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Persons with Disabilities and Access to the Michigan Legal System: A Status Report 2010

1/27/11

The Equal Access Initiative (EAI) Disabilities Workgroup recently completed work on the follow up to the 2001 report Access to the Legal System in Michigan for Persons with Disabilities. Persons with Disabilities and Access to the Michigan Legal System: A Status Report, 2010 updates the questions asked in the 2001 report with information collected in a survey sent to over 300 lawyers who are either disabled or serve disabled clients. It also includes feedback from focus groups held around the state to gather input from care providers and patients at centers for assisted living, and gathered information with the help of the State Courts Administrators Office from judges, court administrators, and Americans with Disabilities Coordinators.

Under the guidance of Anne Vrooman, director of research and development, the analysis of the raw data was completed by Dr. Larry Hembroff, director of the Office of Survey Research at Michigan State University. The volunteer members of the Disabilities Workgroup, some of whom took part in the development of the original report, provided input, feedback, and expertise as well.

The survey updates data from the initial report as well as providing a "snapshot" view of the way the system addresses the particular needs of the disabled. For example, the survey discovered that nearly 8 out of 10 respondents (79%) were not aware of Michigan Court Form 70 that is used to request accommodations for those with special needs. This number includes practitioners who need to have good information to better serve clients. Obviously this finding underscores the importance of information sharing to facilitate improvements in access to the legal system for those facing the challenges of physical or mental disabilities.

Plans for wide distribution of the report are underway in order to inform members about the strides that have been made since the last analysis and to encourage additional progress where it is needed.

For information about the EAI Disabilities Workgroup contact Gregory Conyers, director of diversity, at gconyers@mail.michbar.org.

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