The Mission of the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. is to protect, promote and expand the rights of people with disabilities.
The ODLC mission reflects the belief that people with disabilities are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect; to be free from abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination.
The ODLC mission also reflects the belief that people with disabilities are entitled to equal rights and to equally effective access to the same opportunities as are afforded other members of society.
ACLU of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Disability Law Center, File Legal Action Against State Officials Over Termination Of Disability Services
NOVEMBER 17, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OKLAHOMA CITY–The ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Oklahoma’s federally funded Protection and Advocacy system, filed today an action against public officials of the State of Oklahoma seeking to ensure Oklahomans with disabilities receive the critical services required by federal law.
On October 31, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services notified the over 20,000 recipients of Advantage and In-Home Supports Waivers for Adults that their benefits would be terminated on December 1, 2017. Regardless of potential action from the Governor’s office today, the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center will continue to push for a reliable, long term solution to funding these critical services.
“Our office has been inundated with calls from families terrified about what will happen to their loved ones come December 1 and beyond, “ said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director for the Oklahoma Disability Law Center. “In addition to the families whose services will be cut on December 1, we have been contacted by countless families whose loved ones have waited decades on the waiting list for waiver services wondering what will happen because there are no services in sight. The state of Oklahoma has neglected its duty to people with disabilities for far too long.”
“These benefits are absolutely essential to the Oklahomans who receive them,” said Brady Henderson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Whether or not the Governor signs a budget with one time funding sources, these critical services remain under threat. Critical services of this nature require funding stability. Failing to adequately and reliably fund these services risks stripping thousands of Oklahomans of their ability to live in community-based settings, a basic right that the state has a legal and moral obligation to honor. A failure to maintain these services illegally forces Oklahomans with disabilities into institutions, creates greater ongoing costs to the state, and in some cases, can cause a completely preventable and senseless loss of life.”
Brady Henderson, Legal Director, ACLU of Oklahoma
Allie Shinn, Director of External Affairs, ACLU of Oklahoma
Melissa Sublett, Executive Director, Oklahoma Disability Law Center
Gary Taylor, Legal Director, Oklahoma Disability Law Center
November 10, 2017
Denying Deaf Citizen Access to State Senate and House Implicates First Amendment Rights
Oklahoma City, OK – A federal court has ruled that claims filed against the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Senate, the Oklahoma House of Representatives and state officials for discrimination against a deaf citizen may proceed. In a critical victory for citizen engagement and equal rights, the Court held that denying a deaf citizen captioning that is necessary for him to access state legislative proceedings available to others implicates the First Amendment and the fundamental right of access to political proceedings.
In 2015, Johnny Reininger, Jr. who is deaf, requested that the Oklahoma Senate and House caption their proceedings that are streamed online. Reininger, who closely follows state politics, needs captioning in order to have meaningful access to the streamed content that is available to other citizens who can hear. Although the legislature initially agreed to caption the online content in response to Reininger’s requests, it later retracted its promise to caption. Reininger filed suit in October 2016 seeking captioning of the legislative proceedings that are streamed online, but the State, Senate, and House moved to dismiss Reininger’s case, arguing that it could not be sued for disability discrimination because of sovereign immunity.
Citing the First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances and the right of access to information conveyed via internet broadcasting about state legislative matters, the Court rejected the State’s arguments and held that the important issue at stake was a citizen’s right to participate in the political process and to have meaningful access to the tools necessary for such participation.
The Court decision clears the way for Reininger’s case to proceed. He is hopeful that the legislature will soon take steps to provide him and other deaf citizens with equal access to the information necessary to meaningfully participate in the political process. “When I don’t have access to legislative proceedings, my ability to be an informed voter and to hold my elected representatives accountable is restricted,” said Reininger.
Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the National Association of the Deaf, heralded the decision as an important one for every citizen saying, “This Court decision confirms that participation in government is an essential right for all Americans.” He added, “When elected officials deny people access to information about the political process on the basis of disability, their actions threaten the constitutional rights of everyone and must be stopped to ensure equal access for all.”
Reininger is represented by the National Association of the Deaf, Stein & Vargas, LLP, and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center.
The National Association of the Deaf is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by, and for, deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States.
Stein & Vargas, LLP is a civil rights firm based in Washington, D.C. and committed to the principle that all people have full and equal access to all parts of society.
The Oklahoma Disability Law Center is a system of protection and advocacy for people with disabilities in the State of Oklahoma.
National Association of the Deaf
Oklahoma Disability Law Center
Stein & Vargas, LLP
If your family member is currently on the In-Home Support Wavier for Adults and loss of those services on December 1, 2017 will make safely caring for your loved at home no longer possible, please take our brief survey:
Please share with families who may be affected by the elimination of this waiver.
The Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) is deeply concerned that the elimination of two Oklahoma Home and Community Based Waiver Programs are putting thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities at imminent risk of institutionalization. Elimination of these services will harm Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens and literally put lives at risk.
Termination of service notices were mailed out to more than 22,000 Oklahomans who rely on services from the In-Home Support Waiver for Adults or the ADvantage Waiver to provide the daily supports necessary to allow them to remain safely in their homes. Without these needed supports, many will be forced into nursing homes or intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IDD). Notices informed recipients their services will be terminated effective December 1, 2017.
ODLC is currently evaluating options for those impacted by the elimination of these services. If you or your family member is currently on the In-Home Support Wavier for Adults, ODLC encourages you to review the criteria for emergency placement on the Community Waiver (see below). If after carefully reviewing the emergency criteria you believe you or your family member might meet the requirements, please contact our office (800)880-7755 for further evaluation of your situation.
ODLC is aware DHS announced cuts to additional services, we will post updates as more information becomes available. We understand this is a scary situation for many, if you have questions feel free to call our office. (800)880-7755