My name is Ashley Jacobson and I have spent more than a decade devoted to disability advocacy. During my undergraduate years, an immediate family member of mine endured a serious car accident which left her facing ongoing rehabilitation for a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Her rehabilitation process opened my mind to a world of systemic challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis. I graduated in Undergraduate Studies with Specialties in Special Education, Psychology, and Political Science from Western Michigan University and then received my Master’s degree from Michigan State University’s Rehabilitation Counseling program (ranked #1 in the nation). Rehabilitation Counseling is a field which empowers people with disabilities through counseling and training to live their most independent and fulfilling lives vocationally, personally, and otherwise. During my graduate studies, I worked as the Program Coordinator for the Building Opportunities for Networking and Discovery (BOND) program for college students on the autism spectrum attending Michigan State University, through MSU’s Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities. After graduating with my Master’s degree, I passed the national Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) exam and spent time counseling youth and adults with disabilities for a non-profit organization in Michigan.
I quickly realized that there was more I could do to advance the interests of the disability community. Without violating confidentiality, I can attest to the misconceptions, barriers, and problematic vulnerabilities that create an inaccessible justice system. I saw clients reach out to police, attorneys, and others in the community for help, only to be misunderstood. I saw too many of my clients with disabilities dealing with legal troubles based on a lack of accessibility to the right resources.
Truthfully, I also found many actors in our system who were simply not adequately trained in how to approach a legal issue involving a person with a disability–whether that person was a victim/survivor of a crime, alleged to have committed a crime, or needed assistance with domestic violence, family law issues, or educational barriers. I grew frustrated in referring my clients to attorneys because while those attorneys were competent and excellent in their field, they really did not have the background and training in how to approach a case involving a person with a disability. But, pointing fingers at missteps and misunderstandings is not my goal. The only true pathway to a more inclusive system for people with disabilities, is to focus on simple and concrete approaches to making our legal system accessible to the complex and diverse disability community.
Seeing a dire need for attorneys that have disability expertise, I enrolled in an accelerated 2-year law school program at Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School, from which I plan on graduating in 2018. An honest look at our history will show you that there is room for improvement in how we treat people with disabilities, and this is my focus. I aim to consult members of the community as to how we can accurately assess and identify solutions when handling a situation involving a person with disabilities, and empower individuals with disabilities to be their best advocates while receiving the full protection of their constitutional rights.
This is where this site comes into play. Here I will provide resources and updates on disability issues and the law. What you find on this site does not constitute legal advice to its readers, but should be construed instead as a resource for people with disabilities and their communities. The name Legally Abled was carefully chosen because I firmly believe that people with disabilities are not defined by their limitations but are assets to our society as unique contributors, who are capable in forming a more inclusive future. It is my goal that people with disabilities are empowered and armed with knowledge to fully activate their potential to advocate and protect themselves and others. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me for further assistance or insight.
Thank you for your time and interest.
Ashley (McIntyre) Jacobson, MA, CRC