Georgetown Law Center Clinic Lends Aid in Passage of Retooled Federal Disabilities Act

People with heart disease, epilepsy and diabetes will now be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 2008 after the bill was signed into law by President Bush Thursday, according to the civil rights coalition.

The passage of the bill was aided by the work of faculty, students and fellows of the Georgetown Law Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic.

The clinic, under the leadership of law professor Chai Feldblum, has been working for the past two years representing the Epilepsy Foundation, a national volunteer agency dedicated to caring for the welfare of those with epilepsy and their families.

“The students all did significant background research, preparing witnesses and writing background memos,” Feldblum said.

The GULC professor served as the principal negotiator on behalf of disabilities and civil rights groups in negotiations with the business community that factored into the compromise legislation.

According to Feldblum, students in the clinic worked about 30 hours each week, to apply their knowledge to real life situations.

Faculty, students and fellows from the clinic then combined to provide research and legal support in developing the legal language of the bill, and will continue to work toward its implementation in the coming months, Feldblum added.

Feldblum said it was “very gratifying” to see the law passed in a fairly short amount of time, as negotiations only began in February.

“We could not have achieved this victory without the intensive legal work provided by the Georgetown Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic faculty and staff,” Sandy Finucane, vice president for legal and government affairs of the Epilepsy Foundation, said in a press release Friday.

According to a university press release, the new ADA is effective Jan. 1, 2009 and will provide protection to a broader range of people with disabilities including those with epilepsy.

– Sarah Crum

SmarTrip More Accessible to Commuters

The SmarTrip is getting a little bit smarter.

Recent buzz in D.C. metro terminals and bus stops suggests that the Washington Metro Transit Authority has plans to unveil a revamped and much improved SmarTrip because commuters are complaining that problems with the cards are still prevalent.

According to WMATA spokespeople, the wait for at least some improvements will soon end.

Beginning this fall, commuters will be able to add value to their cards at select bus garages, Giant grocery stores and local commuter stores. Currently, commuters can only add value to the cards inside rail stations or aboard buses.

The Washington Post article that broke the news of the proposed SmarTrip improvements in December 2007 outlined several additional changes as well. These changes include the ability to tie SmarTrip cards to credit cards, so that funds will automatically replenish once they drop below a certain threshold.

“We are still looking to have an auto load feature, and we are working with a contractor to tie the SmarTrips to bank accounts and credit cards,” Steven Taubenkibel, WMATA’s public information officer said. “We’re looking at [starting this in] 2010.” WMATA’s public affairs officer Candace Smith said that more enhancements will also be unveiled in 2010. Commuters will then be able to view their cards’ activity, allowing them to better manage the funds loaded on the cards. In addition, commuters will be able to add to the value of their passes from other commuter programs, like Alexandria’s DASH Pass and Montgomery County’s Ride-About, to their SmarTrips.

Taubenkibel stressed that the proposed benefits require a good deal of planning and coordination, but that they will greatly simplify the daily commute.

-Joan Niesen

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