How Is That Legal?: Breaking Down Systemic Racism One Law at a Time

This Is an Intersectional Podcast

February 15, 2023 Community Legal Services of Philadelphia Season 2 Episode 3
This Is an Intersectional Podcast
How Is That Legal?: Breaking Down Systemic Racism One Law at a Time
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How Is That Legal?: Breaking Down Systemic Racism One Law at a Time
This Is an Intersectional Podcast
Feb 15, 2023 Season 2 Episode 3
Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

One in four adults in the United States has a disability. Yet, disability is often an afterthought for policymakers. 

Lauren DeBruicker examines how disability and race intersect within the civil legal system and the impact of systemic racism on Black and Brown people with disabilities. Lauren also recounts the rich history of activism in the disability justice movement and what can be done to expand legal protections for disabled people.

Lauren DeBruicker is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Deputy Civil Chief for Civil Rights, Lauren oversees the office’s investigation and prosecution of violations of federal civil rights laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Lauren is an active member of the disability community and an advocate for access and independent living in the region.

If you enjoy this show and want to help fight poverty and injustice, consider making a donation to Community Legal Services today! You can also follow us on Twitter @CLSphila to stay connected.

How Is That Legal is a podcast from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and Rowhome Productions. Jake Nussbaum is our Producer and Editor. Executive Producers are Alex Lewis and John Myers. Special thanks to Caitlin Nagel, Zakya Hall, and Farwa Zaidi. Music provided by Blue Dot Sessions.

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

One in four adults in the United States has a disability. Yet, disability is often an afterthought for policymakers. 

Lauren DeBruicker examines how disability and race intersect within the civil legal system and the impact of systemic racism on Black and Brown people with disabilities. Lauren also recounts the rich history of activism in the disability justice movement and what can be done to expand legal protections for disabled people.

Lauren DeBruicker is an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. As the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Deputy Civil Chief for Civil Rights, Lauren oversees the office’s investigation and prosecution of violations of federal civil rights laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Lauren is an active member of the disability community and an advocate for access and independent living in the region.

If you enjoy this show and want to help fight poverty and injustice, consider making a donation to Community Legal Services today! You can also follow us on Twitter @CLSphila to stay connected.

How Is That Legal is a podcast from Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and Rowhome Productions. Jake Nussbaum is our Producer and Editor. Executive Producers are Alex Lewis and John Myers. Special thanks to Caitlin Nagel, Zakya Hall, and Farwa Zaidi. Music provided by Blue Dot Sessions.

Support the Show.

Kee Tobar (00:05):

Hello everyone and welcome to How Is That Legal, the podcast where we break down examples of systemic racial inequity in the law and policy and talk to experts whose stories of injustice will make you ask, "How in the world is that legal?" I'm your host Kee Tobar. I'm a legal aid attorney, history enthusiast, and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. Today, Lauren DeBruicker joins us to discuss disability rights and how disability intersects with the civil legal system for black and brown people. Lauren is an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania where she focuses on civil litigation and civil rights work. Lauren and I start our conversation by grounding ourselves in what disability means, and then we examine how a person's race, gender, and socioeconomic status can impact their disability status. We also talk about the rich history of activism IN the disability justice movement and what can be done to expand legal protection for people with disabilities.


Before becoming a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging professional and renowned podcast host, I was a Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, attorney. So today's interview is a special one for me. SSI is a life-saving monthly cash payment for low-income people with serious disabilities. As an SSI attorney, I represented clients who needed legal help applying for SSI or who had been denied because Social Security did not believe they are disabled. More times denied, my clients were also forced to navigate multiple systems of injustice such as housing instability, involvement in the child welfare system, and unfair treatment by law enforcement due to their disability. Lauren DeBruicker and I talked about why disability is an intersectional issue and more in today's conversation. Take a listen.


Hi Lauren. I'm excited to be in conversation with you. Can you introduce yourself to the audience and give background to what brought you to disability rights work?

Lauren DeBruicker (02:06):

Sure. Hi Kee. My name's Lauren DeBruicker. I'm an assistant US attorney here in Philadelphia where I focus my practice on civil litigation and civil rights work on behalf of the United States and in our office. I was introduced to the world of disability when I became someone with a disability. I was paralyzed in a car accident when I was 19. So I went from someone who really had no perspective on disability rights to someone whose life was very much impacted by this disability rights movement and other civil rights movements around.


When I finished law school, I think the number of people asked me whether I would be going into disability rights work, I think that was sort of the natural assumption, and my response was, "Hell no." As someone with a prominent physical disability, I spent so much of my day dealing with my own disability related stuff like managing home health aides so that I could live independently and making sure I had accessible transportation to where I needed to go and that I thought, "If I have to spend one more ounce of my day thinking about disability stuff," I just had no more brain space for that kind of stuff.


So I went into private practice wanting to do the most sophisticated legal work that I could and found it at Duane Morris and had a great time doing it. And in a way, I thought that I could sort of do my part for the disability rights movement by being someone with a disability, out in the world, doing high level legal work, being in the courtroom, dealing with clients, and just being visible and a representation of the disabled community.


Made my way through the ranks at Duane Morris. I made partner, but after a few years in, or many years in, found a need for more public service oriented work. I had served on some non-profit boards. I had done some volunteer work in the disability related space and just over the course of my living life, found that there was just still so many issues related to disability access that it was time for me to make a switch. I was finding that even though the ADA had been passed decades ago, I still found that I was having to enter restaurants through the service entrance and having to eat in the back by the kitchen. I went for years without routine basic preventative medical care because I couldn't find an OB/GYN office that had an exam table that I could get on.


I had had instances where I went to my polling place to go vote and couldn't because the accessible entrance was blocked and thinking, "If these issues are still out there, it's time for me to become one of the people who could do something about it."

Kee Tobar (04:48):

I'm so excited for this conversation. As a former supplemental security income, SSI, attorney, I'm always astounded by the lack of access and environment necessary to have one to participate fully in just being and moving and getting around. So I'm really excited about this conversation, but in your role as Assistant US Attorney or as an attorney at Duane Morris, has there ever been a situation where something relating to disability rights or relating to civil rights or anything in particular that made you ask yourself, "How is that legal?"

Lauren DeBruicker (05:29):

Sure. And I sort of think of it in kind of two contexts. One is where you ask that self the question, "How is that legal?" And the answer is, actually it's not.

Kee Tobar (05:39):


Lauren DeBruicker (05:41):

So in that bucket, I think of things like there were instances where the Pennsylvania Department of Education was putting students with disabilities and students who spoke English as a second language into alternative disciplinary education programs rather than providing reasonable accommodations for their disability or language appropriate supports so that they could participate in the regular academic program.

Kee Tobar (06:10):

So are you saying solely because of their ...

Lauren DeBruicker (06:12):

Solely because of their disability or in case of a language difference, just putting them in a disciplinary program for problem kids-

Kee Tobar (06:19):

Oh wow.

Lauren DeBruicker (06:20):

Instead of just providing the accommodations and the access that these students needed to participate in regular programming. I think of the Philadelphia Police Department at points in time was not providing communications access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. So someone who was deaf couldn't communicate with cops who were arresting them or a court that was arraigning them. So not providing communication access to people who needed it. We've had instances of someone who relies on a service dog being turned away from medical care because the hospital wouldn't accommodate the service dog for the person who needed it. All of those things were instances of how is that legal? It's not, and those were examples of kinds of cases under the ADA that my office has brought and resolved.


On the more how is that legal in the bigger perspective, something that's very specific to the disability community and maybe a little bit wonky, but CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that sort of controls Medicare reimbursement and those kinds of things will only cover assistive devices like wheelchairs and other mobility related devices and other disability related devices if you need them to get around your home, if they're needed in the home. So when I think about as a wheelchair user the kinds of things that I need to get around my two room apartment are not the same as the things that I need to get down a Philadelphia sidewalk or the things that people need to get to school or to work or to a doctor's appointment.


And this sort of in the home requirement or in the home limitation as to what insurance will reimburse for really just kind of gives the impression that people with disabilities are really only just supposed to stay home and not be active, integrated participants in their communities.

Kee Tobar (08:18):

Is that an active policy?

Lauren DeBruicker (08:20):

I think that's active policy and in my experience even private insurers kind of go by what CMS does. And so it's not just Medicare that has these limitations. Private insurers follow suit.

Kee Tobar (08:34):

I like to begin this conversation about disability rights by grounding ourselves in the term disability itself. What does disability mean? I know that it could mean different things for different people and it does mean different things for different people. The disability community is highly diverse and expansive and there are so many different ways people can define what it means to be disabled. How do you define disability?

Lauren DeBruicker (08:58):

I tend to define disability much along the lines that the Americans with Disabilities Act does and that I consider disability a condition, whether it's physical or a mental, that impacts major bodily function, like your ability to walk or think or breathe or hear, a broad range of stuff. So I do think of it as sort of a condition that you're diagnosed with. At the same time, what constitutes a disability may not necessarily be disabling, depending on the context that you're in or depending on the environment that you're in. For example, my disability, I'm unable to walk, I'm unable to wiggle my toes or my fingers, but whether that's actually disabling to me really depends on my environment.


If I have my wheelchair, if I'm going into a building that doesn't have steps to get in or that has an elevator to access the place that I need to get to, if I have the computer equipment that I need to do my job, I'm just as able as the person in the office next to me who doesn't have a disability. But all of that really depends on the environment that I'm in.

Kee Tobar (10:16):

I think that's an excellent point, how an irresponsive environment kind of majorly factors in to the expansion of who is and who isn't disabled or what is and what isn't disabling. Do you agree that one's experience informs how they define or view disability?

Lauren DeBruicker (10:36):

Certainly. I think you raised the point that the disability community is diverse in terms of the kinds of disabilities they have as well as their experience with it. My experience as a person with a very visible physical disability, you can see my wheelchair from 100 yards, experiences disability in a very different way from someone whose disability impacts their ability to communicate. For example, someone who's deaf and speaks American Sign Language certainly has much different access experiences than I do as someone who could communicate verbally in English with pretty much anybody I encounter. So within that, I think there's just one example of how divergent the experiences of disability can be.

Kee Tobar (11:25):

People may not be aware that according to the CDC, 26% or one in four adults have some type of disability. That's 61 million adults, which is an astounding number. This informs why the ADA is so important and you've mentioned the ADA earlier. Since the ADA, legally there are certain requirements for public spaces and the workspace to be more responsive to impairments and variations in body and neurodiversity. However, do you believe society sufficiently accommodates the variety and body in neurofunctioning within the human experience?

Lauren DeBruicker (12:00):

I think that's still a challenge in a lot of places and I think even the ADA, which was passed 30 plus years ago, I think the people who passed the ADA may not have had things like neurodivergence and other intellectual disabilities sort of top of mind when they were doing it. And certainly the time they passed the ADA, the internet was in its nascency. So there are both disability experiences as well as parts of normal life that have evolved since the passage of the ADA and the ADA's needed, in its application, has needed to keep up with new things. The internet's not new anymore, but at the time the ADA was passed it was.

Kee Tobar (12:50):

It's not talked about as much. When I looked at those numbers to see one in four, I just want to reiterate that, that how common, especially as it relates to the resources that are given or not given, how common it is for a person to be disabled or to have a disability is amazing to me and a reason as to why we definitely need exponentially more resources devoted to this particular issue.

Lauren DeBruicker (13:15):

Yeah. I think that you have, particularly in a city like Philadelphia, in a study recently, Philadelphia was found to be, of the largest cities in America, Philadelphia had the largest disabled population.

Kee Tobar (13:27):


Lauren DeBruicker (13:27):

And so when you think about the resources available to Philadelphians in their community, there's such a heavy presence here that it's resources are certainly needed to serve this much of the community.

Kee Tobar (13:43):

I know some people may be listening to this podcast and they're like, "This is a racial justice podcast. Why are we talking about disability specifically?" The first comment I'll say is that this is an intersectional podcast first off, but the second comment is when I started actually reading about the statistics, it's very much so intertwined. So according to the latest numbers from the CDC, three out of every 10 indigenous persons in the US has a disability and one in four black people have a disability. What factors impact these disability rates within the black and indigenous populations is the first question that I have and I'll stop there and I'll ask the question-

Lauren DeBruicker (14:27):

Okay. Then I will preface this by saying, as a white heterosexual woman speaking about sort of intersectionality is something that can't do personally. But, when you think about things that cause disability, things like access to appropriate medical care, ways to control diabetes, access to routine preventative care, access to healthy environments, healthy food, you think about issues of food deserts, things that impact people's health in a chronic way and that impact certain communities in a more disproportionate way than others. You think about access, ways to control disease, ways to prevent injury, you think about violence in our community and who's disproportionately impacted by that.


In Philadelphia, we certainly have our gun violence crisis and when you think that of the people who are impacted by that, some people wind up in wheelchairs like me, others have longstanding traumatic brain injuries, certainly the psychiatric disabilities that come along with living in a very violent society where you're not sufficiently safe. All of those things contribute to disability and impact some parts of our community more severely than they do others.

Kee Tobar (15:52):

I think that's such an amazing point if I could echo that because generally when we're talking about disability, for some reason there seems to be kind of like an individual point or a circumstance or incident or it's because you have diabetes because of your choices, depending on the type of diabetes. But we don't often, or I shouldn't say we, there are many populations and communities and groups who are having these conversation, but in general, the macro we don't often talk about disability and its causal connection to environment, causal connection to policies that we incorporate. And so I think that that's a fantastic point. And I think you already spoke to why disability occurs so much in communities of color, but we also know that one in four women have a disability. In what ways does gender impact disability?

Lauren DeBruicker (16:57):

I think in similar, but different ways that your race or your socioeconomic background also impacts disability. When you think about taking it outside of the disability context, there's sort of the woman tax. Women are generally paid less. Women generally have more expenses in their lives. Women generally have more burdens family-wise, more issues of domestic violence, and when you add disability on top of that, it sort of magnifies things. And when you add additional identities on top of that, whether it's someone from the LGBTQ community or someone who's black or brown, you add sort of all of those issues on top of that. And so it can be a really magnifying factor.

Kee Tobar (17:52):

How do other factors like education, income levels, and place of employment impact disability status?

Lauren DeBruicker (17:59):

I think they do. Speaking as someone who had the good fortune of having a good education, I knew that when I became disabled, I was probably not going to do manual labor for a living so that I could probably find a job that I could do sitting down without having my sort of physical abilities impact my work or my ability to do it well. But for people with fewer opportunities, whether it's due to education, due to other circumstances, due to prejudices in society and the kinds of work that they're able to get and able to do, it certainly can have a much bigger impact and a much more negative impact depending on the circumstances.

Kee Tobar (18:51):

How might racial discrimination impact a person's disability status? Is this tied in any way to, again, as I spoke earlier, environmental factors? Please provide an example if you can.

Lauren DeBruicker (19:03):

Sure. I think one example that comes to mind is in the criminal justice system. If a black man with a disability is encountered by police, I think there's, across the board, charges of resisting arrest are disproportionately filed against black men. And when you add to that disability, I think that only amplifies. There's a video of a black man who was paralyzed driving his car and when the cops ordered him to get out of the car, he couldn't because he needed to get his wheelchair out and transfer into his car, but that was considered being defiant and resisting arrest. If someone with an intellectual disability or other sort of neurodivergent conditions are not responding to law enforcement and the way that law enforcement officers expect, whether that's due to a behavioral issue or a communications issue for someone, people who speak American Sign Language not only use their hands, but they use their bodies and their facial expressions and that's part of the language.


And for someone not familiar with that, that could be seen as someone not necessarily in control or acting out. And based on if someone's not familiar with those kinds of issues, that sort of disability related stuff could be taken as something seen as a problem to law enforcement and leading to more arrests and more confrontations with law enforcement than A, someone who's white and B, someone without a disability.

Kee Tobar (20:48):

One of the most important issues of law, and I like to talk about civil legal issues now, one of the most important issues of law connected to disability rights conversation is the ADA as we mentioned earlier. Can you actually talk to what is the ADA legislation of 1990 and explain what it is?

Lauren DeBruicker (21:04):

Sure. The Americans with Disabilities Act I think is widely recognized as the broadest piece of civil rights legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was designed to address and remove barriers for people with disabilities from being full participants in everyday life. Its aim was to provide access to things like employment, public transportation, other public places like hotels, restaurants, doctors' offices, the kinds of places that people would go every day as part of everyday life that people with disabilities due to, whether they were physical barriers, architectural barriers, communication barriers, other barriers that society kind of put in place were prevented from being just full and regular participants in everyday life.

Kee Tobar (22:05):

So there has been folks with disabilities for as long as there have been people. So I'm wondering what was the original impetus to put in such an expansive legislation?

Lauren DeBruicker (22:17):

I think there was recognizing a need and from a sort of long-standing course of activism by the disability rights community that started early in the century, long before the ADA, but that led to things like passage of section 504, the Rehabilitation Act, which was passed in the 1970s, which was a law that required that any place that was a recipient of federal funding couldn't discriminate against people with disabilities and that was sort of the first kind of major toe hold that people with disabilities had in terms of legal protections. Section 504 was notable in that the law passed, but it took forever to get the implementing regulations passed, which are necessary to be able to enforce the law. And there's been more coverage lately about disability rights activists who protested to bring about the implementation of the regulations. Most notably, there was a group of disability rights activists who occupied the Federal Building in San Francisco that was home of the then Department of Housing, Education, and Welfare, I think.


And it was a sit-in that lasted close to 30 days and eventually brought about the passage of the regulations, but during that sit-in, these were people with disabilities of all kinds just basically camping out in an office building with none of the things that you needed to be able to live your daily life in that. The FBI cut off the phones to try to get them to leave. They cut off running water to get them to leave, but they found ways to stay there. The Black Panthers brought them food and I think that's a point of history that really resonates with me because it emphasizes the point that other social activists, other civil rights groups, recognized that the lack of access for people with disabilities was a civil rights issue and the Black Panthers were supporting it. They would bring in food at night.


They would bring in food to last the next day. When the activists moved to Washington to try to get the regulations passed, members of the labor unions provided accessible transportation because there was no accessible transportation in the 1970s. So the Machinist Union lent one of their trucks with a lift for heavy equipment on it so that the activist could get where they needed to go, to get to Capitol Hill. And so it was just sort of an example of people with interest of civil rights of all kinds recognizing the need for this kind of law, the need for this kind of acceptance, and the need for this kind of access.

Kee Tobar (25:06):

I think it's a fascinating history as to what you spoke about how different factions of people came together to support this movement. Can you explain how it is connected necessarily to the civil rights movement?

Lauren DeBruicker (25:23):

I think it's all sort of born out of the notion that society has put restrictions on people, society has put barriers in place and that it required activism and speaking out and ensuring the passage of laws to protect the interest of those who had been marginalized. You mentioned that according to the CDC, one in four people have a disability. I think I've seen one in five by census data I think. Anyway you slice it, it's the largest minority in the country if you think of it that way. And it is the one that is discussed the least, is generally recognized the least. Even in the sort of growth of diversity and inclusion efforts over the last 10, 20 years in both civic and the business world, disability is sort of always the last thing tacked on.


We think about racial discrimination, we think about gender-based discrimination. We're starting to think about discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity, certainly discrimination based on religion. Disability always seems to be the thing that's left out or that's put on at the end as an afterthought, given its prominence, given how many people it impacts not just the people with disabilities themselves, but their families and loved ones and employers and everyone they come in contact with. Making sure disability is part of the conversation is an ongoing challenge, but we're making progress on that.

Kee Tobar (27:08):

Access to appropriate housing has historically been an issue, and I was really excited to talk to you about this, for the disabled community. You have served as board chair for Inglis, a 140 year old Philly organization, serving people with complex physical disabilities. What factors in the persistence of housing insecurity for this population?

Lauren DeBruicker (27:30):

Yeah. It's such an important issue because if you have a, for example, if you have a physical disability, if you are a wheelchair user or have some other physical limitation, if you don't have a home that you can get around in, that you can take a shower in, that you can get in and out of independently, your life is so restricted. And particularly in a city from Philadelphia where most of our housing stock is very old row homes. You think about the things that are the most difficult to make accessible, we've got it.


Yeah. And the ability to develop accessible housing and importantly, affordable accessible housing because most people looking for accessible housing are looking for affordable housing. There are state and federal subsidies for those kinds of things, but they typically will be in multi-family dwellings and only a certain number of those units will be accessible because you want housing to be integrated, you want all kinds of people to be able to live together. You don't want to be creating wheelchair ghettos where it's a building where everybody is someone who's disabled. It also means that it takes longer to get more accessible units built because you're not building all wheelchair accessible housing. You're building a development that has wheelchair accessible units in it, but to get 100 new wheelchair accessible units, you got to build 400 total units under some of the funding program terms.


And it's a challenge. As I mentioned, I became disabled during my college career at a time when colleges were subject to the Rehab Act, and universities, because they received federal funding. The university environment had to have an accessible room for me with an accessible bathroom and that was a very safe haven for me to be at. Than when I finished college, I thought grad school. Not only because I thought being a lawyer might be kind of cool, but also because I thought, "That's three more years of guaranteed accessible housing on campus." And one of the most terrifying things about finishing school and going out into the real world is, "Where am I going to live?"

Kee Tobar (29:47):

Connected to that I think within the last year, CLS put out a report about it kind of had rental data in it and it was interesting to find that folks with disabilities were experiencing housing insecurity at alarming rates in Philadelphia. And so when you're talking about the shortage and those things, and again, disability is expansive, but kind of putting those things together or thinking about those things in the same lent is really interesting to see how literally just not making enough housing that is appropriate for folks may add to housing insecurity for a group that we just generally don't pit those two together. I don't think we think about housing insecurity and folks with disabilities kind of connectedly.

Lauren DeBruicker (30:49):

Yeah. And particularly for people with acquired disabilities, people who are living in their house and suddenly become disabled and their house doesn't work for them anymore. For someone who becomes paralyzed, whether due to an accident or an act of violence or some other thing, you hopefully go to the hospital, do your rehabilitation, but when it's time to return to the community, some people can't go home because they can't get into their home. So what's the alternative? The alternative in many cases is putting people in a nursing facility, which I don't think is at the top of anybody's list. And to be there, whether as a temporary measure until you can find other circumstances or make your home accessible if it can be made accessible and the resources can be found to do that.


Some people lose their homes in that process because they're in the nursing home, it's hard to pay rent on a house that you're not in, and people lose their leases, which only compounds the problem in that the home that you had you can't return to anymore. So it's a significant issue that relates to so many others going on in the city.

Kee Tobar (32:00):

We have IDEA, which is the Individuals with Disability Education Act and the ADA of 1990 and the ADA Amendments of 2008, which what new legislation is needed now to better protect and support people living with disability?

Lauren DeBruicker (32:17):

That's a great question. My first answer is we need the laws that we have to be followed 'cause so much of a lack of access is people aren't following the ADA or individualized education plans aren't being followed by schools under the IDEA. And so sort of step number one is let's make sure that the rights, that the laws that we have, provide and match up with people's experiences in real life because right now there's still a significant gap. One of the major pillars of the ADA was to provide increase employment for people with disabilities and in the 30 years since the ADA passed, the rate of employment for people with disabilities is almost the same as it was 30 years ago. It's dismal. I think it's in the 30% range as opposed to something closer to 70 or 80 for the able-bodied population. So there's just so much work to do under the laws that we have.


We also need measures to protect these laws. There have been bills passed in Congress to roll back the protections of some of these laws and there's the ADA Education and Improvement Act, something to that effect, which is a movement to make it harder to enforce the ADA. Basically putting more barriers in the way of people trying to remove barriers and making life more accessible. With that said, there's some important legislation that's out there in Pennsylvania. A law just passed to provide more disability inclusive education in schools, which I think will go a long way towards breaking down barriers and ensuring greater access. We hear about Brown versus Board of Education usually and we hear that separate isn't equal, but in the disability community under the ADA in some cases separate is all you can get. Hopefully you learn about the Japanese internment camps in World War II and how we consider that an example of an atrocious civil rights violation for a large proportion of people, but we don't learn that in many cases people with disabilities are still segregated in institutions and the impact that that has.


We don't learn about people with disabilities throughout history. Maybe you're lucky enough to learn about Harriet Tubman, but you don't learn that she was someone with a disability and had a major impact on our world. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his leading the country out of the Great Depression and through World War II. At the time it wasn't commonly known that he had a significant physical disability and was a wheelchair user. Now while that's more known today, I think if you ask somebody, "Did we ever have a president with a significant disability?" Not everybody might know that answer. And so to recognize both the impact of people with disabilities throughout history as well as the impact that our societal practices and prejudices have had on people with disabilities will really go a long way I think towards making disability less of a foreign thing and less of an afterthought and sort of educate more about people with disabilities.


Then I think in the last couple of decades with the IDEA and the ADA, more people are knowing people with disabilities as their classmates or their neighbors if they're accessible housing nearby or their colleagues if they work with them in the workplace. And I think the more that we have those sort of just basic human experiences together, the easier it will be to remove what barriers are still ahead.

Kee Tobar (36:12):

I was so excited to have this conversation about disabilities because it really is a cross section of the particular different areas. And so we talk about disability and employment. We've talked about disability in housing, but even doing research and finding like a disability in child welfare system, who is and isn't able to parent. So there is really kind of no area that we practice in it as it relates to the civil legal side that designation of disability doesn't have an impact on and so this has been such a great conversation. I hope folks got something from it and thank you for joining us.

Lauren DeBruicker (36:52):

Thank you, Kee. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk about these issues. We really appreciate it.

Kee Tobar (37:04):

Well that was my interview with US attorney Lauren DeBruicker. Throughout my time as an SSI attorney, I spent many hours asking, "How is that legal?" While representing clients and advocating for changes necessary to ensure that disabled people have the income and support they need to participate fully in our society. I hope you take the opportunity to learn even more about how disability impacts all communities, especially Black and Brown communities, and we'll definitely continue to discuss those issues on the show too.


If you want to ask questions about the show or let us know what you think, please email us at Also, while Community Legal Services of Philadelphia offers free legal assistance on a range of civil legal issues, we are not a criminal defense firm. So if you live in Philadelphia and are looking for non-criminal legal help, please visit us at We cannot respond to questions about legal issues via email.


Season two of How Is That Legal is produced by Rowhome Productions. Jake Nussbaum is our producer and editor. Executive producers are Alex Lewis and John Myers. Music provided by Blue Dot Sessions. Special thanks to Caitlin Nagel, Zakya Hall, Farwa Zaidi , and I'm your host, Kee Tobar.