Our Mission

The Mission of the Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. is to protect, promote and expand the rights of people with disabilities.


Belief Statement

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.

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, ACLU of Oklahoma, Applaud State Officials for Rescinding Termination of Services for Oklahomans with Disabilities, but Note that Major Challenges Remain

March 29, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Allie Shinn, Director of External Relations, ACLU of Okla., ashinn@acluok.org, 405-525-3831
Gary Taylor, Legal Director, ODLC, gary@okdlc.org, 405-436-8211

Oklahoma City, OK – Following the State of Oklahoma’s passage of supplemental funding to avoid its threatened termination of community disability services, the federal district court dismissed Anderson v. Lake, the case challenging the termination.  The Oklahoma Disability Law Center and the ACLU of Oklahoma, representing the plaintiffs in the case, commend state officials for taking the necessary steps to at least delay termination of critical waiver services for thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities, but note that the state has far to go to remedy its discrimination against people with disabilities.

On March 26, 2018, Judge Heaton issued an Order dismissing the case stating, “The harm which plaintiffs sought to avoid — the termination of waiver services — has now been avoided . . .”

“We are pleased to be able to tell our clients our litigation resulted in the State’s commitment to maintaining these vital waiver services,” said Gary Taylor, Legal Director for the Oklahoma Disability Law Center.  “Our clients are relieved to know they are no longer at immediate risk of unnecessary institutionalization.”

However, massive challenges remain, such as the State’s failure to secure alternative services or comply with larger mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The State’s motion to dismiss affirmed the State’s commitment not to terminate waiver services during the current fiscal year,” said Brady Henderson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oklahoma.  “However, the State must do far more to avoid continuing litigation to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

“The State must also make a genuine, competent effort to implement the State’s Olmstead Plan. This plan is a roadmap for respecting the rights of people with disabilities, but it currently sits on a shelf collecting dust while the promises within it go unfulfilled,” said Amy Gioletti, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Oklahoma.

Both organizations will be continuing the fight to remedy the state’s failure to fulfill its obligations to ensure equality for Oklahomans with disabilities. According to Taylor, “ODLC and ACLU of Oklahoma remain committed to protecting the rights of Oklahomans with disabilities as long as those rights are threatened by the State of Oklahoma.”


 

Systemic Advocacy Projects

ODLC engages in systemic advocacy as a means of achieving our mission of protecting, promoting and expanding the rights of people with disabilities in Oklahoma.  Through systemic advocacy, we seek to influence and change  systems such as legislation, government or agency policy, services practices and community attitudes.

In order to effectively address systemic issues, ODLC often needs people directly affected by a particular problem or issue to contact our office and share your experience with our staff who are working on long term solutions.

Our current projects include:

  • ABA coverage for SoonerCare recipients
  • Hepatitis C treatment for Oklahoma Inmates

For more information on these and other systemic projects please visit our Systemic Projects page.


 

Former ODLC Executive Director Passes Away

It is with heavy hearts and great sadness ODLC announces the death of our long time Executive Director, Kayla Bower.  Kayla passed away yesterday following a long and brave battle with cancer.  Kayla served as the Executive Director of ODLC from 1995 until her retirement last year.

Kayla was a charismatic leader and caring, compassionate professional who devoted more than twenty years of her career to promoting, protecting and preserving the rights of Oklahomans with disabilities.  The ODLC staff will honor her life and professional mission by continuing the implementation of her professional vision and upholding the philosophy she instilled within us.  Kayla will be greatly missed; our thoughts and prayers are with her family at this time.

Arrangements for services are still pending, we will pass information along as it becomes available.

Melissa Sublett, Executive Director

Update 3/5/18

Kayla’s life will be celebrated at Trinity Church of the Nazarene
7301 S. Walker Ave., Oklahoma City 73139 on Friday, March 9th at 2:00 pm.


 

ODLC Investigates Allegations of Discriminatory Practices in State Scholarship Program

January 22, 2018 – ODLC was alerted to a series of articles written by Oklahoma Watch reporter Jennifer Palmer regarding disability discrimination by schools that offer tax credit tuition scholarships, which are administered by the Oklahoma’s Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF).

Following publication of these articles, ODLC received a complaint regarding these schools and the alleged discriminatory practice of rejecting students based on disability.  ODLC Managing Attorney, Joy Turner contacted Rob Sellers, Executive Director of OSF, to address the issues raised in the Oklahoma Watch article.

Mr. Sellers informed Ms. Turner his organization is working with all recipient schools to assure their policies and practices are in complete compliance with the anti-discrimination policy required by law.  Requirements for schools’ participation in OSF funding listed on the organizations website state the following:

A school must sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the OSF setting out each party’s responsibilities.

A school must: be accredited by the State Board of Education or an accrediting association within the Oklahoma Private School Accreditation Commission; be in compliance with all applicable health and safety laws and codes; have a stated policy against discrimination in admissions on the basis of race, color, national origin or disability, and ensure academic accountability to parents and guardians of students through regular progress reports.

Mr. Sellers went on to say, “In Ms. Palmer’s article, there were several member school’s websites that held non-discrimination wording in their policies that were not in compliance and/or appropriate.  We are working with all our member schools to review their non-discrimination policy, ensure that the policy conforms to the discrimination policy required by this law and provide a period to cure any deficiencies.  We will continue to work with our member schools to remedy this situation as quickly as possible – with proper approvals of their schools’ governing board – to ensure the schools that take advantage of the state’s tax credit scholarship program are doing so within the law.  Any schools that don’t conform to the legislation we operate under will be required to cease participation in the Opportunity Scholarship Fund.  We will continue to monitor this matter in the upcoming months.”

ODLC will continue to monitor this issue to assure schools receiving these funds are in compliance.  ODLC will work with the OSF to resolve any future complaints. If you have a specific complaint of discrimination based on disability related to one these scholarships, please contact our office.

January 31, 2018 –   Read the Oklahoma Watch follow up article which discusses ODLC’s investigation.


 

Disability Rights Network Stands Ready After Federal Audit Finds Abuse and Neglect in Group Homes

January 17, 2018  

For Immediate Release  

WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General issued a report that found numerous incidents of abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities living in group homes. In response, NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker issued the following statement:

“I would like to thank the HHS Office of Inspector General for investigating this issue. The findings outlined in the OIG audits are disturbing and corroborate conditions and treatment our network has found in group homes in AlabamaKentuckyNorth Carolina, and elsewhere.

“However, there is one glaring omission among OIG’s solutions that States can use to protect the health and safety of group home residents: the nation’s Protection and Advocacy System (P&As).

“P&As are federally funded disability rights agencies that exist in every state and territory with special Congressional authority to monitor, investigate and attempt to remedy adverse conditions in large and small, public and private, facilities that care for people with disabilities.

“P&A staff consist of advocates and attorneys who specialize in investigating the abuse and neglect of people with disabilities. They have the training and demonstrated experience necessary to uncover rights violations through investigation, monitoring and oversight, and to provide individualized assistance to people in need of help.

“Like the states of Washington and Maine have chosen to do, it is time for other States to begin funding this tremendous resource that is already available to them. In addition, the federal government needs to step up with additional funding for the P&As so that the impressive work being done nationwide can expand further into the community where more and more people with disabilities want to (and are) living, working, and being fully integrated members of the community ”

# # #

The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.

ACLU of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Amend Legal Action Against State Officials over Termination of Disability Services

NOVEMBER 6, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oklahoma City, OK– The ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center filed an amended petition today in Anderson, et. al. v. Lake, the case challenging the Oklahoma Department of Human Services threatened termination of critical waiver services for thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities.

After informing over 20,000 Oklahomans with disabilities that the services they rely on each day would be cut off December 1, 2017, the Department of Human Services temporarily halted this termination following a temporary appropriation from the Legislature. The Department has said that it will, however, be required to again terminate those benefits by March 1, 2018.

“Simply kicking the can down the road for three months has not solved our clients’ problem,” said Brady Henderson, Legal Director for the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Thousands of Oklahomans depend on these services for their dignity and their livelihood, and deserve stability from their government. Our clients need a guarantee these benefits will be funded, or appropriate community-based alternative services provided, as mandated by the United States Supreme Court.”

The petition, amended today, serves notice to the State of Oklahoma that the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Disability Law Center intend to litigate this case for as long as it takes to come to a permanent funding model for these crucial state services.

“Despite passing a temporary funding solution for these benefits, the State has failed to address the harm our clients endure each time they receive threats to their benefits,” said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director at Oklahoma Disability Law Center. “This case isn’t going away until our clients no longer face uncertainty and limbo. We are committed to eliminating the imminent threat of institutionalization our clients are facing. ”

Filed Amended Complaint Anderson v. Lake 12-6-17

Contact:
Brady Henderson, Legal Director, ACLU of Oklahoma,
bhenderson@acluok.org, 405-524-8511

Melissa Sublett, Executive Director, Oklahoma Disability Law Center,
melissa@okdlc.org, 918-830-5559