Disability Justice


NYLPI works to achieve equality of opportunity, self-determination, and independence for people with disabilities. Our advocacy spans community integration, criminal justice, educational rights, equal access to programs and services, and accessible housing. We use a wide range of advocacy tools, including community organizing, coalition-building, individual representation, impact litigation, and legislative advocacy.

We have provided longstanding representation  to the plaintiff class of people with developmental disabilities who resided at the notorious Willowbrook State School. We monitor enforcement of a settlement mandating accessible transportation for arrestees with disabilities. In New York’s schools, we are litigating to challenge discrimination against young children with disabilities and to address abuse of students by staff. Other highlights of our advocacy include our ongoing work to reform New York City’s paratransit “Access-a-Ride” system, ensure courthouse access for New Yorkers with disabilities, and advocate for more wheelchair-accessible for-hire vehicles.


If you have a legal issue related to your disability, please call our office at (212) 244-4664 (voice) or 212-244-3692 (TTY), Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.


Special Education

NYLPI’s Disability Justice Program protects and promotes the educational rights of students with disabilities in New York City.

Community Integration

The United States has a long and tragic history of segregating and warehousing people with disabilities, particularly developmental disabilities.


O’Toole v. Cuomo

For decades, New York State warehoused people with serious mental illness in adult homes. A landmark settlement on behalf of thousands of state adult homes residents gives them the opportunity to live, with supports, in their own homes.

Filer v. City of New York

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers have mobility impairments. Robert Filer, who is paralyzed from the chest down and uses a wheelchair, was arrested and placed unsecured in a police van, fell to the van’s floor and was thrown around for the duration of the ride.

Lawton v. Success Academy Charter Schools

On behalf of five former students and their parents, NYLPI’s federal civil rights case against Success Academy Charter School challenges the school’s harsh, zero-tolerance disciplinary policies against young students showing signs of behavioral disabilities.


The landmark Willowbrook class action vindicated the civil rights of individuals with disabilities to live in the community, after a series of investigations in the 1970s unearthed deplorable conditions at the Willowbrook State School.


Empire State Building—We are proud to have filed the first complaint in the United States under the Americans with Disabilities Act, securing access for people who use wheelchairs to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Today this American cultural icon known the world over is accessible to all.

Joseph S. v. Hogan – NYLPI ensured that over 1,200 individuals with mental illness unnecessarily residing in nursing homes were assessed for their capacity to live in community settings – and were transitioned to do so. Pro Bono co-counsel:  Schiff Hardin Co-counsel:  Disability Rights New York

Bartlett v. NYS Bd. of Law Examiners – in a case litigated to the U.S. Supreme Court, NYLPI established the right of a person with learning disabilities to obtain necessary testing accommodations on the New York State bar examination. Co-counsel:  The Law Office of Jo Anne Simon


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