An online resource for legal professionals, continuing legal education courses, law schools, students and others dedicated to protecting the rights of people with developmental disabilities.

EEOC has success in litigation about employment discrimination against people with developmental disabilities

The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities is pleased to present Laurie Vasichek, retired Senior Litigator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discussing her work at the EEOC. Ms. Vasichek’s last case was EEOC v Walmart. This court case was appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. One conclusion of this case is that a job coach is considered a reasonable accommodation.
Watch the complete interview
Laurie Vasichek

Laurie Vasichek

(November 6, 2022)

Barnett (Bud) Rosenfield, MN Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (OMHDD)

The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities is pleased to release this video interview with Barnett (Bud) Rosenfield, Minnesota’s Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. In this four-part presentation, Mr. Rosenfield discusses the issues surrounding guardianship, conservatorship, and supported decision-making. The interview is divided into the following sections: (1) What is supported decision-making? (2) Ways Guardians Overstep Boundaries, (3) Common Complaints, and (4) Person-Centeredness.

12th Annual Disability Justice Seminar

Britney Spears and Disabiliy Justice: How One Celebrity Changed the Conversation About Guardianship

Thank you to the Robins Kaplan law firm and the Federal Bar Association (Minnesota chapter) for the successful 12th Annual Disability Justice Seminar held on May 3, 2022. With over 250 attorneys and advocates in attendance, this virtual event included Senior US District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank, Professor Jennifer Wright, Anita Raymond, Bonnie Jean Smith, and Carrie Varner. A short documentary was created by the Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities to highlight the issues of guardianship, conservatorship and supported decision-making. Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea provided taped comments preceding the panel presentations.
12th Annual Disability Justice Seminar

Law Schools and Disability Law

Individuals with disabilities are extremely unrepresented in the legal field, especially when it comes to defending the rights of those with disabilities. A 2020 national survey conducted by The Vault and Minority Corporate Counsel Association reported that less than one percent of attorneys practicing law identified themselves as having a disability. Increased attention must be paid to the recruitment and support of law school students with disabilities in order to improve the hiring and retention of attorneys with disabilities. Are you a good candidate to respond to this timely call to action?  The interview provides guidance for anyone with a disability interested in attending law school and provides the insight to help you follow your heart to help those in search of justice. (May 27, 2020)

Anthony Niedwiecki is President and Dean, Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

Judge Donovan Frank dedicates this website to the memory of the late Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau

Laura Provinzino, US Attorney’s Office

Laura Provinzino addresses human trafficking, hate crimes and prosecution of cases involving people with disabilities

The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities is pleased to announce a taped interview with a leading expert and prosecutor of Human Trafficking cases. Laura Provinzino is an Assistant US Attorney in Minnesota. In this series of videos, Ms. Provinzino, addresses a wide range of topics from what is human trafficking, legal protections, rights of victims, victimization, hate crimes, reporting, and the effects of the pandemic on abuse reporting.

View the the complete interview »

Dan Stewart Discusses Education Rights for Students with Disabilities

The Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities is pleased to announce an interview with a leading expert on Special Education (view all).

Dan Stewart is the former Legal Director of the Minnesota Disability Law Center (MDLC). Before joining MDLC, Dan practiced with a private law firm and with the state Department of Education. He also founded the University of Minnesota Law School’s Special Education clinic. In addition to being an attorney, Dan has a Master’s degree in education administration, and a PhD in social work. In this video, Dan answers questions about Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), Section 504 and behavioral supports, as well as eligibility criteria and updates to special education law. He provides outreach and training sessions to a wide variety of national, regional and local audiences.

Hadamar: The Forgotten Holocaust, details Hitler’s extermination of people with disabilities

The Disability Justice Resource Center is an online resource dedicated to protecting the rights of people with developmental disabilities.  Included are video interviews, court decisions, and articles documenting the dehumanization, discrimination, and segregation that individuals with disabilities have experienced. During the 20th Century, Adolph Hitler ordered the killing of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities in order to create a master race. Hadamar was one of many hospitals where these killings occurred. This documentary entitled, Hadamar: The Forgotten Holocaust, details the extermination of people with disabilities during World War II. Leon Jaworski, who served as Watergate Special Prosecutor from 1973-1974, also served as a war crimes prosecutor during World War II and chief prosecutor during the Hadamar trial. The Hadamar documentary can be useful for law school classes or as a supplement to Continuing Legal Education courses about disability justice issues. (September 1, 2020)

US Senator David Durenberger reflects on the 30th anniversary of the ADA

The Disability Justice Resource Center is an online resource dedicated to protecting the rights of people with developmental disabilities. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted and former US Senator David Durenberger was a co-sponsor.

In this interview Senator Durenberger reflects on the 30th anniversary of the ADA »

He began his Senate career by addressing women’s discrimination and then disability discrimination; how people with disabilities became his friends and influencers; the process of passing the ADA and the impact of the ADA. To those who opposed passing this civil rights legislation, Senator Durenberger asserts, “We cannot afford not to pass the ADA and enable people with disabilities to be employed.” (August 12, 2020)

US Senator David Durenberger

Minnesota’s Voting Process

The right to vote has long been recognized as a fundamental liberty right. Secretary of State Steve Simon, Minnesota’s Chief Elections Officer, explains his commitment to assure that all eligible voters have access to and can freely participate in the voting process, and that accommodations are available to fully include individuals with disabilities in the voting process and at all polling places. (April 6, 2020)

Human Trafficking of People with Disabilities

On April 4, 2017, the Diversity Committee, Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, University of Minnesota Law School Division, hosted a CLE event, a panel discussion of human trafficking of people with disabilities. United States District Court Judge Donovan Frank served as moderator for panel members who shared their professional experience with human trafficking, some of the history and evolving legal landscape, and rights and remedies for victims.

One of the panel members was Sarah Bessell, staff attorney at the Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center in Washington, DC. The Legal Center believes that every trafficking victim in the United States should have access to justice.

In this interview, MS. Bessell identifies some of the types of abuses they are seeing including forced labor (sexual servitude), commercial sexual exploitation, and extreme violence and physical abuse. She presents case law examples involving people with disabilities and trends they are seeing in the types of trafficking.

Sarah Bessell
One in five people in the United States is living with some type of physical, intellectual, developmental or psychiatric disability. As a result, people with disabilities constitute one of the largest minority groups in the United States. However, history proves that there is no strength in numbers, at least where disability justice is concerned. The 2010 U.S. Census found that more than 57 million people live with disabilities.

The Disability Justice Resource Center  has been created to help members of the legal community better understand the unique and complex issues related to justice for people with disabilities, particularly people with developmental disabilities. It also is designed to help the legal community identify and eliminate biases against people with disabilities.

This online resource is divided into several sections:


This resource was funded through a “cy pres” fund dedicated to the development of resources to help the legal profession better understand issues surrounding justice for people with developmental disabilities. The fund was established as part of settlement of the Jensen class action suit, which resulted in dramatic changes to the use of restraints and seclusion in facilities operated by the state of Minnesota. The site reflects the collaborative efforts of many organizations, including TPT, the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and more than a dozen faculty members who shared their expertise and experiences to help other legal professionals understand issues related to disability justice.

Special thanks to Becky Thorson, a partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, who has spearheaded efforts to provide CLEs on the topic of disability justice since 2009 and Margaret Endres, Professor Elizabeth Schiltz, and Julie Cayemberg who worked with Colleen Wieck to create this disability justice resource site.

Meet the faculty »


This resource is dedicated to the memory of P. Kenneth Kohnstamm, a tireless defender of the rights of people with disabilities. Ken was a vigorous champion of underserved populations during his 40-year career with the Office of the Minnesota Attorney General.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

This website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,120,136.00 with 83 percent funded by ACL/HHS and $222,000.00 and 17 percent funded by non-federal-government source(s). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

Disclaimer: The language used to describe people with developmental disabilities has changed over time. Many terms and language that are now considered disrespectful and offensive were once considered acceptable. As people with developmental disabilities have begun to advocate for the use of “people first” language and more respectful words to describe people with disabilities in spoken and written language, terms such as “retarded,” “handicapped,” “trainable,” and “educable” have been replaced in many laws documents. However, the remnants of what is now considered unacceptable language and terms may still be found in references to official governmental bodies (i.e. President’s Panel on Mental Retardation), organizations that were founded during these earlier years, federal laws, reports (i.e. Community Residences for Mentally Retarded Persons), case law, and quotations. These terms are used from time to time in this website, for historical accuracy.