September 23, 2010

Law school adopts disability diversity pledge

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Faculty at the Southern Illinois University School of Law recently unanimously approved a commitment pledge for disability diversity within the legal profession.

The American Bar Association’s Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law created the voluntary pledge in response to the lack of lawyers with disabilities in the profession, according to the organization’s website. “A Pledge for Change” affirms a commitment to diversity, including individuals with mental, physical and sensory disabilities, within the legal profession.

The SIU School of Law is the first law school in Illinois, and one of 26 law schools in the nation, to adopt the pledge. As of Sept. 20, a total of 94 law firms, law schools, state bar associations, businesses, and disability rights organizations in the nation signed the pledge.

Law school faculty endorsed the pledge in late August, Dean Cynthia L. Fountaine said.

“This pledge is consistent with everything this law school stands for in terms of non-discrimination” she said. “I know this faculty is committed to these issues.”

The ABA pledge is also consistent with the law school’s long-held “Policy of Equality,” which is the school’s commitment to providing its students and graduates with an equal opportunity to obtain employment “without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability or sexual orientation.”

“We feel very strongly about our non-discrimination policy and we wanted to participate in this as well,” she said.

Fountaine said the law school also asks potential employers to abide by the non-discrimination policy. The policy is available in the law school’s career services’ section at

Fountaine also notes the University’s nationally recognized and decades-long commitment to access and support for students, faculty and staff with disabilities.

“The University also has also had a long-standing commitment to equal access for people with disabilities,” Fountaine said. “We believe it is especially appropriate that we are the first law school in Illinois to affirm this ABA pledge, and let employers who come to hire our students know that we feel strongly about this and expect and hope that they will abide by this pledge as well.”