Training the Citizen-Enforcers of Disability Rights, 1978-1982

Karen Tani, University of California Berkeley School of Law

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 4:30pm
301 Marx Hall
Event Category: 

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Abstract:  "This paper draws on original archival research and personal interviews to reconstruct a little-known episode in U.S. legal and political history: a four-year, government-funded campaign to train Americans with disabilities in the interpretation and enforcement of their newly guaranteed civil rights. In an era better known for rights retrenchment, trainees learned how to read and interpret federal regulations; how to spot violations of the law; how to win accommodations from entities that excluded them, and how to carry themselves as “rights-bearers.” The paper explores the legacies of these trainings, as well as their significance for broader understandings of the boundaries and content of American citizenship in the late twentieth century."

Karen Tani
University of California Berkeley School of Law

Karen Tani is Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Samuel Rubin Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. She is the author of States of Dependency: Welfare, Rights, and American Governance, 1935-1972 (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which won the Cromwell Book Prize from the American Society for Legal History. Other published work, focusing on federalism, administrative agencies, constitutional equality guarantees, and subordinated groups, has appeared in the Yale Law Journal, the Cornell Law Review, the Law and History Review, Duke Law Journal, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism, among other venues. Tani is the first graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s J.D./Ph.D. program in American Legal History. Following her law school graduation, she clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Prior to joining Berkeley Law, Tani was a Samuel I. Golieb Fellow in Legal History at New York University School of Law and the George Sharswood Fellow in Law and History at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Elizabeth Sepper
2018-2019 LAPA Fellow;
Washington University School of Law

Elizabeth Sepper is a nationally recognized scholar of public accommodations, religious liberty, and health law. Her recent work focuses on legal theoretical and policy debates related to the antidiscrimination obligations of public accommodations—that is, businesses, social service providers, and membership organizations that are open to the public—under federal, state, and local laws.  Her article on the issue of religious objections to gay rights, “Doctoring Discrimination in the Same-Sex Marriage Debates,” has won multiple awards.  She received a B.A. from Boston University and a J.D. and LL.M from NYU School of Law.  Prior to entering academia, she clerked for the Hon. Marjorie Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, practiced human rights law with a focus on women’s rights, and was a Center for Reproductive Rights fellow at Columbia Law School.  At LAPA, she will hold the LAPA\Crane Fellowship in Law and Public Affairs, and will work on her book project, Sex in Public: Public Accommodation Law from the Civil War to the Bathroom Wars, tracing how sex shaped the aims and application of antidiscrimination law throughout U.S. history.