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Attorney’s record of wins creates ripple effects for justice

In this staff profile piece, Attorney Steve Schmidt reflects on five memorable cases. Each focused on disability rights for clients of Legal Aid’s Minnesota Disability Law Center. All had far-reaching effects in achieving justice for countless others in areas of legislation, prisoner rights, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and increasing access to time with personal care assistants.

Client loses out on graduation, but wins in Court of Appeals

The Minnesota Department of Education agreed, our client, a senior in high school, should not have been expelled. But when MDE ordered the school to reinstate him, they refused. Legal Aid then argued in front of the Court of Appeals that the school’s case should be dismissed. Ultimately, it was. By then, however, our client’s chance to graduate with his class had come and gone. Today, two grad seasons later, our client William and his family share how far he’s come.

Racism creates barriers to housing rights

As a former social services worker, Trina knew her rights, yet she was denied the benefit of a live-in PCA. When that happened, she told them she would get an attorney to represent her. That’s when Legal Aid stepped in.

Moving bureaucratic mountains just to get home

“I was getting medical treatment for a bad leg, but I was in there (a nursing home) a long time. What they were doing for me wasn’t different than what could be done at home. I’d rather be at home…but they wouldn’t let me go.”

Self-advocate fights for supports to finish college

“If someone using disability services makes a wrong move, they can be cut off or might owe thousands of dollars in an overpayment,” warns Attorney Anne Robertson. In the case of college student James Lee, that might have kept his college degree out of reach.

Pandemic heightens education discrimination: Tilly’s story

The summer of 2020, when Tilly was almost eight, her parents were told she could not return to school in the fall. Tilly’s Legal Aid lawyer described it as an attempt to create a new policy for students with disabilities. That didn’t fly with Tilly’s parents and it didn’t fly with Legal Aid’s Disability Law Center, either.

“Into Adulthood” improves disability access for young adults

At 16, Will was housed in a treatment center with adults who were mentally ill and aggressive. At the same time, he had his own challenges stemming from lifelong trauma. Disability Law Center Advocate, Cindy Jarvi said “For years, Will had virtually zero educational services.” But with her and the law on his side, things were set to change.

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