Thursday, December 27, 2012

Schweik on the ADA, "Sidewalk Management," and the Politics of Urban Space

Just out: Susan Schweik, Kicked to the Curb: Ugly Law Then and Now, 46 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 1 (2011).  The abstract:
For most CRCL readers, discussion of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in the context of the politics of urban space will probably invoke images of frivolous lawsuits, backlash against civil rights law, and so on. This essay concerns a more unexpected and surprisingly blunt consequence of the ADA. I will focus on Portland, Oregon, where a new and cynical manipulation of the ADA pits disability rights against homeless rights. Setting this development in the historical context of a previous ordinance, the infamous “ugly law” that targeted poor disabled people in Portland and elsewhere, I will show how repudiation of that ordinance played a part in the creation of the ADA--an act now not only failing to prevent but even actively prescribing the targeting of poor disabled people. The case of Portland provides a broader opportunity to explore the relationship between people and physical space, considering: how city ordinances, and even federal civil rights law, can turn people into objects; how at the same time urban objects can enjoy protected status almost as if they were people; and how disability oppression, in the context of classed and capitalist social relations, has played a shifting role in these dynamics. Portland will also provide a location and occasion for exploring the relation between law and poetry (particularly street poetry) as forms of urban expression. Poems like those I take up here may be valuable tools for legal scholars, not simply because they document a stance, but because, in complex ways, they allow us to place laws in local dialogue with the people they affect.
A fascinating piece about an important set of issues.

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