Law Society public forum to address disability issues

    VANCOUVER, April 24 /CNW/ - 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
    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

    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 10,000 lawyers in BC.

For further information:

For further 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, Email:,

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