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May 20, 2019

July 2013: Tovah Miller

From International Disability Rights to Access to Education, a Syracuse Graduate Has Many Possibilities Before Her

Tovah Miller has always been interested in the right to education for people with disabilities.  Her interest in part originates in her own experiences with obtaining appropriate accommodations for her learning disabilities from her home school district.  Miller remembers struggling to receive appropriate accommodations to facilitate full access to her education, particularly in her high school years.  She found that it often seemed inconsistent to educators at the high school level that she qualified for honors classes while also requiring accommodations for her learning disabilities.  Her experience in college was different, as Hobart and William Smith Colleges did a remarkable job at supporting and encouraging students of all abilities and experiences.  Despite being denied sufficient extra time for the LSAT, she set her sights on Syracuse University College of Law, where she obtained a joint degree in Law and in the Cultural Foundations of Education with a concentration in Disability Studies (J.D./M.S.).  Although her initial request for extra time for the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam was denied due to insufficient documentation—despite having submitted documentation dating back to third grade—she ultimately was granted this accommodation.  Unfortunately, she was also unable to secure her full accommodations for the bar exam. 

In addition to her interest in access to education, Miller became interested in international disability civil rights, thanks to Professor Arlene Kanter’s class on comparative international disability rights law.  “As a professor and as a mentor, Professor Kanter has not only helped me shape my education in law school and graduate school, but she has also encouraged and guided me towards positive professional experiences. She continues to be truly invested in my success and professional fulfillment.”

Upon graduation from Syracuse, Miller obtained two different certificates: a Certificate of Advanced Study in Disability Studies and a Certificate of Disability Law and Policy.  During her law school years, she was also actively involved in the construction process of the new law school building, ensuring that it was completed in a manner that would provide maximum accessibility. Additionally, she reinvigorated the Disability Law Society and acted as a peer advocate for law students with disabilities who were interested in obtaining accommodations.

Today, Miller volunteers at the ARCH Disability Law Centre in Toronto, where she researches and analyzes cases and policy advancing disability rights.  She recently co-authored a report, analyzing Canadian federal income support programs through the lens of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, Miller has not left behind her original desire to enter the world of higher education and offers the following advice to students questioning whether or not to discuss their disability with disability services providers at their school: “1) Self-advocacy skills are a major key to success for all students, especially students with disabilities. 2) Finding an ally within your school is important- often this person can be a disability service provider, but not always. 3) An equal ability to succeed—which accommodations can facilitate for students with disabilities--is a civil right. Do not let anyone take it away.”