How a law student is changing the disability conversation

Edward Friedman was born in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn on November 4, 1996, to parents Oskar and Diana Friedman.

As one of two children in his family, he has a younger sister, 19-year-old Emily. The family lived in Gravesend until they moved to Mill Basin in 2014. Her parents are Jewish refugees who met in Brooklyn. They immigrated to the United States with their families in 1989 as teenagers from Moscow and kyiv.

Edward has a big sweet tooth and can be frequently spotted in New Haven’s ice cream shops. Here it is at Milkcraft. Photo: Edward Friedman

Friedman’s early years were not the easiest for his family. He was born prematurely at 27 weeks. He was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy, walking unassisted as a child.

“I have fond childhood memories of playing and getting Mister Softee’s ice cream at Kelly Park Playground on Avenue S,” he said.

The transition to using a motorized wheelchair in 2020 just before the pandemic dramatically increased her independence.

Friedman went to PS 255, IS 98 Bay Academy and Brooklyn Tech High School before attending CUNY Hunter College.

For most of his time at school, he struggled with his identity. For people with disabilities, accommodation is provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990).

While involved in adaptive sports during his freshman year of high school, he met other people with disabilities and began to fully embrace his identity.

Friedman has lived in Brooklyn his entire life, until he moved to New Haven, CT, to attend Yale Law School.

“My parents were my first advocates growing up. Seeing them harness the power of the law on my behalf really sparked my interest in becoming a lawyer at a young age,” he said.

Edward at the Harvard-Yale football game in November 2021. Photo: Edward Friedman

Prior to law school, Friedman served as the Policy and Intergovernmental Affairs Coordinator at the Mayor’s Office for Persons with Disabilities.

In this role, he was responsible for navigating and managing delicate relationships between community coalitions.

“This experience has strengthened my determination to represent people with disabilities before legal decision-makers. Disability is also a spectrum, so it was important to recognize the need to advocate for needs other than my own,” he said.

Friedman credits other disability rights advocates with making his successes possible. Last week he won the Future Attorneys of America Scholarship, awarded by Answering Legal. He also won a Paul & Daisy Soros Scholarship for New Americans.

Edward with Handsome Dan (Yale University mascot) statue and plushie and wearing Yale Law School attire during his engagement in March 2021. Photo: Edward Friedman

Friedman participated Yale Law School since August 2021. While there, he currently represents the school in the Graduate and Professional Student Senate.

In this role, he is the primary spokesperson for students with disabilities on the University Provost’s Advisory Committee on Accessibility Resources. He is also a member of the Associations of Disabled Law Students and Jewish Law Students.

“My mission is to ensure that inclusive design and the needs of the disability community are at the forefront of all decisions,” he said.

This summer, Friedman will work as a summer associate at Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith LLP based in their New York office.

“I hope I can play a role in ensuring that society not only respects existing legal mandates related to disability, but also finds ways to overcome them by genuinely working with all segments of the community,” said Friedmann.

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Jon J. Epps