Law Center News
Ford Foundation awards $250k grant to Southern University Law Center in support of disability rights work
Despite the increased presence of students with disabilities in higher education, people with disabilities have not achieved workplace equality and remain underrepresented in the American workforce. To assist in efforts to achieve educational and workplace equality, Southern University Law Center (SULC) is proud to announce that it has received a $250,000 grant from the Ford Foundation’s U.S. Disability Rights Program. The grant will support SULC Professor Katherine Macfarlane’s work with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as the Department gathers public input and considers possible updates to the historic Section 504 regulations.
“I am incredibly grateful to the Ford Foundation for its generous support and look forward to my role working with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and to serving people with disabilities in Louisiana upon my return to SULC,” said Professor Macfarlane. “As a person with disabilities who is also the daughter of a public-school teacher, I am thrilled to contribute to the Department of Education’s efforts to serve students with disabilities.”
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights enforces several federal civil rights laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits disability discrimination by entities that receive federal funding. At the completion of her work with the Office for Civil Rights, Professor Macfarlane will work with SULC to develop course offerings and other measures to serve people with disabilities in Louisiana and beyond.
"Katherine Macfarlane is a dedicated disability rights advocate and longtime ally of students with disabilities. The Ford Foundation is proud to support her work collaborating with the Department Education where she will take on the important work of modernizing Section 504 regulations to better meet the needs of today’s students and strengthening the next generation of disabled leaders," said Rebecca Cokley, Ford Foundation Program Officer for U.S. Disability Rights.
Professor Macfarlane is a leading disability law expert, and her work at OCR will build upon her disability law scholarship and disability rights advocacy. In her landmark article Disability Without Documentation, published last year in the Fordham Law Review, she described how medical documentation of disability requirements impedes access to reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
Professor Macfarlane’s recent disability rights advocacy has focused on improving the educational experience of law students with disabilities, and on protecting high-risk people with disabilities in the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, she co-founded an affinity group for disabled law professors and allies, the first of its kind. She has also served as chair of the Association of American Law Schools’ Disability Law Section. Her scholarship and advocacy draw upon her own experiences as a disabled student, lawyer, and law professor. Professor Macfarlane joined the Law Center in 2021.
About The Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Learn more at www.fordfoundation.org.
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