Third-year Osgoode Hall Law School student Angela Dittrich was awarded a Legal Leaders for Diversity Trust Fund Scholarship in recognition of both her academic excellence and her work to improve accessibility to legal education. The fund, created through donations from general counsel and law firm managing partners across Canada, was established in 2015 to promote equal access and diversity in law schools.
As an advocate for people with disabilities, Dittrich has always understood that there is strength in numbers. That’s why she is actively campaigning to create the first national organization representing law students with disabilities. Her brainchild, the Canadian Coalition for Law Students with Disabilities, has so far brought together students from all 23 law schools across Canada.
“My disability advocacy work has been the most challenging and fulfilling work I have done during my law school career,” she said. “While some progress has been made, there is still a long way to go to tackle the many challenges and inequities that disabled law students and lawyers continue to face across the country.”
Dittrich, a native of Hamilton, Ont., and an active leader with the Disability Collective of Osgoode (DisCO), has been diagnosed as neurodivergent and has had a variety of neurological, chronic pain, cardiac and connective tissue disorders since early childhood.
Being a law student ith disabilities poses numerous challenges and barriers, she said. But the most frustrating challenge, she noted, is that many of these barriers could easily be eliminated through the development of equitable policies, more thoughtful planning approaches and a system that prioritizes the creation of a more diverse, inclusive profession.
It was in her role as DisCO’s outreach co-ordinator last year that Dittrich said she saw the need for a national organization to advocate for law students with disabilities. The idea took shape during discussions with disability advocates from local law schools about advocacy strategies for COVID-19-related accommodations.
“I realized that our advocacy efforts would be amplified if we were working collectively, and began to build this network alongside other disability advocates at Canadian law schools,” she said. “The coalition is still in its early stages of formation, and I hope for it to be fully established within the Fall 2023 term.”
This year, her third year in the combined Juris Doctor/Master in Environmental Studies program, Dittrich will serve as co-president of DisCO. She said she plans to build on the organization’s work in creating an important sense of community and engaging with the law school’s administration to implement key equitable policy measures.