Do Intellectual Property Laws Get It Wrong On Disability?

IP law affects virtually every facet of life on earth — and while that might sound a wee bit of an exaggeration, we say it for a reason: information technology is becoming increasingly abundant, finding its way into our vehicles, kitchen appliances, even the very clothes we wear everyday. But there’s a glaring problem with IP law: inclusion. We often fail to recognize minority opinions on the legalities we rule upon all the time, and many industry analysts say that’s how we get so much wrong on a routine basis. 

One disability advocates group, IP Ability, is a community under the larger umbrella or IP Inclusive, and supports those who are both disabled and IP prodigies. The stigma of disability remains common in the United States, but IP Ability hopes to diminish that stigma over time by inviting underrepresented folks to join the team and find jobs related to intellectual property.

There’s good news, though. A recent law passed by former president Donald Trump helps reduce the waiting time for certain categories of disabled folks to receive benefits, which could help them jump back into job hunting (if able) faster. It was called the ALS Disability Insurance Access Act.

And The House recently passed the Equality Act, which is a landmark decision for LGBTQ+ rights (although it could still fall well short of the threshold needed to pass in the Senate). 

These implementations make it easier for underrepresented Americans to move on in industries that have made it difficult for them to get jobs. The Council for Disability Awareness is a nonprofit organization that helps the disabled find other means of work when traditional jobs fail them — and one of those alternative tasks includes intellectual property. Some of these jobs include specialists, docketing, client coordinators, managers, legal counselors, software developers, licensers, etc. Many of these positions can be coordinated from home.

Most people are underprepared and don’t realize that disability can happen at any time. Joshua said, “Being in my twenties at the time of the accident, protecting myself from disability was not on my mind.”

Joshua had been working a mechanical job when a 700-pound dumbwaiter fell on him, paralyzing him from the waist down. He said, “You never know from one day to the next what will happen…Protecting yourself from a disability should be on everyone’s mind, regardless of age.”

The CDA provides funds to initiatives aimed at educating the disabled — and the rest of the country about the capabilities of the disabled. The goal is to increase overall public awareness, but also to reduce financial hardship and increase planning ahead in the general population.

It’s not necessarily that IP laws themselves are designed to take advantage of the disabled. It’s that the disabled fall into a category that lawmakers rarely feel obligated to take seriously. That why disabled people have less access to jobs in the industry and reduced earning potential even if they make it through the door.

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