Arizona Center for Disability Law Welcomed Three New Lawyers in 2016

Network Partner Updates
DDNN Winter 2016/17
Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL)

picutre of Anna Branson Anna Branson and the ASU Special Education Project

Anna Branson is a virtual Arizona “native” having moved to the state at a young age.  While in law school in California, she was given the opportunity to work for the Whittier Law School Special Education Clinic, which was devoted to providing free legal and advocacy services for children with special needs and their families.  Upon returning to Arizona, she spent the next several years working with her husband in a small civil litigation firm in Scottsdale.  However, she always knew that she wanted to return to advocacy.  That opportunity presented itself in the form of the joint Special Education Project between the ACDL and ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.  The Project, which is  funded by the Arizona Community Foundation, is specifically intended to provide legal assistance to historically unrepresented or underrepresented Arizonans.  The Project provides a full-range of legal services, including helping parents to obtain appropriate evaluations or reevaluations of their child to qualify for special education services; developing Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or Section 504 plans for students in order to receive all of the services; obtaining assistive technology and therapies that the child is entitled to; ensuring that schools are following the terms of the IEP or Section 504 plan and helping with enforcement if necessary; and attending meetings and mediations between the parties.  These services are necessary to ensure that Arizona’s children with special needs receive the “free, appropriate, public education” they are entitled to under the law.  To find out more information about the Project or to request services please visit, or call (602) 274-6287 to speak with an advocate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays from 9am to 1pm.  

Chris Carlsen

Chris Carlsen joined ACDL in March 2016 and provides legal assistance to individuals who have been discriminated against through a grant from the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing. He started his career as an attorney for Cardinal & Stachel, P.C., primarily handling family law, personal injury, and appellate work.  He moved to Pascua Yaqui Legal Services in 2009, where he handled a large family law caseload, but also became experienced in handling bankruptcies, landlord/tenant disputes, and Social Security Disability appeals.  Starting in 2012, he worked in the civil rights litigation section of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, where he was responsible for prosecuting discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Maya Abela headshotMaya S. Abela

Maya Abela joined the Arizona Center for Disability Law as a staff attorney in October 2015. Ms. Abela graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 2009, and began her legal career in Washington, DC as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Environmental Enforcement Section. At DOJ, she represented federal agencies in judicial environmental enforcement actions, and was responsible for both consent decree negotiations and litigation in federal courts across the country. Ms. Abela is firmly committed to public service, and has previously worked in volunteer and internship capacities with the Employment Justice Center in Washington, DC, and Southern Arizona Legal Aid. Though relatively new to the area of disability rights, Ms. Abela and looks forward to working to advance the rights of individuals with disabilities in Arizona for many years to come.