Certificate in Disability Legal Studies
The Certificate in Disability Legal Studies enhances knowledge and skills needed to navigate laws and services for the disabled
The law exerts a powerful and direct impact on the lives of persons with disabilities. It is estimated that close to 20 percent of the US population, nearly 54 million people, have a disability, with a dramatic increase in the proportion since 1970. People with disabilities comprise one of the largest, least employed, and most disenfranchised minority groups in society.
This 15-credit certificate program is a unique effort to provide legal education to those working in the administration of and provision of services in disabilities programs. Administrators, educators, health practitioners, advocates, social workers, architects, city planners, attorneys, and business leaders, among others, could potentially benefit from the program's instructional content.
In their own words
"I am very grateful for the experience I had in the Disability Legal Studies certificate program. I learned so much that is applicable to the many different hats I wear in life. I hope to be able to use the skills I’ve acquired through the program to support, guide, and provide information to the individuals with exceptionalities I’ve been called to serve."
- Rachel Kittenbrink, PhD
Educational Consultant & Behavior Analyst
"Participation in the Disability Legal Studies Program provide me with an opportunity to understand and appreciate the legal framework that is applied when examining complex issues of disability. Further, application of this framework resulted in more efficient and effective communication with legal counsel. I would highly recommend this program for anyone who has accountability for compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act."
- Lynnett Van Slyke, MS, M.Ed., CRC
University Intercessor and Director of Disability Compliance, University of Rochester
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Questions about the Certificate in Disability Legal Studies Program? Look below for our most frequently asked questions.
Are Certificate in Disability Legal Studies Program courses regular law school courses?
With one exception, all of the course in the Disability Certificate Program are the same courses you would take if you were studying to become a lawyer in the JD program. The exception is Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning.
Who will benefit from the Certificate in Disability Legal Studies Program?
This certificate program is geared toward those working in the administration and provision of disabilities programs. Administrators, educators, health practitioners, advocates, social workers, architects, city planners, attorneys and business leaders, among others, could potentially benefit from this program's instructional content.
May I take the Certificate in Disability Legal Studies if I am a JD student?
The Certificate in Disability Legal Studies is not open to JD students. Students in other graduate or professional degree programs may enroll in it, and professionals not currently in a degree program may enroll in it.
Are there required courses in the Certificate in Disability Legal Studies Program?
Yes. Students enrolled in the certificate program are required to take four core courses.
- Introduction to Law and Legal Reasoning (3 credits)
- Health Law and Policy (3 credits)
- The Law of Disability Discrimination (2 credits)
- Torts* (4 credits)
*Or another first-semester required course if the Certificate Director deems it preferable for a particular student's interest
These four courses total 12 of the 15 credits needed for the certificate. Additional information and descriptions are available on the required courses page.
How many other courses do I need to take?
The remaining 3 credits (minimum) may be satisfied by any of the following (or similar) courses which are offered as instructor availability permits:
- Bioethics and Law
- Elder Law
- Employment Discrimination
- Employment Law
- Mental Health Law
- Nonprofit Tax Exempt Organizations
- Veterans Practicum
- Worker's Compensation
In addition, students may select any other School of Law course with the permission of the instructor and the Certificate Director.
Will I get any advice and guidance in the courses I should take?
Yes. The Director of the certificate program, Professor Alan Meisel, will serve as your faculty advisor and will work with you on your course selections.
Do I have to go to school full time, or may I obtain the certificate on a part-time basis?
Students in the certificate program can complete the certificate requirements in one year or students electing to complete the certificate on a part-time basis will have up to 3 years to complete the requirements.
When are courses offered?
All courses are offered between 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Courses are not offered in the evening or on weekends or during the summer.
How much work will there be for students in this certificate program?
All courses in the certificate program require students to engage in rigorous class preparation and study. Classes meet for 50 minutes per credit each week, so that a 3-credit course usually meets for three 50-minute periods (although a course might meet for a single three-hour period). The rule of thumb is that students are expected to spend about three hours of preparation for each hour of class. Professors expect that all students will present themselves and their work in a professional manner. Certificate students will reap the rewards of their efforts through their mastery of complex legal materials and in their new-found ability to comfortably discuss the law with their professors, JD students, and other colleagues. Attendance is required at a minimum of 80% of class meetings.
What is the grading system for students in the certificate program?
An Honors/Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading system is used. Students must attain a grade of Satisfactory or better in all of their coursework.
What is the tuition for the certificate program?
Tuition, Fees, and Estimated Expenses
Academic Year 2019-2020
|Full Time||Part Time*|
|Security / Transportation Fee||$180||$180||$90||$90|
|Law Exam Fee||$20||$20||$20||$20|
|Other Expenses (estimated)|
|Total U of Pittsburgh Tuition & Fees||$37,732||$47,766|
* Students taking between 1 and 8 credits pay part-time rates. Students taking 9 or more credits per semester are charged at the full-time rate.
Is there financial aid for the Certificate in Disability Law program?
Yes. There are loans available for those who qualify. View the financial aid page for additional information.
What are the requirements for admission to the certificate program?
Applicants must submit:
- Complete application form
- Official transcript of all college, graduate, and professional studies whether a degree was obtained or not
- At least two letters of recommendation
- An essay on how you expect to use the knowledge acquired in the certificate program
Decisions about admission will be made on the basis of the above information and the applicant's entire academic and employment record. A personal interview may also be required.
How do I apply for the certificate program?
To apply for the Certificate in Disability Legal Studies Program, download the PDF forms necessary to apply. Please note, you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to load these materials.
What is the application deadline?
Completed applications are first considered on December 1, and thereafter on a rolling basis.