The mission of the Autism Law Hub is to be a central gathering place and clearinghouse for legal resources, people, ideas, and information to secure the rights of those with autism. The Hub aims to spread resources to assist people with autism in accessing healthcare treatment, education, employment, and community life.
The Autism Law Hub is the vision of Dan and Lorri Unumb, who are lawyers and autism parents. The idea for the Hub grew out of their desire to share with, and learn from, other autism advocates as they worked to improve autism law and policy at the state level.
Even before embarking on autism-related careers, Dan and Lorri had spearheaded autism legal reform on a volunteer basis and, as part of that work, had initiated the annual Autism Law Summit. The purpose of the Summit was to gather into one room people with diverse backgrounds and abilities but similar visions and desires for improving autism law.
The Summit began with a dozen self-selected advocates in a small conference room in South Carolina and is now billed as the premiere gathering of “doers” in the world of autism law and policy. The Summit is not a conference but a traveling conversation among a national collection of dynamic advocates intent on getting better access to care and community services.
Today, the Summit draws parents, service providers, self-advocates, siblings, legislators, lobbyists, lawyers, insurers, regulators, researchers, and medical professionals, and is supported by Autism Speaks (Lorri’s employer) and the Autism Legal Resource Center (Dan’s employer).
In an effort to facilitate simple and timely dissemination of resources collected at the Summit and beyond, Dan and Lorri created the Autism Law Hub. The Hub is a one-stop shop for autism lawyers and others who need to find categorized autism legal information. The Hub is a place to extend the Autism Law Summit’s information-sharing and strategizing throughout the year and to foster ongoing collaboration and engagement on legal issues.
Lorri Shealy Unumb began her legal career clerking for a United States District Judge in Charleston, South Carolina, and then moved to Washington, D.C. to practice law with the United States Department of Justice. She enjoyed a fulfilling career as an appellate litigator, arguing cases all over the United States.
After serving as a law professor at law schools in D.C. (George Washington University) and Charleston, Lorri began teaching advocacy at the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center. During the same timeframe, she also hosted an award-winning weekly television show called “The Law with Professor Lorri.”
Following her firstborn child’s diagnosis with autism, Lorri began working in autism advocacy as a volunteer, writing ground-breaking autism insurance legislation for South Carolina (“Ryan’s Law”) that passed in 2007 and served as a catalyst for the national movement toward autism insurance reform. In recognition of Ryan’s Law, Lorri was awarded the Autism Society of America 2008 “Parents of the Year” award (along with Dan). She then was recruited by the New York-based nonprofit Autism Speaks, where she now advocates full-time on behalf of individuals with autism. As head of state government affairs, she has testified more than 100 times on health insurance issues in legislatures throughout the United States and beyond.
In 2010, Lorri and Dan founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, a non-profit, year-round treatment center for children with autism, and Lorri still serves as Chair of the Board of Directors. Lorri and Dan also wrote the first-ever comprehensive textbook on legal issues related to autism, called “Autism and the Law,” and Lorri developed and taught a semester-length course by the same name.
In 2018, Lorri was appointed by the governor of South Carolina as a Commissioner for the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, which administers the state’s Medicaid waivers for people with disabilities.
For her local, national, and international advocacy efforts, Lorri has been recognized with:
Her work has been profiled on CNN and in Town&Country magazine, from whom she received one of three 2009 “Women Who Make a Difference” awards. She is also profiled in the American Academy of Pediatrics book “Autism Spectrum Disorders: What Every Parent Needs to Know.”
Dan Unumb is a former U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney, class action litigator, and state-wide legal services director. He is the parent of a child with autism, and he previously directed the Autism Speaks Legal Resource Center (prior to its discontinuation). In that capacity, Dan worked on litigation, regulatory advocacy, and legislative efforts in states across the country. He also helped secure Medicaid and commercial insurance coverage benefitting thousands of families, educated courts on legal issues pertaining to autism through amicus briefing in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and worked with state and federal agencies to improve enforcement and access to treatment. Dan has also built and trained a growing national network of attorneys, and provided information and training to healthcare providers and advocates. Stakeholders across the country routinely contact Dan for advice and guidance on challenging situations they face. Dan and Lorri co-authored the law school textbook “Autism and the Law.”
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