Bar News - August 10, 2007
DRC Executive Director Addresses Misprint
I am writing to correct an error in the printing of Joe Dickinson’s letter in the July 6, 2007 Bar News and to follow up on the main thrust of his and of John Tobin’s letter, also in the same issue. Both letters pointed out Disabilities Rights Center’s vital role in New Hampshire, correcting a misimpression in another publication which had neglected to mention DRC as one of the legal services organizations in the state. Joe in fact wrote in his letter to the Bar News that “nearly 100% of the people DRC assists are low-income and receive [DRC] services without paying any fees.” However, due apparently to an editing error, that percentage was changed to “nearly 10 percent.”
As someone who has served both with New Hampshire Legal Assistance and DRC, and was around at the beginning of the NH Pro Bono program and has worked closely with LARC, I wholeheartedly concur that all these organizations provide vital services to low-income/disadvantaged citizens in New Hampshire.
For historical reasons, which are not terribly clear to me (having been out of state between my tenures with NHLA and DRC), there has sometimes been a tendency to characterize NH Pro Bono, LARC and NHLA as the legal service organizations that serve the poor in the state. As Joe’s letter pointed out, this is not accurate. And as John Tobin’s letter so graciously stated, DRC performs a unique role and significant role in the system of providing legal services to the poor. It should go without saying that many children, adults, and senior adults who are poor are also disabled and vice versa.
While there is of course substantial overlap between the populations DRC and NHLA/LARC/NH Pro Bono serve, the number of people with disabilities—about 200,000—is about the same as the number of poor people and low-income people. Moreover, the financial challenges for DRC to meet the needs of the disabled population are every bit as great as the financial challenges facing the state’s other legal service organizations in meeting the needs of the poor and low-income population.
Speaking on behalf of DRC’s staff, we very much appreciate the acknowledgement in the two letters of DRC’s work on behalf of individuals with disabilities. We trust that the Bar News will “set the record straight” so the legal community will have a fuller understanding of the important role we all play in protecting the legal and human rights of New Hampshire’s most vulnerable citizens.
Richard A. Cohen
Executive Director, DRC