Empowered and Capable: 2L Student Leads Efforts for Inclusivity on Campus
Marissa Ditkowsky ’19 has been working tirelessly to ensure that American University Washington College of Law remains an accommodating, welcoming, and inclusive environment for students, faculty, staff, and guests with disabilities since she arrived on campus. Ms. Ditkowsky, a student with physical disabilities that impact her mobility, serves as the Student Bar Association Disabilities Liaison and is the co-director of the Disability Law Society. In these roles, she advocates on behalf of students to ensure that they have resources to succeed and guarantees that disabilities are constantly included in conversations surrounding intersectional topics, such as diversity, education, police interactions, and parental rights, among so many others.
Ms. Ditkowsky has been creating new resources for members of the AUWCL community, such as an FAQ about the school’s resources, accessibility, and accommodation processes; a forthcoming accessible map of AUWCL; a guide on planning accessible and inclusive events; and assorted and forthcoming educational and employment resources. She has also been collaborating with the American University Counseling Center to advocate for more on-sight services and to increase presence at AUWCL to ensure that students are aware of and take advantage of the resources available to them.
Ms. Ditkowsky became particularly interested in the effects of policies and regulations on students and individuals with disabilities in high school. She volunteered in her local Jewish Community Center’s after school program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Many of the students in the after school program attended her high school. Ms. Ditkowsky saw firsthand how students were treated within the public school system and the difficulty parents had in obtaining a proper education for their children.
Ms. Ditkowsky has continued her activism in the D.C. community as a student attorney at the Disability Rights Law Clinic, where she assists clients with disabilities on a range of cases involving topics, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Individualized Education Programs (IEP), consent to treatment, and Social Security benefits.
Ms. Ditkowsky has also interned at the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, where she primarily conducted research and assisted clients with issues pertaining to guardianship and applying less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. Guardianship proceedings often deny alleged incapacitated individuals of due process, despite the existence of safeguards within statutes, due primarily to paternalism and misunderstanding of capacity and disability. Additionally, guardianship tends to be an overly restrictive option for most populations of individuals with disabilities. She also conducted research and referred clients on cases surrounding public benefits, housing standards, parental rights, and workplace discrimination.
Ms. Ditkowsky is available to speak with any AUWCL community members or prospective community members about their ideas, concerns, or questions.