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Disability 101: Disability in the Criminal Legal System

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The Bureau of Justice Assistance's Strengthening the Sixth Project collaborators, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Center for State Courts, and RTI International, are partnering with disability-led nonprofit, RespectAbility, for an engaging webinar targeting legal professionals on the ever-evolving concept of disability and how disability shows up in the U.S. criminal legal system. In the United States, disabled individuals are over-represented as both victims of crime and as those accused of crimes compared with their non-disabled counterparts, and this overrepresentation is even higher for those with disabilities and other marginalized identities.

The program will cover the basics of disability etiquette, language, and inclusion, as well as lay a strong foundation for how legal professionals can better serve individuals with disabilities who are involved with the criminal legal process as victims, witnesses, and defendants.

Learning Objectives: By the end of the session, legal professionals will be able to:

  1. Explain the concept of disability, including both legal definitions of disability as well as disability as an intersectional identity.
  2. Utilize language and terminology generally preferred by those with disabilities, as well as the broader disability advocacy movement.
  3. Articulate the basic rights of disabled individuals participating in the criminal legal process.
  4. Implement 5 actions to support access, effective communication, and broader disability inclusion efforts, including in their office, agency, and/or firm practices.
  5. Name at least 3 resources that can support them in their work with disabled individuals and clients.


  • Ariel Simms (they/she), President and Chief Executive Officer, RespectAbility
  • Graciano Petersen (he/him), Senior Director of Talent, Culture, and Training, RespectAbility

About RespectAbility: RespectAbility is a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower people with disabilities to have a better future. Their mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Date Created: February 14, 2024