About two years ago, I was given a brochure by my Department of the Blind and Visually Impaired case manager for the Disability Law Center of Virginia. I put it on my desk, and didn't think much about it, until I had a problem. I decided to call them and see if they could help, and I was pleasantly surprised that they not only gave me several different resources, but they ultimately helped me solve my problem. Below, I have answered some common questions about the organization, and included my experiences working with them.
Who are they?
The Disability Law Center of Virginia (DLCV) is a quasi-government agency that receives federal and state funding to help people with disabilities facing issues such as abuse, neglect, and discrimination. It is the Protection and Advocacy organization for Virginia.
Is this a national program?
The DLCV serves only Virginia citizens, but each state and US territory has an organization like this- read this list here from the National Disability Rights Network to find your state. Some states may vary with services provided.
How much does it cost?
Legal services are provided free of charge, given that the case is accepted. My case was opened after a ten minute phone call and I immediately started receiving resources.
Do you have to meet them in person?
Because my case was closed fairly quickly (it was about two weeks), I never met with anyone in person. All of our communication was done over the phone and via email. I signed any paperwork necessary using email and digital signatures.
How often did you communicate?
Given that it was a time sensitive situation, I talked with them at least once a day until the problem was solved. Usually, we communicated by phone, though we also sent emails.
Are these real lawyers?
Yes, there real lawyers who are licensed to practice Virginia law. There are other staff members and advocates who are not lawyers, but can also provide resources.
What did they do for you?
My case fell under the category of discrimination and denial of services. The law center made phone calls on my behalf and allowed me to give their name and contact information to people involved in the situation. They also wrote a formal letter and sent it. I had tried to solve this problem by myself prior to calling them, though I wish I called them sooner.
Can I use them for special education services?
If an IEP or 504 plan is not being followed, then a person may qualify for services through the DLCV. Every case is unique, but they do work with IEP and 504 plan violations. I wish I knew about this sooner, as my experiences in school would have been so different! Read more about collecting evidence for IEP/504 violations here.
Have you had any more issues since your case was closed?
Fingers crossed, I have not had any more issues related to the initial situation I called about. Once the people involved in the situation found out that I had access to a lawyer, they were very quick about solving the problem and have taken steps to ensure the situation doesn't repeat itself.
I am so happy that the DLCV was able to help me, and wish I had known about them sooner, since I received special education services in school. Every student and parent should have their contact information- their website can be found here. After all, no one should have to deal with illegal situations without legal guidance.