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Meet the New Disability Rights Defenders

A disability rights scholar

Around the world, disabled people’s organizations are working to make communities more equal and inclusive. But many of those organizations lack the legal knowledge or know-how to take cases to court, to push for law reform efforts, or to undertake complex law- and policy-based advocacy.

“Disability rights was not being taught in law schools. There was very little curriculum developed, and law students weren’t getting practical experience in dealing with persons with disabilities or in representing them,” says Alison Hillman, a senior program officer with the Open Society Human Rights Initiative.

“We saw an opportunity to help fill that gap.”

In the video above, disability rights scholars and faculty talk about their experience in the Disability Rights Scholarship Program—a yearlong master of laws program that’s changing the landscape of disability rights.

“The success that individual scholars have had is exciting,” says Phillip Watkins, deputy director of the Open Society Scholarship Programs. “Facundo  Chavez Penillas is now the human rights and disability advisor to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Likando Kalaluka was recently appointed attorney general of Zambia. And Elizabeth Kamundia has joined our partners at the Center for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria to develop disability rights curricula for law schools in southern Africa. And those are just three of many stellar examples.”

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