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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.


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.

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 video 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

The Fight for Civil Rights for People with Disabilities

The Fight for Civil Rights for People with Disabilities is a compilation of the “Moments in Disability History,” now presented as a free Webinar. This one hour presentation is an accounting of the key events and influential leaders who pursued the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here also are the many personal stories of discrimination, and reflections on the lives of individuals with disabilities who experienced only isolation and segregation but who also envisioned an inclusive society that would recognize them as fully capable and productive first class citizens.

The Webinar can be used by anyone – students, professionals, law schools,  and CLE instructors as well as self advocates and family members.  There is no need to review the entire Webinar in a single sitting; you can review sections as time permits.

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:

Justice Denied

Basic Legal Rights

Working with People with Developmental Disabilities in the Justice System

Disability Justice Center Faculty

The Video Index covers a range of topics from an historical perspective, to continuing issues regarding segregation and discrimination, to discussions about courtroom access and accommodations. The themes of equal justice, and human and legal rights are interwoven throughout, and reflect the personal experiences of self advocates as well as members of the legal profession.


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. Click here to 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.