Political advocate for persons with disabilities
Andrew U.D. Straw is a solo practitioner. He has been practicing civil rights and employment law for 14 years, after graduating from the University of Indiana- Maurer School of Law. Disability rights advocacy “is my focus in life and my career and I love it.” Andrew explains that the barriers and injustices he encounters as a person with bipolar disorder and physical impairments resulting from a car accident motivates his work. He uses his experiences as a person with disabilities to be a successful advocate, as he understands the barriers that many of his clients encounter. “My disabilities give me credibility.”
In 2013, Andrew founded the Disability Party, which is dedicated to increasing “access and opportunity” for people with disabilities everywhere. The Party now boasts more than 1,000 followers in 35 countries. His interaction with other people with disabilities inspires and drives him to do more. “Their struggles are my struggles.” Recently, Andrew got 70 businesses in Streamwood, Illinois, where he lives, to provide handicap parking spaces.
Regarding his own accommodations, Andrew has realized that “[o]ver time, you run into the things that are barriers that make you less effective. This is true of anything, not only disabilities. I know how effective I want to be, and certain behaviors can make me more effective. Such accommodations really help.” For example, he explains that he works at home most of the time, and takes naps when he needs to in order to refresh. He also tries not to drive further than he needs, as it can cause pain and numbness in his legs. Additionally, “My golden retrievers are a real comfort, as their lovely faces and licks can improve any mood.”
When asked about the inclusion of lawyers with disabilities in the legal profession, Andrew says we have a very long way to go. Attitudinal barriers are the most difficult to overcome. He is currently evaluating the relationship between disability, admission, and discipline rules of all state supreme courts.