News Releases

For immediate release April 27, 2007

Law Society public forum to address disability issues

VANCOUVER — The Law Society of BC will present a free public forum, Equal Access for People with Disabilities, on Thursday, April 26 in partnership with the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities.

Moderated by Vancouver Sun columnist Peter McKnight, the forum will bring together a panel of legal and other experts to discuss issues faced by people with disabilities. Topics to be covered will include access to justice, access to the workforce and access to the legal profession.

“It’s important for the Law Society to promote a just and equitable justice system and part of that is ensuring that everyone has access to it,” says Art Vertlieb QC, a Law Society Bencher and driving force behind the forum. “We know that people with disabilities often encounter difficulties accessing the system. The public forum will examine some of these barriers while offering the opportunity for discussion on solutions.”

Paul Gauthier, community capacity coordinator with the BC Paraplegic Association and a forum panellist, says that employers should be looking at how they can tap into the valuable pool of potential employees with disabilities – especially in light of the current labour shortage in BC.

“People with disabilities want to be employed within their area of expertise, but many face challenges doing so,” says Gauthier. “There are many programs available to help people with disabilities in the workforce and employers can take advantage of program funding as well.”

Gauthier, who has cerebral palsy , notes the personal attendant he was able to hire through the Choices in Support for Independent Living Program (CSIL) has helped him to achieve a successful career. The three-time Paralympian and gold medal winner will speak at the forum about the CSIL program and how people with disabilities can take advantage of it.

Bill Morley, a lawyer with Fasken Martineau who is also joining the forum panel, says that being in a wheelchair hasn’t stopped him from achieving success in the courtroom, and in life. Thirty-three years ago a car accident changed Morley’s life. Today, he helps other accident victims regain their independence and rebuild their lives. As part of the forum panel, Morley will share his personal journey to a successful career in law.

Morley sees more opportunity for people with disabilities to work in the legal profession, and notes that the accommodations his law firm made when he was hired were minimal.

“Everyone can win if you get past the ‘he’s in wheelchair, he’s disabled’,” says Morley. “You’re just hiring a person and hopefully it’s a good fit and it’ll be a good relationship for everybody. It’s all about people.”

Equal Access for People with Disabilities will be presented by the Law Society of British Columbia in partnership with the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities and in association with the Western Institute for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the BC Paraplegic Association, CBC and The Vancouver Sun.

The free public forum will take place at the Law Society building at 845 Cambie Street in Vancouver on Thursday, April 26 from 5 to 7 pm (registration at 4:30 pm). The building is wheelchair accessible and close to the Stadium Skytrain station and parking at the Vancouver public library. The forum is free but registration is recommended. Interested participants can confirm their attendance by emailing or by calling 604 443-5717.

The Law Society of BC is the governing body of the legal profession in BC. Under the provisions of the Legal Profession Act, the Law Society is responsible for the licensing, professional conduct and discipline of the more than 11,000 lawyers in BC.

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the panellists, contact:
Melissa McConchie, Communications Officer
Office: 604-443-5708 or 1-800-903-5300 toll-free in BC