When I first started my career, I had a narrow view of what disability law is based upon my experience watching a friend use the Americans with Disabilities Act to bring better accessibility and equality to her community. Once I joined the Disability Law Center (DLC) and began taking intake calls, the stories I heard covered a broad range of issues from parents concerned about the educational needs of their special needs children to adults with disabilities who had lost their jobs or their housing as a perceived result of discrimination based on disability.
I handled a case where a client was denied benefits because he was deaf and blind, and unable to respond appropriately to the organization providing the benefits because of his disability; he was unable to respond because the notices from the organization were not appropriate to his modes of communication. I handled cases where my clients with mentally illness were placed in compromising situations in state hospitals–hospitals that ought to have recognized that certain situations would act as triggers for my clients. When they didn’t recognize that, and my clients reacted, the hospitals often reacted with unnecessary restraints or seclusion.
In my practice I serve men and women with disabilities based on mental illness that find themselves on psychiatric units. They face the potential loss of their personal liberties for months or years. My job is to use the laws in Massachusetts, my client’s abilities, the medical records, and my client’s support in the community to present a case that they ought to be discharged to a less restrictive alternative than the psychiatric unit.
Routinely in my practice I help parents of a special needs child or the adult children of an elderly parent to secure a guardianship over their loved one. This helps ensure that the incapacitated person can continue to receive the medical attention they require when they can’t make informed decisions about treatment on their own. I also sit on the other side of these cases, assuring that a patient who should not have a guardian doesn’t have one, or that they not be wrongfully treated with antipsychotic medication. In all of these cases, listening to the desires of my client is of the utmost importance. I am afraid that oftentimes the voice of the person with a disability isn’t heard, and I simply won’t stand for that.
My practice also caters to the person with a disability who needs to apply for Social Security benefits. Navigating the Social Security Disability system is confusing, and facing a hearing about whether a person should be granted benefits is daunting. I like to be there from the beginning, working with my client to present the best case to Social Security, advocating for a quick decision in my client’s favor at every step of the process, and working with my client’s treatment team to get Social Security all the information they need to make a favorable decision.
It also became clear to me along the way that parents with special needs children wanted to provide for their child not only now, but far into the future. That is why I draft estate plans that focus on special needs planning. I get to know the families, their goals, their resources, and come up with a plan that will best meet the long-term needs of the child with a disability.
I am open to continue to take cases related to the following:
- Individuals who experience discrimination, abuse or neglect or denial of services because of their disability, including housing or employment matters
- Individuals with disabilities with general legal problems such as divorce or custody
- The world of disability law is much larger than I first perceived it to be. As my understanding grows, so will the goals and work of Prokowiew Law. If you are a person with a disability or someone who cares about a person with a disability, contact me with your legal needs. I promise that you will have a trusted advocate in your corner