New Osgoode program assists law students to meet needs of people with disabilities


York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, which has been a leader in “law in action” for several decades, has approved the creation of a new experiential education program to assist law students in understanding the issues of people with disabilities.

The Disability Law Intensive Program, the first of its kind in Canada, will provide second- and third-year Osgoode Juris Doctor (JD) students with a unique opportunity to learn about a vast scope of law that mostly affects people with disabilities.

headshot of Osgoode Professor Roxanne Mykitiuk will co-direct the new courseOsgoode Professor Roxanne Mykitiuk will co-direct the new course

In partnership with ARCH Disability Law Centre, a specialty community legal aid clinic dedicated to defending and advancing the equality rights of people with disabilities in Ontario, the students will engage in the practice of disability law through involvement in individual client advocacy and systemic policy-based advocacy.

Starting next September, up to 12 students will participate in the program throughout the 2013-2014 academic year.  A skills training week will be held in August at ARCH, after which the students will begin their clinical placements.  Every two weeks throughout the academic year, the students will participate in an academic seminar at Osgoode and they will also be required to complete a major research paper as part of the 15-credit program.

“The Disability Law Intensive Program is a wonderful opportunity for Osgoode, and its students, to make a positive difference within the disability community,” said Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin.  “We are grateful for collaborative partnerships with organizations such as ARCH because they expose our students to law in action.”

headshot of Marian MacGregor, an adjunct faculty member and director of Osgoode’s Community and Legal Aid Services Program, will co-direct the course with MykitiukMarian MacGregor, an adjunct faculty member and director of Osgoode’s Community and Legal Aid Services Program, will co-direct the course with Mykitiuk

The program, which was approved by Osgoode Faculty Council on the International Day of Disabled Persons (December 3), will be co-directed in 2013-2014 by Osgoode Professor Roxanne Mykitiuk, an internationally recognized expert in disability rights, and Marian MacGregor, an adjunct faculty member and director of Osgoode’s Community and Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP).

MacGregor was awarded a Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship in 2011 from the Law Foundation of Ontario that allowed her to take an eight-month leave of absence from CLASP to help develop the Disability Law Intensive Program.

“The impact of disability, often combined with poverty, can create serious access to justice barriers,” said MacGregor, who has practised extensively in the area of poverty law.  “This new program will produce lawyers who are better equipped to meet the distinct needs of clients with disabilities, as well as involve students in the systemic change that needs to take place.”

Mykitiuk added that the Disability Law Intensive Program, which was designed with student consultation and input, will provide a first-hand opportunity to see “how law applies in concrete ways to people, problems and issues and how the practice of law can be very different than the study of law.”

The Disability Law Intensive Program is the latest in a growing number of clinical and intensive programs that form part of Osgoode Hall Law School’s celebrated experiential education offerings.

Osgoode is the first law school in Canada to introduce an experiential education requirement – referred to as a “praxicum” – into its JD curriculum.  Commencing with the Class of 2015, which arrived in September 2012, every Osgoode JD student will be exposed to law in action through an experiential course or program as part of their legal education.

In addition, Osgoode has opened an Office of Experiential Education to serve as a catalyst for the development of new courses, programs and clinics, and provide support to the faculty, students and staff.