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Michael Ashley Stein

  • COP26 incident shines light on impact of climate change on disabled

    November 5, 2021

    An Israeli cabinet minister’s inability to access the COP26 climate summit in her wheelchair has fueled criticism that the conference is part of the problem on many of the inequalities it was meant to address. Karine Elharrar, Israel’s Energy Minister, uses a wheelchair due to muscular dystrophy and was unable to access an entrance at the summit Monday. “It’s sad that the United Nations, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021 doesn’t worry about accessibility at its own events,” Elharrar tweeted. ... “It’s of course unfortunate that [Elharrar] was left out… and it’s right that attention’s being paid to it, but what’s really more of an issue is the way people with disabilities have been left out of the climate change agenda and dialogue,” said Michael Stein, executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. “Although we’re all going to suffer, and do suffer, from climate change, right now and in the future, the mortality rate for people with disabilities from natural disasters is as high as four times that of non-disabled persons,” he added.

  • Group of elementary children studying with a teacher at school during coronavirus pandemic

    Investigating mask mandate bans

    September 13, 2021

    Michael Ashley Stein ’88, executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, says the Department of Education should go beyond the Americans with Disabilities Act in investigating state bans against mandating face coverings in schools.

  • An elderly man sitting in a wheelchair in the corridor near the window

    Harvard Law School Project on Disability provides legal support during pandemic

    June 7, 2021

    Knowing that people with disabilities would be especially vulnerable during the pandemic to problems with healthcare access and other issues, the Harvard Law School Project on Disability turned its attention early on to COVID-related initiatives and advocacy.

  • William Alford and Michael Ashley Stein

    Founders of Harvard Law School Project on Disability honored by the president of Ecuador

    March 18, 2021

    Visiting Professor Michael Ashley Stein ’88,  executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, and Professor William P. Alford ’77, who cofounded the project, known as HPOD, were awarded the National Order of Merit by the president of Ecuador on March 8, in recognition of their work on disability.

  • Successes And Shortcomings: 30 Years Of The Americans With Disabilities Act

    December 14, 2020

    Thirty years ago, East and West Germany reunited after the fall of the Soviet Union. It was 1990, the same year The World Wide Web debuted, plus singer Mariah Carey’s blockbuster hit, "Vision of Love," kicked off her career. And President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) banning discrimination against millions of Americans in education, transportation, and public accommodations. Three decades later, the 1 in 4 adult Americans with disabilities have benefitted from the ADA’s protections. But the benefits are being threatened by the wide-ranging impact of COVID-19, and by the ever-widening inequities in health care and employment. In this 30th anniversary year of the passage of the ADA, the disability rights movement looks back to the bill’s legacy and ahead to new challenges. Guests: Kristen McCosh, commissioner of the Disabilities Commission for the City of Boston. Michael Stein, executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability and visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Jeffrey Yasuo Mansfield, design director at MASS Design Group and a Disability Futures Fellow. Plus, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter, Aaron Wegehaupt, joined to facilitate communication between everyone.

  • Asthmatic Worker Gets Covid-Related Telework Order, For Now

    September 18, 2020

    An asthmatic employee may work from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and their Massachusetts employer can’t force them to return to the office, a federal judge ruled, barring the worker’s termination for at least 60 days. In a rare instance of a worker seeking a preliminary injunction in a disability bias case, social worker Gabriel Peeples showed that they’re likely to prevail on the merits of their claims under federal and state law, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled Wednesday, using the non-gender specific pronoun to refer to Peeples. The decision provides early evidence about how the pandemic can alter Americans with Disabilities Act cases, during both the current phase of the pandemic and a future when the virus is under control. “Employers who previously and staunchly maintained that the essential job functions simply could not be performed away from the office will now face months of evidence of telecommuting that worked well,” said Michael Stein, law professor and executive director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Disability Courts will also have to reconsider the scope of what respiratory-related impairments rise to a level of being classified as a disability under the ADA, Stein said. The ruling also highlights the impact of the pandemic on the legal test for winning an emergency order. Beyond showing that they’d be likely to win on the merits, the court found that Peeples could suffer irreparable harm by losing their job in the middle of a pandemic. The court also said public health concerns weighed in Peeples’ favor, because the mental health counseling the plaintiff provides. Stein and two other legal scholars told Bloomberg Law that they’d never seen another request for preliminary injunction in an ADA employment case.

  • COVID-19 is a disaster for people with disabilities. Without 30-year-old law, it would be worse

    July 27, 2020

    The isolation can be terrifying and tragic. The stress can exacerbate mental illness and other health problems. Add the loss of mobility and independence, the disruption of routines: the beloved caregiver who doesn't come, the day program that doesn't open, the concern that lack of support will give families no choice but to institutionalize. In the hospital, people who can't speak are left with no one to communicate for them, vulnerable to the fear medical care will be rationed, given to someone deemed more worthy or valuable than themselves. Though everyone has been suffering during the COVID-19 pandemic, people with disabilities have perhaps been the most disadvantaged, their lives the most disrupted...The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed on July 26, 1990, by President George H.W. Bush, guarantees equal protection for people with a wide range of disabilities, from mental health issues to physical challenges. It was modeled after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, providing equal access to government services, schools, buildings, private employers and commercial facilities. "We are in a much better place in 2020 than we were in 1990. Dramatically better," said Michael Ashley Stein, co-founder and executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Although the ADA has made a profound difference, it hasn't removed all prejudice against people with disabilities – any more than the Civil Rights Act resolved all bias against Black people. “Other than rare instances of overt animus, most of the discrimination we see towards people with disabilities in this country tends to be from what we call ‘malign neglect,’” Stein said. "It's not that we're trying to exclude them from opportunity, it's that we didn't even bother to consider them eligible or worthy of opportunities." The ADA, like other civil rights laws, Stein said, "puts the burden on the oppressed to make changes," requiring an endless fight to protect those rights.

  • 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

    July 24, 2020

    This Sunday marks the 30th anniversary of the day the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, making it illegal to discriminate against people living with disabilities in regard to employment and access to government services. The Gazette spoke with Michael Ashley Stein, J.D. ’88, co-founder and executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, to learn more about the significance of the ADA and what it has meant for the people it protects over the past 30 years. Stein also addressed what Harvard has done since then to expand accessibility on its campuses, and provided perspective on what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

  • book cover

    Faculty Books in Brief: Summer 2020

    July 23, 2020

    From human rights in a time of populism to a comparative look at capital punishment to a focus on disability, healthcare and bioethics

  • Bob Beamon

    Sports, Law and Life: Olympic long jump record holder Bob Beamon visits HLS

    October 4, 2019

    In 1968, Bob Beamon leapt into the Olympic history books with a long jump that shattered the existing record by nearly two feet. Beamon brought the historic moment to life for a crowd gathered at Harvard Law School in September, where he joined a panel to discuss his work as a Special Olympics global ambassador.