnerable Individuals, explores the development of the Justice Center, the government agency which will be established over the next year to oversee all of the New York State government agencies that serve individuals with disabilities in institutional settings.

New York officials have expressed a commitment to serving more individuals in the community and fewer in institutionalized settings. However, to achieve this objective, the health care system in New York will need to find new ways to serve individuals in need of supports. Edward Wilcenski and Tara Anne Pleat’s article explores tax incentives available for individuals with disabilities. Michael Mule addresses accommodations required under the Americans with Disabilities Act, particularly with respect to communication with individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Finally, Thomas Benjamin looks at the workers’ compensation system and those who become disabled while working.

The areas of law and policy relevant to individuals with disabilities are too vast to explore in a single issue. This issue examines just some of the ways in which the dynamic nature of disability law and policy play out. We hope that readers will begin to appreciate the omnipresent and complex nature of this field of practice and the important ways in which attention to disability rights and law can influence peoples’ lives for the better.

Keywords: disability, law, clinical education

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Burke, Bridgit M. and Maurer, Nancy, Albany Law School's Civil Rights and Disabilities Law Clinic: Thirty Years of Education and Experience (November 1, 2012). Available at SSRN:

Bridgit M. Burke (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518 445 2328 (Phone)

Nancy Maurer

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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