August 21, 2013

September 2013: Trevor Finneman


DRLC Lawyer Works to Make Technology Accessible

Trevor Finneman, a staff attorney for the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) in Los Angeles, says he became a lawyer in order to make an impact on the world. At DRLC, he has litigated effective communication cases that raise interesting questions of law about the relationship between the Americans with Disabilities Act and emerging technology. “I think it’s important to ensure that new technologies (e.g., online content) are accessible to people with disabilities. It’s also important to ensure that new technologies are used to make the world more accessible to people with disabilities.”

Finneman, who has had severe bilateral hearing loss since age three, uses a captioned phone at work. “So much of litigation involves fast-paced verbal exchanges,” he said. “There’s no way I could get away with funneling all correspondence to letter or email as an attorney.” However, he points out that the time lag in transcription and numerous inaccuracies in the transcript make the captioned phone an imperfect solution. Finneman also uses Communication Access Realtime Translations (CART) captioning for court hearings and occasionally for depositions.

Finneman finds that the legal profession “is not welcoming to attorneys with disabilities―especially younger attorneys. “In my experience, employers, and even courts, have struggled to provide basic accommodations. Ironically, even disability rights organizations struggle to provide accommodations; likewise, leaders of disability rights organizations often fail to treat persons with disabilities with respect and dignity.” As a result, Finneman does not disclose his disability when applying for jobs.

When asked about the highlights of his work at the DLRC, Finneman points to his supervising and mentoring law students from Loyal Law School’s clinical program with the DRLC.  He also cites his work with his colleague Michelle Uzeta (DRLC Legal Director) on requiring closed-captioning devices in theaters.