Maxwell alumna Phaedra Stewart ’91 finds it difficult to look at the world without seeing opportunities to connect with people, raise their spirits and empower them to make their lives better. A self-described serial entrepreneur (some might say a serial…
Burton Blatt Institute creates ‘fresh thinking’ on disability law, policy
Burton Blatt Institute creates ‘fresh thinking’ on disability law, policyMarch 30, 2006Scott McDowellsemcdowe@syr.edu
Sixteen years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), such experts as Peter Blanck, University Professor and chair of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI)?Centers on Innovation on Disability, see ADA progress as mixed. “The law has encouraged employers to make workplace accommodations, but narrowing judicial interpretations have resulted in denying many individuals its protections,” Blanck says.
Blanck discussed this and other BBI-driven ideas and movements toward empowerment as the guest speaker for a recent Law Live@Lubin series at SU’s Lubin House.
Established in September 2005 through a partnership with the College of Law — and with offices on campus, at Lubin House in New York City and in Washington, D.C. — BBI takes its name from former SU dean and pioneer in the disabilities field Burton Blatt. Blanck; Michael Morris, a public policy advocate for more than 25 years and the organization’s Washington, D.C., managing director; and Charlie Hammerman, BBI managing director at the institute’s Lubin House location, each felt the time was right to initiate such a union. “Our intent is to create fresh thinking in regard to disability law and policy. That vision requires a collaboration of government entities, nonprofits and the private sector,” Blanck says.
Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s inaugural speech in 2004 foreshadowed her vision for this then-developing program and was the catalyst needed to thrust BBI to the forefront. In her address, the chancellor spoke of the “crooked timber of humanity,” saying, “People and ideas and the places we inhabit are simply not straightforward, easily reduced to neat categories or simple truths. And wisdom comes in many packages.” She added that everyone is responsible to extend him or herself “in collaborations to make a better world.”
With that, BBI enlisted legal, social sciences, education, rehabilitation, business and instructional design scholars dedicated to advancing civic, economic and social participation of persons with disabilities in a global society. “The focus and breadth of BBI is unprecedented, and I hope will be a model for the future,” Blanck says.
Having just completed a review assessing the institute at the six-month mark and under the direction of newly appointed executive director Brian McLane ’69, BBI has set its sights on the future. Soon to be introduced is a summer law and policy leadership program in which four SU law students will learn first-hand about the public policymaking process from a disability perspective. The School of Information Studies is working with BBI to design new approaches to distance learning and building social networks. And BBI is looking to establish a Center on Financial Innovation to explore strategies to promote economic security for individuals and their families.
To learn more about BBI, visit http://bbi.syr.edu/.