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American University professor to receive Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights


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American University professor to receive Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights

By Daniel Buchanan

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 9, 2013 — Robert D. Dinerstein, founder and director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University’s Washington College of Law, will receive the American Bar Association’s Paul G. Hearne Award for Disability Rights. The ABA Commission on Disability Rights selected Dinerstein for his more than 35 years of service as a disability rights advocate, scholar and teacher.


Created in 1999, the award honors the work of Paul G. Hearne, a lawyer born with connective tissue disorder who became a leader in the disability rights movement. The award, co-sponsored by Starbucks Coffee Co., will be presented at the commission’s Reception for Lawyers with Disabilities during the 2013 ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The reception, sponsored by Walmart, will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 12 in Moscone Center West.

Viewing law as an instrument for social change, Dinerstein worked as an attorney in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division from 1977 to 1982, advocating for the rights of people with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities who were institutionalized.

In 1983, he began teaching at American University and has since held numerous leadership roles, including associate dean for experiential education, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs, and clinical program director.

Dinerstein is a national leader in disability rights. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the President’s Committee on People with Intellectual Disabilities and was a signatory to the International Disability Alliance’s legal opinion on Article 12 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He consulted for the World Health Organization regarding mental health law reforms in Malawi and Ghana as well as for the Open Society Foundations regarding disability rights clinics in Latin America and Africa.

As a scholar, Dinerstein has authored, co-authored or contributed to works addressing the capacity of and autonomy for people with intellectual disabilities. He sits on the boards of directors of the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, the Equal Rights Center, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and Advocates for Justice and Education. In the past he has served on the boards of Disability Rights International and the Maryland Disability Law Center.

More information about the Paul G. Hearne Award is available here, and additional details about the reception and award presentation can be found here.

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