Washington, D.C. – The Arc and the American Constitution Society (ACS) are proud to announce that The Arc’s Senior Director of Legal Advocacy and General Counsel, Shira Wakschlag, is the recipient of the 2022 David Carliner Public Interest Award. This prestigious award honors a mid-career public interest attorney whose work best exemplifies David Carliner’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising, and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people.
“I am tremendously honored to receive this award,” said Wakschlag. “I share it with my colleagues at The Arc and around the country who I have the privilege of collaborating with and learning from every day. In the face of ongoing existential threats to our fundamental civil rights, it is critical that disability be part of the conversation as we fight these injustices. I look forward to opportunities to partner with the ACS community in this work to ensure that people with disabilities receive needed supports and accommodations to obtain equal access to society and thrive in all aspects of life.”
Wakschlag will accept the David Carliner Public Interest Award in person and deliver remarks at the ACS National Convention that will take place June 16-18, 2022 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C.
Wakschlag is an extremely accomplished and widely respected leader in the area of disability civil rights law. She has led The Arc’s national disability rights litigation practice since 2014, expanding it into a wide-ranging and high impact program that advances the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities under federal disability and civil rights laws and the U.S. Constitution. Her work at The Arc has also been instrumental in highlighting and combatting intersectional injustice in a range of areas, including voting rights, special education, the criminal legal system, and medical discrimination.
“I am proud to announce Shira Wakschlag as this year’s recipient of the Carliner Award,” said ACS President Russ Feingold. “ACS is committed to fighting for a just legal system that addresses the harm done to historically marginalized people. Shira has spent her career advocating for people with disabilities, safeguarding their voting rights, and advancing community-based solutions, all while also fighting against medical discrimination and the exclusion of students with disabilities in schools. I commend Shira and The Arc for their work to uphold the Constitution and ensure that the law is a force for protecting our democracy and the rights of all.”
Wakschlag has fought for inclusion for students with disabilities—disproportionately students of color—who are too frequently relegated to separate programs and even separate schools where they are isolated from non-disabled peers and receive an inferior education.
Wakschlag was also instrumental in challenging discriminatory state and hospital crisis standard of care policies at the onset of the pandemic, working with state and national partners to file fourteen federal complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. These efforts led to favorable resolutions in several states making clear that federal law requires states and health care providers to ensure patients with disabilities have equal access to life-saving medical care.
“The Arc is honored to see Shira receive this well-deserved recognition from the American Constitution Society. Shira’s passion and commitment to advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy has empowered disabled lives and exponentially elevated The Arc’s legal impact,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States. “Shira sets extremely high standards in legal advocacy in uplifting The Arc’s mission to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. We applaud Shira and thank ACS for their support.”
Wakschlag has also worked to advance the rights of people of color with disabilities who are unjustly entangled in the criminal legal system, advocating for community-based services and treatment as alternatives to incarceration. She is currently working to challenge voter suppression laws that disenfranchise voters with disabilities and voters of color, denying them access to democracy.
“Shira’s work on behalf of the disability rights movement at large is most deserving of recognition with the Carliner Award. She is an extraordinarily gifted lawyer. Her tireless efforts have not only advanced the interests of people with disabilities but have highlighted and elevated the intersection of disability civil rights with critical issues of our time, including racial justice, voting rights, health care disparities, long-term care and supports, decarceration, capital punishment, and equitable access to housing, education, and other community resources – with added benefit for all,” said University of Pennsylvania Professor of Law Jasmine Harris, chair of The Arc’s Legal Advocacy Committee and member of The Arc’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.
In addition to Wakschlag, Atteeyah Hollie, Deputy Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, will be honored as this year’s Finalist. The honor is in recognition of her work challenging the denial of counsel to lower-income Georgians, while fighting against wealth-based detention, and inhumane prison conditions. Visit ACS’s 2022 National Convention web hub for more information on events, speakers, and COVID protocols.
AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY
ACS believes that the Constitution is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We interpret the Constitution based on its text and against the backdrop of history and lived experience. Through a diverse nationwide network of progressive lawyers, law students, judges, scholars, and many others, we work to uphold the Constitution in the 21st Century by ensuring that law is a force for protecting our democracy and the public interest and for improving people’s lives. For more information, visit us at www.acslaw.org or on Twitter @acslaw.
THE ARC OF THE UNITED STATES
The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.
Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.