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CHID 434 A: Civil and Human Rights Law for Disabled People

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
DIS ST 434 A, LSJ 434 A
Stephen Rosenbaum

Syllabus Description:

UW at Night-Jessica.jpeg

UW @ Night - Photo by Jessica Sadiq

Welcome to Civil and Human Rights Law for Disabled People (LSJ/CHID/DIS ST 434).  In the left hand course navigation menu you will find a link to the SYLLABUS which we will review on the first day of class, October 1, 2020.  

To find the schedule and reading assignments, use the  MODULES link on the course navigation menu.  We may have minor changes in the agenda depending on new legal issues and/or guest speaker availability.  If so, I will  give you plenty of notice. Please note the brief pre-class readings for October 1 (Assignment #1). You will have time in class if you unable to read beforehand; you will get an automatic 10 points on this exercise,  just for participating.


T/Th 1:30-3:20

Stephen Rosenbaum, M.P.P., J.D.
Frank C. Newman Lecturer, Univ. of California Berkeley, School of Law
Part-Time Lecturer, Univ. of Washington, Disability Studies  (pronouns: he/him/él)***

Office Hours (Zoom or Phone): By Appointment

Course description 

Although societies around the world are increasingly adopting laws that ensure disabled individuals have access to rights, many academic courses on human or civil rights still do not cover discrimination on the basis of disability. This survey course is designed for students who are interested in expanding their knowledge of civil and human rights for people with disabilities, including the United States perspective and various international and national models.

We will examine the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the American civil rights model in some detail and review the relevant United Nations international human rights treaties and documents that relate to people with disabilities.  We will examine disability rights in various countries around the world, and discuss select issues concerning disability rights.

The international focus will be on the ways that various states parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) are implementing laws to ensure that individuals have full access to rights—even those individuals with significant intellectual or psychological impairments who have commonly been denied most rights.  Your group research projects, as described below, will add an important global perspective to the discussion of how to be inclusive of all individuals regardless of their level of impairment and what it means to be "equal." 

Course Objectives

On completion of this course you will, through written, verbal, sign and/or other forms of communication, be able to:

  1. Define human rights, civil rights and the complexities inherent in our western legal analysis of these concepts when applied to the rights of disabled individuals.
  2. Describe the legal treatment of disabled people in American history including the development of the civil rights movement for disabled people in this country.
  3. Identify and describe the major international human rights instruments and American civil rights laws concerning disabled people.  
  4. Compare and contrast other models of "rights" laws for disabled people with the American model.
  5. Demonstrate a working knowledge of the course materials through successful completion of weekly written assignments, case briefs and a group comparative law project.


The course content will be presented through  assigned readings, class discussion (including deliberation and simulations--in small groups and in class as a whole), guest speakers and student research and presentations.

You are expected to actively participate in class discussions. In addition, you will be assigned responsibilities with others in small groups for case presentations. You will also be evaluated on individual written assignments and a group individual research project. If you are uncomfortable talking in a group setting or working in a group, please talk with me during the first week of the quarter.

Course Texts

We are reading selections from a variety of books. I am trying to keep down your textbook costs--but a few readings are not available electronically due to copyright or other reasons.   

We will  read excerpts from Decarcerating Disability (2020) by Liat Ben-Moshe.  An e-book version can be accessed through UW Libraries at

(If no access rights to the e-book, it is available from Amazon on Kindle ($16.00): (The Kindle app can be uploaded for free to your laptop,  smartphone or other device)).

Understanding Disability Law (3rd. ed. 2019) by Mark Weber is available at the UW Bookstore.  This is an optional--but  highly recommended --resource for the American disability rights law and cases we discuss in class.

All additional required readings and supplementary materials are available on the course website in accessible formats.

Class Assessments and Grading

There is a total of 360 points for the course, as indicated below:

  • Class Participation (60 points)
  • Class (Reading) Exercises (150 pts total) 10 pts/exercise 
  • Group Case Brief and Presentation (50 pts) 25 pts/brief & 25pts/presentation
  • Group Comparative Law Research Project (100 pts) 50 pts/group written analysis, 40 pts/group class presentation, & 10 pts /individual reflection summary

Once all assignments are scored, the points are converted to numeric grades:


Class Participation

Please read the assigned material prior to class and be prepared to discuss the question(s) distributed. Participation is worth 50 points. It is hard to participate in a discussion if you are not in class, so I expect to see you regularly. Life gets in the way at times, but if you know you will miss more than two classes this quarter, please email and let me know. Participation points can only boost your grade; no points are deducted for less in-class participation.

Class  Written Exercises

There are assigned readings for most of the class meetings; these are indicated on the schedule. At the end of each week (or earlier) questions/prompts that relate to the assigned readings for the following week will be posted on the website under the corresponding course MODULE tab for that week. During most weeks, your pre-class exercise is to provide a short (approximately 1 page single-spaced) response to questions related to the assigned reading. 

Each assignment is due to me via email one-half hour before the beginning of the class (with a few exceptions noted on the schedule). These questions (and others based on the reading) will be the focus of our class discussions and simulations--in small groups and in full class-- each session.  A maximum of 1/2 credit (5 pts) is given if you turn in the assignment late, but within one week of the due date.  No assignment will be accepted more than one week past the due date (absent a disability-related accommodation agreement). If you know that you will miss a class, you should  still email me the assignment in advance, unless you are too ill to complete the assignment. 

The range for grading these assignments is as follows:

  • 10 points for a thorough, thoughtful response with reference to the readings and reflective response when your own opinion is requested (attention to spelling/grammar/syntax); 
  • 7 points for answering adequately;
  • 5 points for answering partially;
  • 0 points for not submitting assignment and/or not addressing the reading material.

Some weeks you will not turn in answers to questions, but instead will have an alternative exercise—e.g., a case brief, simulation or analysis of a case hypothetical—to turn in. There are 15 individual assignments in total --a combination of questions from the readings, case briefs, and case hypotheticals--including the automatic 10 points for Assignment #1. I will count only 13 of these assignments in your final grade.  Therefore, you have the option of completing all assignments and I will discard the lowest scoring ones; or you can simply skip two assignments.  A couple of exceptions: there is no extra credit given and the rule on late assignments applies. You must also undertake a case briefing/presentation and comparative law project.

Case Briefing and Presentation

You will learn how to "legally" read and "brief" court decisions in this course. We will spend one class on useful approaches to dissecting court opinions, determining what's legally relevant, and what principles are important for future cases. 

The first case is one that everyone will read and brief  together in class-- in lieu of one of the reading assignments/classroom exercises . Assigned small groups will brief the other cases and present them to the full class. These groups (approximately 5 students per group), known as the Disability Law Practice Group,  will be formed on October 13 with presentations to class scheduled for November 17 and 19.  (You have the choice to form your own groups or I am happy to facilitate that process).  If your group is not presenting a particular case, you're still expected to read all the assigned cases, although you will not be required to turn in written briefs for the other cases. The group brief and presentation assignment is worth 50 points. Everyone in the group gets the same grade. (if you are "allergic" to group work, please talk with me the first week of the quarter to arrange an individual case assignment). Sample case briefs are posted in a Week No. 3 Module.

Group Comparative Law Project

American law has a lot to learn from other countries. Therefore, in addition to studying the United Nations international law as applied to disabled individuals, one of the objectives of this course is to investigate disability laws from other countries and compare and contrast them with the American and United Nations approaches.  Again, in small groups of approximately 4-5 students (the International Disability Law Practice Group), you will choose a country that has 1) ratified the UNCRPD and 2) submitted its initial country report to the UN Committee.  The first task, after choosing the country, is to do a review of the disability law in that country. Once you have a good handle on the “general” disability law, you will focus your remaining research on one aspect of the national law -- e.g., education for students with disabilities, rights in employment, rights of those with cognitive impairments, etc. The specific areas that you choose to focus on is up to the group.  However, you must do some initial research to be sure that you will have information available and then clear the focus with me.   

The final product from your research will be a written comparative law analysis (due Dec. 18, 2020, 5:00 pm) of how well the country is currently complying with the UNCRPD standards regarding legal rights for individuals with disabilities, what you would recommend to the State Party to improve compliance and how the State Party compares with the ADA standards.  The written analysis should be 5-8 pages (single space) with an extra page(s) of references as needed. 

In addition, your group will prepare an informal presentation of your findings for the class.   This can take the form of a powerpoint presentation, brief handout, or even a poster if you like.  Each group will have approximately 25-30 minutes to present the highlights of your research (including time for questions and answers). The presentation format is a group decision; these presentations will be held the last two days of class, December 8 and 10.

We will discuss this assignment more as the quarter progresses. The first project assignment due date is Nov. 3. Groups must have selected a country to research by that date and submitted to me via email. An outline (how you are approaching this project, how you are dividing the work, areas of focus, resources used to date) is due electronically on or before  Nov. 19. So as to not duplicate countries, it will be first come, first served  (NOTE:  the list of countries who have ratified and submitted initial reports is available on the UN website (   We will discuss this further in class. There are 100 points available for this assignment. The 5-8 page comparative analysis is worth 50 points, the in-class presentation/discussion worth 40 points. Again, everyone in a group gets the same grade for the comparative analysis and the presentation/discussion. A third component of this assignment is an individual grade (10 points)  that is earned by satisfactory completion of a "Group Research Experience Summary." This summary is a one-page narrative of how your group approached the task—chose a topic, assigned responsibilities, etc.—and what grade (points) you believe your group deserves.

If you are interested in viewing examples of the comparative law presentations prepared in earlier classes, see below.  See Module (Week 6) for more detailed instructions. 

Brazil PP.pptx




Iran+Country+Presentation (1).pptx


Disability Studies Librarian Matthew Parsons is available to meet individually or with small groups if you would like some help finding sources, etc.  His contact page is I highly encourage you to take advantage of his help.  There is a general Disability Studies Research Guide as well:

Community Forum

This is designed as a space where students can ask general questions about the course. It's the place to ask for clarification if you encounter something in the course that seems vague or ambiguous, or if you have a question you're unable to answer with the information provided in the course. Posting your question in the COMMUNITY FORUM (in course navigation menu), rather than by email might help other students who have the same question.

Access and Accommodations:  Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the UW to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

It is UW policy to accommodate student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy [ Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form available on this site.”

For campus Mental Health Resources and Care, please visit:

Please email/talk with me about any concerns you may have. I welcome feedback on particular readings and class discussion and exercises.

We begin the quarter by acknowledging that the University of Washington resides on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish Peoples, including the Lushootseed-speaking Duwamish Tribe past and present.  We thank the Duwamish and other native peoples for providing us the opportunity to obtain an education on their ancestral lands. [See fuller statement in Preliminaries-MODULE].


** Zoom Recordings

This course is scheduled to run synchronously at your scheduled class time via Zoom. These Zoom class sessions may be recorded. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public.

The University and Zoom have  agreements in place that are compliant with the Federal Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA)--to protect the security and privacy of UW Zoom accounts. Students who do not wish to be recorded should:

  • Change their Zoom screen name to hide any personal identifying information like their name or UW Net ID; and
  • Not share their computer audio or video during their Zoom sessions

*** I include pronouns to confirm my commitment to inclusivity, helping to create a safer space for transgender, non-binary and gender-fluid students and others to share their own pronouns.

Catalog Description: 
Expands knowledge of civil and human rights for disabled people. Examines the American perspective (ADA) as well as various international models including the United Nations' International Human Rights treaties as they relate to disabled people. Offered: jointly with DIS ST 434/LSJ 434; A.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:11pm