August 25, 2011

April 2009: Aaron C. Bates, Esq.

bates photo

Young barrister with Spinal Muscular Atrophy creates opportunities where there is none to ensure success for himself and others.

Upon entering law school, Aaron C. Bates, Esq. had his eyes set on becoming a state prosecutor with an eventual career in politics. Instead he faced systemic and seemingly insurmountable obstacles to legal employment. As a young attorney, Aaron never considered giving up; he persevered, created opportunity where there once was none, and conquered every challenge presented. Aaron has become an inspiration to others, and one of Orlando’s top civil rights advocates, litigating some of Orlando’s biggest and most exciting cases.

Aaron is a double-graduate of Florida State University. He obtained his undergraduate degree in three years and graduated from the College of Law in only two and a half, making him one of the youngest graduates of the College. Aaron was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II and has been in a wheelchair since the age of 3. He uses a personal attendant, who assists him with many of his daily living activities, including dressing, bathing, and moving to and from his wheelchair.

After graduating from law school, Aaron lost state funding for his personal care attendant. State law dictated that funding for his attendant was to cease because Aaron was vocationally “rehabilitated” upon graduation from law school. Without the assistance, Aaron was no longer able to afford to live and work independently. Such services cost as much as his starting salary as an Assistant State Attorney. Aaron was forced into an untenable situation where he could either live at home unemployed, and below the state-mandated income threshold, while living on government benefits, or he could work while living in a nursing home at twice the cost of an attendant. Unhappy with the no-win situation, Aaron saw in the misfortune an opportunity to help himself and others. “I came to the stark realization that the system in place to assist the disabled effectively forced the disabled into becoming wards of the state,” Bates stated, “I felt the need to step up and fill the void for the unrepresented disabled who wanted to enter the workforce and live independent lives.” Aaron began to lobby then-Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida legislature, and was instrumental in the enactment of the Florida Personal Care Attendant Program, which contributes funding for the employment of an attendant by disabled individuals who have achieved sustained, gainful employment.

After fighting for system-wide changes to benefit the disabled, Aaron made the decision to venture out on his own with a former co-worker, forming Bates Mokwa, PLLC in 2007. Today, Bates Mokwa handles general civil litigation, focusing on commercial litigation, personal injury litigation, and Aaron’s true passion: civil rights litigation. Aaron has continued a life-long trend of refusing to view any obstacle as too great, as he took on U.S. Airways after it informed his client, who has a neuromuscular movement disorder, that he could not fly without a personal attendant, in addition to helping those with mobility impairments attain accommodations at Walt Disney World (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOSIDF67Bm0).