History and Purpose
The American Blind Lawyers Association was established in 1969 by attorneys who recognized the need for blind and low vision lawyers to organize. In 2004 the organization’s name was changed to the American Association of Visually Impaired Attorneys (AAVIA). AAVIA is an international non-profit membership organization incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia in 1971.Consistent with its by-laws, AAVIA strives to:
- Provide a forum for the exchange of information concerning the specialized work techniques of blind and low vision attorneys;
- Collection and exchange of information and ideas about the development, adaptation, and use of assistive technology and computer applications by blind and low vision members of the legal profession;
- Support and advocate for the interests of blind and low vision attorneys;
- Promote the production and dissemination of legal materials in media which blind and low vision law students and legal professionals can access and use independently;
- Be an information resource for legal educators and blind and low vision law students; and
- Foster mutual cooperation between blind and sighted members of the Bar.
Membership in AAVIA affords active members with valuable knowledge, information, resources, and shared experiences which contribute to the development of expertise in their legal careers, the ability to better represent their clients, and the enhancement of their standing in the legal community. This experience and interaction also provide a strong basis for anticipating needs and difficulties blind and low vision attorneys may face in their careers, as well as the needs of sighted members of the profession who experience vision loss.
AAVIA hosts an annual conference each summer in conjunction with the annual convention of the American Council of the Blind, with which it is affiliated. All members and any guests are welcome to attend this conference.
Types of Membership
Voting Members: Any blind person or person with low vision licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction is eligible for voting membership in AAVIA. Voting membership allows the member to vote on all matters brought before the members of the organization at its annual business meeting, held at the conclusion of AAVIA’s annual conference each summer. Voting members are also eligible to serve as an officer or director of the organization.
Dues for Voting Members are currently:
- One year membership – $40.00
- Three year membership – $100.00
- Life membership – $500.00
Student Members: Any blind student or student with low vision preparing for the practice of law is eligible for student membership in AAVIA. Student members may participate in all activities of the organization but may not vote at the annual business meeting or serve as an officer or director. Dues for Student Members are currently $20.00 per year.
Associate Members: Any other person or organization wishing to support the aims and goals of AAVIA may be an Associate Member. Associate members may participate in all activities of the organization but may not vote at the annual business meeting or serve as an officer or director. Dues for Associate Members are currently $20.00 per year.
Officers and Directors
- Steven Mendelsohn, President – San Leandro, CA;
- Jeff Thom, First Vice President – Sacramento, CA;
- Chris Prentice, Second Vice President – Austin, TX;
- James Kracht, – Secretary – Miami, FL;
- Dave Adams, Treasurer – Telford, PA;
- Pshon Barrett, Director – Jackson, MS;
- Steven Blow, Director – Albany, NY;
- Hazel Fields, Director – Columbia, MO;
- Cynthia Hawkins, Director – Gulfport, FL;
- Charles Nabarrete, Director – West Covina, CA;
- Douglas Slotten, Director – Chevy Chase, MD;
- Ellen Telker, Director – Milford, CT.