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Helping Texans with Disabilities Prepare for and Recover from Disasters

/ Blog Post

Maya Wiemokly, a rising 2L at Wake Forest University School of Law and a 2021 Student Fellow in our Disaster Resilience Program, shares her summer of service experience, and discusses how her Equal Justice Works Fellowship helped to build her legal skills outside the classroom.

I began my Equal Justice Works Student Fellowship at Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) passionate about advocating for marginalized groups. My social work degree led me into law school with a desire to build resilience in marginalized groups and deconstruct the systems that oppress them. The crossover between disaster and disability law seemed like the perfect place to start. I had no idea that it would be so formative in determining my future career! This summer has confirmed my desire to work in the public interest sector and bolstered my knowledge about certain underserved communities.

My experience at DRTx felt like the perfect melding of social work and the legal profession that I have been searching for. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with my supervisor, Fellow Stephanie Duke in the Disaster Resilience Program. She allowed me to take on tasks that seemed daunting at the time, but each new experience gave me the confidence to jump headfirst into the next assignment. By the end of my Student Fellowship, I was able to help draft a comment to the Federal Register, a legal guidebook chapter on accessibility in disasters, two ABA resolutions, a policy update from the recent Texas legislative session, and a writ mandamus—just to name a few. Stephanie also allowed me to shadow her in almost any meeting. These included Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Task Force on Disaster Issues Affecting Persons who are Elderly and Persons with Disabilities, ABA Disaster Legal Services, and FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination Stakeholder meetings. I have also been able to work on six client cases. In some cases this was as simple as making a couple phone calls for updates; for others I was able to do research on property restrictions at their residence, talk about vaccine hesitancy, or create a list of local resources based on client needs.

My Equal Justice Works Student Fellowship in the Disaster Resilience Program brought me awareness of the systemic issues that exist in disaster response, and specifically how that impacts the community of people with disabilities. No matter what specific area of law I practice within public interest, my knowledge of ADA regulations, the Stafford Act, FEMA assistance, and community partnerships will make me a stronger advocate in any role. This Student Fellowship truly has been the experience of a lifetime and I will forever be grateful for all that I have been able to learn and experience.

The Equal Justice Works Disaster Resilience Program is committed to ensuring that all disaster survivors have an equitable recovery and are resilient for the future. For more information about law student component of the program, please visit here.

The Disaster Resilience Program is currently funded by the Bigglesworth Family Foundation, California Community Foundation Wildfire Relief Fund, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and individual contributions. 

My Equal Justice Works Student Fellowship in the Disaster Resilience Program brought me awareness of the systemic issues that exist in disaster response, and specifically how that impacts the community of people with disabilities.

Maya Wiemokly /
Disaster Resilience Program Student Fellow

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow