It’s that time of year for the University of District of Columbia law school—time to get sued by another just-graduated alum. During his studies at UDC’s David A. Clarke School of Law, Dennis O’Connor—who uses a wheelchair—often complained to administrators about the school’s accessibility issues. He pestered deans about keeping the wheelchair-friendly doors at the library open and nagged them to fill him in on what people in wheelchairs should do if there’s a fire.
“The official policy of the school is to wait in the stairwell,” O’Connor says. This and other responses didn’t satisfy him. “I specifically attended UDC because they had the author of the Americans With Disabilities Act on the staff of the law school.”
At graduation, O’Connor ran into stairs again. “I was like, ‘Fine, I won’t keep going, and I’ll add it to my suit,’” he says—but his peers picked him up and carried him anyway. He refused to shake Dean Shelley Broderick’s hand at the law-school ceremony or UDC President William Pollard’s at a plenary convocation.
O’Connor filed a claim with the D.C. Office of Human Rights and is now deciding whether to move his claim into federal court. His lawyer is none other than fellow UDC law alum Debbie Anderson, who last year thanked her alma mater by announcing her intention to file a lawsuit over alleged censorship after guards took away her signs protesting honorary-degree recipient U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (“Suit Yourself,” City Desk, 12/2/05). University officials could not be reached for comment.
“It was very flattering to me that he wanted me as his attorney,” Anderson says.