Intersectionality of Disability and Other Marginalized Identities

Reflecting on a Season of Impact and Looking Ahead: Our Journey at The National Center for Disability, Equity, and Intersectionality

As the year comes to an end, it is a time for reflection at the National Center for Disability, Equity, and Intersectionality. This fall has been a remarkable journey, filled with learning, sharing, and advocating. We’ve had the privilege of connecting with thousands of people across the country, amplifying our messages about the intersectionality of disability and other marginalized identities in healthcare, community settings, and justice systems.

Reaching Diverse Audiences

Intersecationality of Disability - Panel Presentation at AUCD- Leah Smith, Tracy Waller, Tyler Cochran, and Chris Hale-Mason- All with varying types of disabilities both visible and invisible.

Our team has been on the move, participating in influential conferences that have allowed us to engage with key stakeholders.

The HCBS conference planning committee invited our Associate Director, Leah Smith, to share about our Center’s work related to Home and Community Based Services with the nearly 1,500 attendees.

During the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities Conference in Baltimore, Maryland, with 1,200 attendees, the Center’s work on coercive sterilization and disability justice was presented as a flash talk and on the main stage.

In October, I joined a group of invite-only organization leaders in Washington, DC, to discuss the transition of disabled youth to adult healthcare, shining a light on the additional barriers faced by youth of color, LGBTQ youth, and girls, women, and young people who identify as female.

At the Association of University Centers on Disability in Washington, DC, we engaged with over 500 academic leaders and researchers to introduce our Center’s first year and present our work on police brutality experienced by disabled people, especially disabled people of color.

Our presence at the Association of Public Health Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, allowed us to intersect public health perspectives with our core mission, reaching over 12,000 public health professionals.

And finally, just last week, we attended the TASH conference with 2,000 attendees in Baltimore, Maryland, to present our work and network with professionals about the experiences, strengths, and needs of people with significant disabilities with multiple marginalized identities. 

Beyond conferences, we’ve delivered over a dozen guest lectures across various institutions, sharing our insights and broadening our understanding of diverse strengths, needs, and experiences within the disabled community through these invaluable interactions.

Advocacy Through Action

Intersectionality of Disability - Three disabled white women smiling at the camera, Kara Ayers, Leah Smith, and Katie Johnson

This year, our advocacy efforts were significant. We’ve actively responded to multiple calls for comments on crucial policies and decisions impacting disabled individuals. Our inclusive approach ensures the voices of disabled people are heard and integrated, staying true to our commitment as a center led by and for disabled individuals. Aligned with our commitment to inclusion, we’ve developed plain language summaries of the comments we submit. This ensures that more people can understand our work and join us in our advocacy. Most recently, we’ve shared plain language summaries for our comments on proposed 504 regulations and on proposed changes to the census. What other plain language resources would you like to see? Leave us a comment to let us know.

In 2024, we anticipate additional responses to calls for comments, as it is a highly effective form of advocacy. Our comments facilitate the representation of underrepresented perspectives. Our Center frequently amplifies these stories and experiences beyond just the comment itself. Through commenting, we can have a direct impact on policy while educating policymakers about the issues that matter most. With our comments, we’re creating a public record and along the way, empowering more people to engage in the advocacy processes. Making these processes as accessible and inclusive as possible is part of the work we do.

Energized for the Journey Ahead

Intersectionality of Disability- Blue background white text with quotes that reads: As we approach the new year, our resolve to champion equity only grows stronger

As we approach the new year, our resolve to champion equity only grows stronger. We’re excited to build on the momentum from the connections and knowledge gained this fall.

We invite you to join us in creating a more inclusive and just world – where disability, equity, and intersectionality are lived realities. Our work goes on, and we’re ready for the challenges and triumphs the new year will bring. 

ADA Supreme Court Case Update: Acheson v. Laufer

December 2023 Update on ADA Supreme Court Case:
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled the Acheson v. Laufer case moot. This case was in regards to the standing of ADA Testers. Below you will find a plain language explanation of the case and the decision of the Supreme Court. You can find more information and background on this specific case on our blog: Disability Law Spotlight: Acheson v. Laufer
ADA Supreme Court Case
Latest News: The Supreme Court Reaches A Decision on ADA Case. Updated: December 6, 2023
The Supreme Court of the United States (The Supreme Court) recently heard the case of Acheson v Laufer. 
In this case, Deborah Laufer (known as Laufer), a disabled woman, filed a lawsuit against Acheson Hotels (known as Acheson). In this lawsuit, Laufer said that the hotel website was not accessible under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Acheson argued that Ms. Laufer did not have the right, or standing, to bring them to court because she never intended to visit the hotel. They said she was not injured because of the lack of accessibility on the website and was only ‘testing’ the website for compliance.
In this instance, for Acheson Hotels to be in compliance with the ADA, the hotel would need to include information on their website about the availability of accessible rooms, among other things. 
Many disability activists and allies were worried that the Supreme Court would make a decision that would weaken the ADA. Specifically, activists were concerned that the Supreme Court would find that disabled people would start suing companies for not being accessible, even though they did not intend to visit those companies. Most disability activists and allies know that people with disabilities do not have the time, money, or ability to sue every inaccessible company.
The Supreme Court made a decision on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 that 
this case was moot. 
When a court says a case is ‘moot’ that means that the case no longer requires a decision because a solution has been found for the issue.
ADA Supreme Court Case: In this case, Laufer withdrew the lawsuit that led to this case, and stated that she would not file another like this in the future. The Supreme Court responded with deciding that the case was “moot” because there were no more issues in the case that required a decision from them. 

The Supreme Court of the United States consists of 9 justices. Justices is another word for judges that work for the highest court in the United States. All 9 Justices agreed on the decision in this case.
This decision has both positives and negative impacts for the disability community. 
The positive impact is that The Supreme Court decision did not change the ADA in any way. 
The negative impact is that it still leaves the question of whether we can have “testers” for compliance with the ADA or not. 
Testers are individuals that judge the accessibility of a website or location to make sure it meets ADA regulations. Many disability advocates say they want to have ADA testers because they do not have time to make sure websites and spaces are accessible each time they intend to travel. They would prefer that someone else did that for them. 
This decision also means that lower courts, not the Supreme Court in this case, will decide if people can be testers for the ADA or not. This means that some states and circuits (or regions) may allow testers for the ADA and some will not. For example, Idaho does not allow ADA testers, but Connecticut does.
ADA Supreme Court Case Update

For a complete list of which districts allow ADA testers and which do not, click here.

Want to learn about the National Center for Disability, Equity and Intersectionality? Learn more about our work here.