Aaron Bates, 31, is an attorney from Orlando, Fla., with type 2 spinal muscular atrophy who has been involved with MDA for several decades and in numerous states. Bates has played key leadership roles in state legislative efforts that have addressed the federal disincentives for young adults with disabilities who want to enter the workplace. He currently serves on a number of disability advisory boards within the state of Florida.
Bates obtained his undergraduate degree from Florida State University in three years and graduated from the FSU College of Law in only two-and-a-half years, making him one of the youngest graduates of the college. Bates has utilized a wheelchair for mobility since age 3.
He employs a personal attendant, who assists him with many of his daily living activities, including dressing, bathing and transfers. Bates, however, lost state funding for his personal care attendant after graduating from law school. State law dictated that funding for his attendant was to cease because he was vocationally “rehabilitated” upon graduation from law school. Bates was faced with the reality that it was not financially possible to live and work independently, as his personal care services were equivalent to his salary as an assistant state attorney.
Through his lobbying efforts, Bates was instrumental in the enactment of the Florida Personal Care Attendant Program, which contributes funding for the employment of an attendant by disabled individuals who have achieved sustained, gainful employment. After fighting for system-wide changes to benefit people with disabilities, Bates made the decision to venture out on his own with a former co-worker, forming Bates Mokwa PLLC in 2007. Today, Bates Mokwa handles general civil litigation, focusing on commercial and personal injury litigation.