Lack of Adequate Legal Services for the Disabled
Colleen Miller, Esq and Darrel Tillar Mason, Esq
The January 2019 issue of the VSB’s Invictus carried an insightful piece by Robert Pollock describing the lack of legal services for people with disabilities. Mr. Pollack is correct that the needs of this sector of our population far outstrip the legal community’s ability, or to some extent willingness, to respond. It is one of the more serious gaps in legal services in Virginia. But the Virginia bar should know that the disAbility Law Center of Virginia (“dLCV”) is one resource that is available to assist in filling that gap.
What the dLCV Does
The dLCV is a statewide nonprofit organization with a mission to prevent abuse and neglect of people with disabilities and to promote independence, choice, and full inclusion for all people with disabilities. dLCV provides its services at no cost to the individual and is funded by federal grants supplemented by private donations.
Census estimates find that there are almost one million people with disabilities living in Virginia. That number may be low, we believe, as the dLCV often works with elders who have acquired their disabilities through the aging process yet do not think of themselves as “disabled.”
A million Virginians, each with his or her own challenges and legal needs – including guardianships, appropriate special education services, accessible public transportation, workplace accommodations, public building accessibility, well, the list may be nearly as long as the number of people on it. Their numbers continue to grow.
The Need is Enormous
It is an enormous task, as you might imagine. With a limited staff of 36 committed individuals, dLCV strives to address many important systemic issues through legislation and policy making, as well as providing individual assistance to as many as we can.
In order to stretch our resources as far as possible, we have created excellent self-advocacy tools and make them available on our website: www.dlcv.org dLCV’s website has step-by-step introductory guidance in many areas such as Social Security, Special Education and Mental Health Advanced Directives, with videos, fact sheets and links to solid resources. Practitioners will find some of these useful with their own clients.
The dLCV also strives to expand the legal community’s willingness to serve Virginia’s disabled by offering CLEs on specific subjects, by assisting attorneys willing to offer pro bono legal services, and with an active volunteer program that welcomes all to help us ensure a safe and inclusive Commonwealth. dLCV’s volunteer program is flexible, gratefully accepting any level of time or talent. Financial support is always helpful, as well.
You may also contact us with any queries that you may have.
For More Information
Colleen Miller is the Executive Director of the disAbility Law Center of Virginia, formerly known as the Virginia Office for Protection and Advocacy. She has served as the Director of Virginia’s protection and advocacy system since 2003. Previously, she was the litigation director for the New Mexico Protection and Advocacy System, and a senior trial attorney for the US Department of Justice. Darrel Tillar Mason is an attorney in private practice, specializing in the needs of people with disabilities. Over her thirty five year plus legal career, she has had numerous gubernatorial appointments, as well as appointments by the Supreme Court of Virginia to councils and commissions dealing with issues affecting public education, civil rights, and the practice of law. She serves on the Board for the disAbility Law Center Foundation. dLCV is a statewide nonprofit organization, with its main office in Richmond, Virginia.