With autism prevalence on the rise, a new legal resource center is launching that will focus specifically on issues facing those with the developmental disorder across the country.
Autism Speaks plans to announce Tuesday that it will form the new center with an eye toward helping establish key legal precedents for this growing population.
First on the agenda will be ensuring that autism insurance laws passed in many states in recent years are implemented appropriately, organizers said. Ultimately, however, plans call for the center to address everything from housing to employment to criminal and family law issues as they relate to autism.
“There are a whole host of issues having to do with the ADA, housing, family law — autism challenges our legal system in so many ways and we want to be a part of shaping how that plays out,” said Dan Unumb, a South Carolina-based attorney who will head the new initiative.
Dubbed the Autism Speaks Legal Resource Center, Unumb said the effort will initially serve to support and provide resources and training to the legal community nationally. The center will not take on requests for representation from individuals, but does plan to offer legal information for families and a referral network for those in need of a lawyer on autism-related issues.
Informally, Unumb said many attorneys working on cases related to autism have been networking for years, but as the field emerges, there is a need for a central organization.
In addition to Unumb, Autism Speaks expects to hire a second attorney for the center this year and may intervene in legal actions that are of interest with friend-of-the-court briefs. Unumb did not rule out bringing cases as well.