By Gisele Mesnage

Listen to the audio

Disability rights advocates everywhere are pushing to make the digital world accessible to everyone. In the US, campaigns for talking ATMs, accessible websites and mobile apps, talking prescription labels, audio description, and accessible health care and financial information have all benefited from an approach pioneered and developed by Lainey Feingold and like-minded colleagues, entitled “Structured Negotiation”.

Structured Negotiation is an alternative dispute resolution process with a powerful track record. Without lawsuits, the Law Office of Lainey Feingold and others have used the method for more than 20 years to negotiate comprehensive agreements with some of the largest organisations in the United States. Bank of America, Major League Baseball and the City and County of San Francisco have all participated in Structured Negotiation. Developed to resolve civil rights claims of blind people, the method has application to a wide variety of civil claims where parties seek collaboration and solution over conflict and expense.

Lainey Feingold has worked in disability rights since 1992, and opened her own law office in 1996, from where she represents people with disabilities seeking full participation in all society has to offer. Her principal work is with the blind and vision impaired community on technology and information access issues, including web and mobile accessibility.

Lainey has won multiple awards for her work, and is a frequent and highly regarded speaker and trainer at conferences, webinars, law school classes, and other programs and events. It was a long wait for us down under in Australia to hear her speak in person. It first happened on 14 November 2017 at an event co-hosted by the Digital Gap Initiative (DGI), the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) and the Australian Human Rights Centre (now renamed the Disability Innovation Institute).

The talk was held at Ashurst, a prestigious legal firm, located at Martin Place, in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. The hall was packed to capacity with advocates, lawyers, and business and government sector reps. There was an indescribable buzz in the atmosphere.

Lainey talked about her book and about her work. She has such a down-to-earth and genial way of delivering her message. The audience was captivated, and asked many questions. Some of her key points were that structured negotiation and good legislation go hand in hand; and that patience is indispensable in the quest for change.

Lainey is coming back to Australia, and will be one of an impressive line of speakers at the A11y Camp to be held in Melbourne from the 17th to the 19th of October 2018. Lainey will be presenting a conference keynote and also holding a workshop at the camp. We know a lot of people in Australia will really be looking forward to her visit – make sure you don’t miss out.

For further information please visit the A11y event registration site. Lainey will also be hosting a workshop in Sydney, but details were not available at the time of publication. Please email if you would like to be kept updated about the Sydney event. Details will also be posted on the BCA list when they become available.

In 2016, the American Bar Association published Lainey’s book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits. It is available in print and accessible digital formats. You can buy it from the ABA, Amazon or Bookshare.

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