Get to Know: Kelly Bunch, Law and Policy Research Associate

May 25, 2012

photo of Kelly BunchKelly Bunch L'09
Law and Policy Research Associate

What motivated you to work in the disability field?

As a student of history, and a native of Alabama—I have always had a strong interest in working in the field of human and civil rights. At Carnegie Mellon, I wrote my history and policy senior honors thesis on race riots in the United States, and after college, I studied minority and human rights within the context of the Holocaust in Berlin as a Humanity and Action Fellow. I came into law school wanting to practice civil rights and international human rights law, and I learned about disability rights as a part of the civil rights movement through one of my best friends in law school who is a person with a visual disability.

As her friend, small print reader, and driver, I learned about a small fraction of the daily obstacles and barriers that she faced as a well-informed, strong self-advocate, with resources (after all she was also a law student specializing in disability rights law), and I felt compelled to be an advocate myself. I wondered how many people with disabilities without the same resources are being denied access to education, employment, and their own communities and why?  I was drawn to disability rights because I felt strongly that these barriers were often artificial, especially with advances in assistive technology. Through my friendship and my disability law coursework, I was inspired to make disability law my career.

Describe your role with BBI.

I work with BBI’s Director of Legal Research and Writing, William Myhill, to help support BBI in legal and policy analysis on any number of projects. To name a few: I provide legal technical assistance for the Southeast ADA Center as the senior editor of legal briefs; I am the senior editor of the Disability Law & Policy Newsletter co-published by BBI and the University of Iowa’s Law, Health Policy & Disability Center; I assist with research and editing on the forthcoming LRP Disability Law Treatise; and I work directly with BBI partners in Israel to provide comparative international law reports on access for people with intellectual disabilities. I also manage our team of law research assistants and interns.

How did SU College of Law prepare you for this position?

I earned a certificate in Disability Law & Policy from SU College of Law (SUCOL). As an alumna, I am extremely proud of our Disability Law & Policy Program. The resources available to law students who wish to pursue disability law as a career path at SUCOL are unlike any other law school—such as the esteemed faculty at SUCOL and the School of Education, BBI, and the Center on Human Policy. As a law student I was able to take advantage of the program through being an active member of the Disability Law Society, a student attorney in the Disability Rights Clinic under Professor Michael Schwartz, and a Disability Law and Policy Fellow for Professor Arlene Kanter.

I took employment discrimination legislation and policy, civil rights law, disability law, and a joint education and law course through which I wrote on the right to assistive technology in the classroom and co-organized an assistive technology fair for parents and students with disabilities. I am also currently earning my Masters of Science at the School of Education in the Cultural Foundations of Education and a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Disability Studies.

One area you study is access to broadband for people with disabilities. Tell us about your work on this topic.

Disability and communications law were my two concentrations at SUCOL. I served as the chair and director of the Communications Law and Policy Society (CLPS) Annual Symposium during my second and third year of law school. Two of the panels I organized focused on the intersection of communications law and disability law, and BBI participated on both of those panels. One was on minority access to emergency preparedness and response, and the other was on technology access for people with disabilities. Broadband access is central to both of these areas, and in modern times has really become synonymous with access to information and daily life.

This past year I spoke as panelist on the “Access to Broadband for All” panel at the 7th Annual CLPS Symposium: We the People: Broadband Access, Influencing the Vote, and Preserving Localism in a Changed Media Landscape. I talked about how the accessibility of broadband services can determine whether someone with a disability can participate in the online marketplace, social networking, VOIP communication, online job applications, and online government services including emergency response services. I also discussed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and the FCC regulations that were developed to ensure that evolving broadband technology is accessible.