2011 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Jessica Duncan Felfoldi

Jessica Duncan Felfoldi

Name of Host Organization: Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Inc.
City, State: Atlanta, Georgia
Issue area: Disability Rights, Civil Rights/Civil Liberties
Sponsors: Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP

The Project

My project focuses on the rights of Georgia’s low-income nursing home residents with disabilities to live in the community under the Americans with Disabilities Act by advocating for changes in Georgia’s transition program. Although transition funding and services are available, few have benefited. I will conduct workshops for potential applicants and will advocate for those denied services or whose transitions stall. I will also build a pro bono project to train attorneys to appeal denials.

The Inspiration

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Having been a foster child for five years, I have a passion for helping those marginalized by society. Having escaped foster care with the help of a few dedicated advocates, I also have faith that legal advocacy can make real changes in a person’s life. After spending a summer with Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s Disability Rights Project, I was convinced that some of the most marginalized and overlooked persons in modern society were clients with disabilities stuck in nursing homes. This project is a manifestation of my faith that law can be tool to dismantle their institutional marginalization.

Biography

Hometown:

Atlanta, Georgia

Law school:

Making the connection:

Though the potential of social justice drew me to law, the actual connection between classroom lessons and real world change resonated most clearly when I joined a legislative child law clinic. I found myself drafting statutory language and pitching bill amendments to state legislators that could make a definite impact.

Surviving law school:

Get involved with a student group dedicated to public interest law and take ownership of a project. Build your skills set and clarify your interests by participating in as many public interest-oriented clinics and externships as you can manage. Seek out public interest-minded faculty for academic guidance.

Recommended books:

No Pity by Joseph Shapiro, this book is a great introduction to the disability rights movement.
The God of Small Things is beautiful and haunting; the characters will remain with you long after you finish this book.
The Hunger Games, read this trilogy purely for fun!

Favorite website(s):

kaiserhealthnews.org - Keeps me up to date on healthcare news.
craftzine.com - Keeps my inner artist inspired.
icanhascheezburger.com - Keeps me grinning.
reader.google.com - Keeps my news and reading all in one place.

Words to live by:

We believe in the worth and dignity of each human being. All people on earth have an equal claim to life, liberty, and justice -- and no idea, ideal, or philosophy is superior to a single human life.
- David O. Rankin

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