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March 01, 2013

March 2013: Timothy Elder

Former Disability Rights Fellow Puts Up Own Shingle, Continues to Fight for Equality of Opportunity

Timothy Elder, Principle of the TRE Legal Practice, LLC, began his disability civil rights career thanks to a fellowship at Brown, Goldstein, & Levy. However, Elder began laying the foundation for his reputation as a committed and respected disability civil rights litigator even before he graduated magna cum laude from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. During law school, he externed with the Hon. Marilyn Hall Patel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and later clerked for the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center in San Francisco, where he worked on complex employment discrimination cases and represented low income workers at administrative hearings. In 2008, Elder was awarded the TenBroek Fellowship for commitment to disability rights, and in 2010, received The Daily Record’s VIP by 40 Award, which recognizes younger professionals in Maryland for their professional accomplishments, civic involvement, and impact of achievement.

Now in practice for two years, Elder’s accomplishments include securing injunctions against testing entities for their failure to accommodate students with disabilities, negotiating groundbreaking settlements with publically traded companies about the accessibility of online courses and mobile apps, and litigating employment discrimination cases in federal trial and appellate courts.

Blind since high school, Elder credits his disability for contributing to his strong work ethic. His mastery of technologies has also helped him become more efficient on the job. “Technology can greatly enhance opportunities for a blind person. I quickly learned I would have an advantage as a blind attorney if I could develop a deep understanding of my technology tools and their capacity.” Elder uses screen readers, as well as lesser known script packages and software applications that enhance his efficiency with the screen readers.

Although Elder believes that the legal profession has made progress with respect to welcoming lawyers with disabilities, he acknowledges that bias and misunderstanding continue to persist. “Certain sectors, such as the judiciary, Congress and senior management at public companies lack an accurate understanding of disability, which can only be achieved by exposure to a qualified colleague or peer with a disability.” Elder uses his knowledge regarding disability law and his leadership positions within the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division and the National Association of Blind Lawyers to promote diversity throughout the profession. His message to legal recruiters? “Focus on the quality of the work, the dedication of the intellect, and the passion of the heart rather than the package it comes in.”