Burton Blatt Institute: Advances in Growth and Impact Increase Support for the Disability Community: 

The Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University builds on the legacy of Burton Blatt, former dean of SU’s School of Education and pioneering disability rights scholar, to better the lives of people with disabilities.

With its focus on research, education, and outreach in law and public policy, BBI incorporates cross-disability issues, focusing with an intersectional lens across the whole of life, to advance the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities, while building on the University’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Below are a few examples of BBI’s far-reaching, impactful work this year.

The U.S. News and World Report Lists BBI as One of Two Leading Centers in the Country for Disability Rights

In July of 2022, the U.S. News and World Report listed the Syracuse University College of Law as one of two of the most prominent law schools in the country with specific centers or programs focused on disability rights or advocacy.

Containing advice for law school applicants with disabilities, U.S. News and World Report offers tips to successfully navigate the admissions process and the full law school experience. Topics range from disability accommodations for the LSAT and in law school, to the option to disclose disabilities as a law school applicant and programs and resources for law students with disabilities.

Peter Blanck
Peter Blanck

University Professor Peter Blanck, Chairman of BBI, notes, “applying to law school requires strong self-advocacy and patience that puts a unique burden on students with disabilities.” Depending on an applicant’s specific disabilities, those burdens can vary, from stress and time burdens to practical barriers. Not all disabilities are visible, and some applicants may also have impairments such as cognitive or learning disabilities and/or mental health issues.

“Just be the best lawyer you can be,” Blanck advises. “In a competitive legal environment, it is important to have a basic grounding to be a well-rounded lawyer.”

BBI Awarded $6.2 Million Grant to Advance Understanding of Rights and Under the Americans with Disabilities Act Through its Southeast ADA Center

For the third time in 15 years, BBI has been awarded a five-year, $6.2 million grant. The funding comes from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Community Living National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR).

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, the SEADA Center is one of 10 regional centers in the ADA National Network, providing information, training, and guidance about the ADA throughout the eight-state Southeast region. BBI provides the center with analyses of legal issues affecting the ADA as well as other resources such as “plain language” legal briefs written by Syracuse Law students.

“The complexity of the issues facing the disability community is daunting, along with the increasing need for reliable information in the public domain. The Southeast ADA Center will continue to provide up-to-date, accurate, and accessible information on all aspects of the ADA,” said Blanck. “The center’s role is, perhaps, most important than ever in making a positive difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families by fostering ADA understanding and compliance.”

SEADA Center’s educational and advocacy work—providing ADA training, technical assistance, research, and user-friendly information—reaches and supports more than one million stakeholders annually across the Southeast region. The renewed funding will allow the center to achieve multiple objectives, including:

Encouraging and supporting meaningful partnerships among the disability community, government, business, and community organizations to facilitate ADA implementation.

Improving and expanding training, technical assistance, and information dissemination that promotes voluntary compliance with the ADA.

Empowering individuals across the diversity of disabilities and at the intersection of race, ethnicity, age, and gender to increase understanding of ADA rights and responsibilities.

Customizing and disseminating outreach materials to culturally and linguistically underserved populations, including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and Latinx communities.

Conducting research that produces new knowledge and understanding of barriers to employment and economic self-sufficiency, to increase the civic and social participation of people with disabilities.

Creating a comprehensive website with a searchable database that is regularly updated.

Supporting advocacy and education among students and youth with disabilities.

The new funding will support the center’s initiatives through 2026.

BBI Study Featured in Legal Management’s “Best Practices for Making Your Law Firm More Inclusive for People with Disabilities”

A study by the BBI and the ABA, “Diversity and Inclusion in the American Legal Profession,” was featured in “Best Practices for Making Your Law Firm More Inclusive for People with Disabilities,” by Legal Management, the Magazine of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA).

According to the study, “people with a health condition or impairment, and who identify as a person with a disability, reported experiencing proportionately more overt forms of discrimination, such as bullying and harassment, as compared to people who do not have such conditions.”

The study and research offer tips for law firms to make sure diversity policies don’t fall short when it comes to accessibility, including building policies collaboratively, creating an accepting culture that encourages self-identification, encouraging broad participation, and being intentional with policies and accommodations.