BBI Hires Leading Disability Advocate Bruce Sexton

06/06/18

Bruce Sexton

Bruce Sexton, J.D., Syracuse University College of Law 2018, will join BBI as a research associate working on projects that advance the economic, social, and civic lives of people with disabilities. While studying at the College of Law, Bruce served as President of the Disability Law Society, Member of the University’s Beyond Compliance Coordinating Committee, and as a National Federation of the Blind (“NFB”) Student Board Member for New York.

Bruce, grew up in Dublin, California, and is the fifth of seven children. His mother and two of his siblings also are blind. He began attending NFB conventions when he was 12 years old. Bruce recalls, "It was an amazing experience to be around thousands of blind people. I'd always heard you can do whatever you want, but to meet all these leaders was inspiring." Bruce's mother and two blind siblings learned Braille at an early age, but Bruce did not learn to read Braille until he was 18 years old. His Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) team members determined that he should learn to read only using print. Sighted readers may be surprised to learn that Bruce’s educational experience was the norm at the time. "Braille has become not the method of choice but the method of last resort," wrote the NFB about its attempts to get Congress to amend the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). It successfully did so in 1997. From that day forward, Braille is the starting point: all visually impaired children are supposed to be taught Braille unless all of the child's IEP team members agree it is unnecessary.

After high school, Bruce attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind's nine-month program to help prepare him for college and to live independently. He learned Braille and began using a cane. After attending Las Positas College in Livermore, in the fall of 2005, he transferred to University of California at Berkeley, where he majored in Multi-Disciplinary American Studies and graduated in 2011.

While an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, Bruce acted as a lead named plaintiff in the seminal class action lawsuit victory, NFB v. Target Corporation, which set the legal principle that websites were to be accessible to the blind under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Bruce says that he "was honored to serve and learn in my capacity as the voice of the class." 

BBI Chairman and Syracuse University Professor Peter Blanck says that “lawyers cross paths in interesting and unexpected ways. I was pleased to act as co-counsel with Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) in the Target case, with then plaintiff Bruce, to make websites accessible. I now am excited to work with Bruce as a colleague on many important BBI research projects.”

About the Burton Blatt Institute

BBI reaches around the globe in its efforts to advance the civic, economic, and social participation of people with disabilities, with offices in Syracuse, NY, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, GA. BBI builds on the legacy of Burton Blatt, a pioneering disability rights scholar, to better the lives of people with disabilities. For more information about BBI, visit: http://bbi.syr.edu.