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2014 Keynote: Paul Grossman

photo of Paul Grossman
Paul Grossman, Chief Regional Attorney, retired, US Dept. of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR)

Is the Tail about to Wag the Dog?

Keynote Slides (pdf)

Wednesday, November 19, 12:20 pm – 2:00 pm


Heretofore courts have struggled with how to apply brick and mortar precedents and concepts of equal treatment to the virtual world. Is the opposite about to happen? Are decisions and settlements that pertain to the virtual world going to set more demanding standards for how we measure equality for individuals with disabilities in a wide variety of settings?

With regard to online learning, websites, captioning, course management tools, kiosk services, etc., a new more robust concept of equal enjoyment appears to be emerging, one that takes into account ease of use, hours of service, independence, and self-sufficiency. The days when a human reader in the library or an 800 number will be acceptable alternatives to web-based information may be numbered.

Will this higher standard spread to other areas of concern such as: services for individuals with sensory impairments in the classroom and the laboratory, test accommodations, emergency services, voting access, path of travel, etc.? Today’s keynote speaker believes that the answer is “yes’ and will make his case to us.

Paul Grossman’s Bio

Due to his learning disabilities, Paul Grossman dropped out of college in his sophomore year.  Later, returning to college, Paul was more successful including graduating near to the top of his law school class at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Paul had similar success studying philosophy of law at Oxford University, England.  Paul has been admitted to the practice of law in both Wisconsin and California.

For over 40 years, Paul served as a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR); 30 years as its Chief Regional Attorney in San Francisco, supervising as many as 25 attorneys.  Paul has worked on every type of education discrimination matter including school desegregation, sex discrimination in intercollegiate athletics, equal educational opportunity for language minority children and securing a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) for school-children with disabilities. For nearly 20 years, Paul also had lead responsibility for internal disability law training for all of OCR.

Paul worked in OCR Headquarters at the time of the writing of the first disability anti-discrimination regulations and in San Francisco, witnessing the historic “504 sit-in” at United Nations Plaza   Over his career, Paul investigated, wrote decisions, and settled hundreds of disability discrimination cases, in many instances developing new approaches to protecting students with disabilities. Toward the end of his OCR career, Paul focused on three issues: students with AD/HD in elementary and secondary education; students with disabilities in post-secondary education; and, wounded warriors in higher education.  On the second topic, Paul joined Sarah Hawthorne in developing and securing two breakthrough precedent-setting settlements concerning the duty to produce alternate media, one with the California Community College System and the other with California State University Fullerton.  On the third topic, Paul has been an advisor to the Office of the Vice President of the United States and the System-wide Chancellors Office of the California Community College System.

Paul starts his second decade as an Adjunct Professor of Disability Law at Hasting College of Law, University of California.  He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), the Public Policy Committee of the Association for Children and Adults with AD/HD (CHADD), and the Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) Expert Advisory Board.