Disability Law Project

The Disability Law Project (DLP) helps people with civil legal problems related to their disability. We give legal advice, we support self-advocacy, and we represent clients and their families in courts, hearings and other settings.

We help with legal issues like:

  • abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disabilities
  • access to assistive technology
  • access to health care and specialized (“waiver”) services like Developmental Services, Choices for Care or the TBI program
  • access to transportation
  • children’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) terminations based on disability
  • disability discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations
  • education issues like special education eligibility, suspensions, restraints and seclusions, and
  • guardianships and alternatives like Supported Decision Making.

We help people with developmental disabilities, including children with mental health diagnoses. We help people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and physical and sensory disabilities. We usually refer adults with a mental health diagnosis to Disability Rights Vermont.

We advocate for public policies to protect and expand the rights of Vermonters with disabilities.

The Disability Law Project has developed information on many disability topics. Access them on our VTLawHelp.org website.

Client stories

Discrimination

Pat lives in an apartment with a live-in caregiver. Pat uses a wheelchair for mobility due to a physical disability. Pat needed a change in the entrance to their apartment, because without a change, Pat could only enter or leave the apartment if another person was around to help. Pat submitted a request for a reasonable modification to their landlord. The landlord refused to make the change, claiming the change was too expensive.

Pat called Vermont Legal Aid. We contacted Pat’s landlord to explain why the change was not too expensive and needed to be allowed. We told the landlord that if the modification was not allowed, this would be disability discrimination. Pat’s landlord agreed to make the change and installed the physical modification. Pat can now come and go from their home independently.

Guardianship

Mohamed is a young adult who had a guardian making decisions for him. He wanted to be his own guardian. He wanted to decide for himself where he lived and worked, what medical care he received, and to make other big life decisions.

Mohamed had a case manager who supported this, but not all his family members thought this was a good idea. He called Vermont Legal Aid. We helped Mohamed understand his rights and talked with him about alternatives to guardianship. We brought Mohamed and his service providers and family together to try and work out a plan. After a few meetings, we wrote a Supported Decision Making plan, and took it to court.

The judge found that Mohamed did not need a guardian. He could be his own guardian with the help of his supporters and his plan.

Transportation

Lily is an older Vermont with a physical disability. She had been approved for rides in a car to get her groceries and prescriptions through the ADA Paratransit program and her area’s bus service. However, after years of approval, and even though her condition was declining, she was terminated from this service. Lily’s son called Vermont Legal Aid for help. We advocated with her bus service, and they reversed their decision. Lily was able to keep getting essential rides.

Education

Dominic was a bright student and a good athlete, until the death of one of his parents. Then, he began having trouble in school and showed signs of anxiety, depression and self-harming behaviors. He also had conflicts with peers. He was suspended several times, with each suspension longer than the last. He became more and more disconnected from school and started failing classes.

Dominic’s parent communicated with the school about his mental health difficulties. After another fight, he was told he could not return to school. When he had been excluded from school for more than a month without due process, the family contacted Vermont Legal Aid. We advised the family, helped him return to school, and advocated for reintegration and education plans.

Name(s) and some details have been changed to protect anonymity and confidentiality.

More information

Go to video transcript

Need help?

You may qualify for legal help from Vermont Legal Aid. To ask for a referral to Vermont Legal Aid or other legal help:

  • use our Legal Help Tool on the VTLawHelp.org website, or
  • call our legal helpline at 1-800-889-2047.