Monday, June 27, 2011

John L. Wodatch, Disability Rights Pioneer

The highlight of my week was attending John Wodatch’s retirement party at the Department of Justice. Although I didn’t get to meet Mr. Wodatch, it was incredible to hear about his life and legacy. Some people get excited about meeting famous actors and actresses; I get excited to meet legends of the civil rights movement. Meeting lawyers who litigated some of the biggest civil rights cases in the country is my equivalent of talking to Brad Pitt.

John Wodatch was the Chief of the Disability Rights Section. The Disability Rights Section is part of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. In the disability rights movement, John Wodatch was instrumental in the passage of the ADA and its implementation. He was also the chief author of the DOJ’s ADA and Rehabilitation Act regulations. As a budding attorney, it was also really cool to know that he was integrally involved in some of the most famous desegregation cases.

A quote from John L. Wodatch that I found in the Washington Post: “The true measure of our success in enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act and the source of personal satisfaction of a career in public service comes from the steady progress that we make each day for persons with disabilities in this country, whether achieving results for one person or systemic change."

I think that this is so true. Laws should create systemic change; the vision of the ADA will only be realized when the barriers that divide people with disabilities disintegrate.

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