Pub­lic Inter­est Law Clear­ing House (PILCH)

Our involve­ment with PILCH goes back sev­en years. This organ­i­sa­tion refers indi­vid­u­als and organ­i­sa­tions to mem­ber law firms like Swaab, where lawyers vol­un­teer to pro­vide pro bono legal assis­tance in mat­ters which involve mar­gin­alised peo­ple or which are clear­ly in the pub­lic interest. 

The lawyers in our firm have worked on a broad range of mat­ters for PILCH, includ­ing a num­ber of ani­mal wel­fare cas­es. Our involve­ment in PILCH reflects the strong human­i­tar­i­an bent of the firm. It is impor­tant to us that even though we are a com­mer­cial law firm, we are moti­vat­ed by more than the mere quest for profit.

Dis­abil­i­ty and human rights

One sig­nif­i­cant case referred to us by PILCH was relat­ed to dis­abil­i­ty and human rights. Lit­i­ga­tion part­ner Tean Kerr act­ed for a phys­i­cal­ly dis­abled woman in a wheel­chair who filed a com­plaint before the Human Rights Tri­bunal against two large devel­op­er companies. 

The woman had vis­it­ed show homes which had been built by the devel­op­ers and found that they were com­plete­ly inac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple in wheel­chairs. There were no stair­way ramps to allow access, the cor­ri­dors and door­ways were all too nar­row to accom­mo­date a wheel­chair and the design of the homes entire­ly ignored the poten­tial needs of dis­abled people. 

Fur­ther­more, the devel­op­ers had giv­en no con­sid­er­a­tion to offer­ing dis­abled per­sons alter­na­tive lay­outs with fea­tures like wider hall­ways, stair­way ramps, wall hand­holds and rail­ings. When the woman asked the devel­op­ers to alter their plans to accom­mo­date her spe­cif­ic needs, she was faced with dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly expen­sive cus­tomi­sa­tion fees’ which put such mod­i­fi­ca­tions out of her reach.

Prop­er­ty devel­op­ers imple­ment dis­abil­i­ty friend­ly policies 

In the course of the medi­a­tion before the Human Rights Tri­bunal, the devel­op­ers acknowl­edged the valid­i­ty of the woman’s posi­tion and agreed to make it their inter­nal pol­i­cy always to give prop­er con­sid­er­a­tion to the needs of the disabled. 

The devel­op­ers agreed to pre­pare new show home plans incor­po­rat­ing poten­tial cus­tomised addi­tions to suit dis­abled peo­ple. They also agreed to ensure that such mod­i­fi­ca­tions would not be pro­hib­i­tive­ly expen­sive. Fur­ther, they gave an under­tak­ing that in future, a cer­tain per­cent­age of their show homes would be dis­abil­i­ty friend­ly, with ramps for wheel­chair access, wider pas­sage­ways and door­ways and bath­rooms fit­ted with appro­pri­ate railings. 

Swaab Attor­neys is proud that by pro­vid­ing pro bono assis­tance in mat­ters referred to us by PILCH, we can con­tin­ue to help give access to jus­tice to those who need it and cre­ate changes to ben­e­fit our society.