DREDF: People with Disabilities Serving Each Other

People with disabilities make up one of the largest minorities in the U.S. with 75 percent who are unemployed and more than 25 percent living in poverty.

However, some social and economic challenges the disabled face are not the consequence of physical limitations but are the result of a lack of accessibility provided by public policy. One leading national civil rights law and policy center is trying to change this by advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education, public policy and legislative development. The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, or DREDF, has worked toward advocating for the disabled since 1979.

The DREDF is directed by people with disabilities and by those who have children with disabilities. Thus, people with disabilities are able to serve and be served in the areas that fall under their expertise, as these are issues they face everyday. They work with the core principles of equality of opportunity, disability accommodation, accessibility and inclusion to fulfill their mission and vision of a just world where all people can live full and independent lives free of discrimination.

They do this by employing the following strategies:

1.  Training and Education

  • DREDF staff trains and educates people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities about their rights under state and federal disability rights laws so that they can use the laws as tools to challenge exclusion.
  • The DREDF educates lawyers, service providers, government officials and others about disability civil rights laws and policies.
  • Through a legal clinic in the San Francisco Bay Area, DREDF has operated a disability rights legal clinic in collaboration with law schools for over 15 years.

2.  Legal Advocacy

  • DREDF lawyers represent clients in leading edge disability rights litigation.
  • DREDF serves as co-counsel and prepares briefs on behalf of parties that include disability community representatives and members of Congress in disability rights cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • DREDF advocates for the legal rights of all people.

3.   Public Policy and Legislative Development

  • DREDF advocates design and implement strategies that strengthen public policy and lead to the enactment of federal and state laws protecting and advancing civil rights for people with disabilities, such as the Handicapped Children’s Protect Action.

The DREDF also runs an ongoing campaign for healthcare justice for people with disabilities called Healthcare Stories, which is a video advocacy tool that tells the stories of real people with disabilities facing healthcare disparities.

Chelsee Yee

Sources: DREDF, USICD, Law Help CA,
Photo: Google+