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.

NOVEL CORONAVIRUS - COVID-19 RESOURCE PAGE

National Organizations Join Oklahoma Disability Law Center and State Disability Groups to File Disability Discrimination Complaint Challenging Oklahoma’s Medical Rationing Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 21, 2020

PRESS CONTACT:

Melissa Sublett,
Executive Director
918-830-5559
melissa@okdlc.org

National Organizations Join Oklahoma Disability Law Center and State Disability Groups to File Disability Discrimination Complaint Challenging Oklahoma’s Medical Rationing Plan

As COVID-19 cases have been increasing across the country, Oklahoma finalized its “Hospital Crisis Standards of Care” Plan.  This plan contains protocols for responding to COVID-19, including treatment rationing that will determine who will and will not have access to life-saving treatment.  Despite guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights warning states that discriminatory medical rationing policies are illegal, and despite urging from the Oklahoma Disability Law Center (ODLC) to adopt non-discriminatory crisis criteria, the Oklahoma Department of Health released a plan riddled with discriminatory protocols.

The Oklahoma Hospital Crisis Standards of Care explicitly and implicitly deprioritize people withdisabilities for care in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Today ODLC, joined by the Center for Public Representation (CPR), the Developmental Disabilities Council of Oklahoma (DDCO), the Arc of the United States, the Oklahoma Center for Learning and Leadership, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Progressive Independence, Sam Bagenstos, Oklahoma People First, and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) about our grave concerns that the plan being put in place discriminates against people with disabilities in violation of federal disability rights laws and places their lives at risk.  We call for OCR to take immediate action to address this discrimination and assist Oklahoma to develop non-discriminatory approaches before there are lethal consequences to application of these illegal policies.

“Rationing human life is not only illegal and immoral, it is simply unacceptable. While we recognize that our health care system is under unprecedented pressure, no one should face discrimination in accessing life-saving treatment and care,” said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director of ODLC.

Conner is an example of how Oklahoma’s crisis standards are impacting people with disabilities.  Conner is 15-year-old boy who was in a car accident when he was 20 months old that left him with a spinal cord injury at C 1,2, and 3. Due to a high level of spinal cord injury he requires a ventilator to help him breathe 24 hours a day.  Conner is at risk of being perceived as someone whose life has diminished value and might be excluded from life-saving care.  Conner’s mother is extremely worried about what will happen to him if he is admitted to a hospital during the COVID-19 crisis, especially given the State’s Crisis Standards.   She wants to ensure he will be treated the same as everyone else and that people with disabilities are not denied life-saving treatment.

“Even in the midst of the current crisis, Oklahoma must abide by its obligation to not discriminate against people with disabilities.  Lives of Oklahomans with disabilities are at stake. We implore OCR to step in and provide urgently needed guidance to the health care professionals who may be forced by this policy to make decisions that relegate members of our community to die,” said ODLC’s Legal Director, Brian Wilkerson.

ODLC is the organization designated by the State of Oklahoma as the protection and advocacy system pursuant to federal laws.  ODLC is charged under these laws with protecting individuals with disabilities against abuse and neglect, with advocating for such individuals to assure protection of their rights, and to pursue legal remedies in furtherance of these rights.

This Complaint follows similar complaints that have been filed by protection and advocacy and other disability advocacy organizations across the country, including Washington, Alabama, Tennessee, Kansas, Utah, New York and Pennsylvania.

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4.21 Oklahoma-OCR Complaint Final


 

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. Tells Governor Stitt Immediate Action is Needed to Ensure People with Disabilities Are Receiving Legally Required Accommodations in Oklahoma Hospitals

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 14, 2020

PRESS CONTACT:

Melissa Sublett, Executive Director
918-830-5559
melissa@okdlc.org

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. Tells Governor Stitt Immediate Action is Needed to Ensure People with Disabilities Are Receiving Legally Required Accommodations in Oklahoma Hospitals

 

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) issued a letter warning Governor Stitt that many Oklahoma hospital COVID-19 visitation policies violate the rights of people with disabilities.

“Accommodations required under federal law do not simply go away in a crisis. ODLC is committed to ensuring the rights of Oklahomas with disabilities are not forgotten during this pandemic. Failing to provide appropriate accommodations to people with disabilities is not only against the law, it lowers the quality of care they receive and unnecessarily puts lives at risk,” said ODLC’s Legal Director, Brian Wilkerson.

Currently, Oklahoma hospitals are each developing their own visitor policies that, in many cases, exclude guardians and caregivers of people with disabilities from participation in their care. Individuals with disabilities who need communication or behavioral supports in hospital situations retain their rights to reasonable accommodations under federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), even in a pandemic.

“Some individuals with disabilities do not have the ability to effectively participate in their own medical care. We have clients, right now, who are not receiving appropriate medical care because the hospital they are in has refused to allow a family member or support person to stay with them. These individuals have disabilities that limit their ability to accurately tell their doctors and nurses their medical history, drug allergies or other information critical to receiving the correct care and medications. In situations where care decisions often have to be made in a split second, having a support person present who can provide vital information to medical professionals can truly be a matter of life or death,” said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director, Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc.

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ODLC COVID-19 Hosptial Visitation Policy


 

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. Urges Governor and Oklahoma Supreme Court to Protect Oklahomans from Evictions Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 7, 2020

PRESS CONTACT:
Melissa Sublett, Executive Director
918-830-5559
melissa@okdlc.org

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. Urges Governor and Oklahoma Supreme Court to Protect Oklahomans from Evictions Amid Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) sent a letter Tuesday asking Governor Stitt and the Oklahoma Supreme Court to investigate why eviction hearings are still taking place despite the Supreme Court’s March 27th order halting all but emergency civil proceedings and further imploring that they issue clear guidance forbidding evictions during this pandemic.

It has come to ODLC’s attention that civil eviction and forceable entry and detainer actions are still being filed in and heard by several courts throughout the state. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the Governor’s recent Emergency Declarations and the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s Joint Emergency Orders, this ongoing practice is unacceptable. In the face of numerous shelter in place, safer at home and social distancing orders, the last thing people need to be worrying about right now is whether or not they will be able to remain in their homes and apartments in order to comply with these orders. Allowing eviction proceedings to continue by removing people from their homes during the state of emergency, is not only counter to standing Court orders and best medical advice, but is also cruel and completely ignores one of the most urgent and immediate needs of our state’s residents: the need for adequate shelter. The public health impact that continued evictions may have during a time when Oklahomans are being asked/ordered to stay at home could be substantial.

“Forcing anyone from their homes during this catastrophic health crisis is unacceptable, and it is especially dangerous and traumatic for people with disabilities. We ask the Governor to take immediate steps to ensure no one is evicted during this pandemic,” said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director, Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc.

“A statewide moratorium on evictions is urgently needed to mitigate the hardship confronting many Oklahomas who have already seen or will soon experience an unexpected and significant drop in income. Evicting people during this pandemic unnecessarily puts lives at risk,” said ODLC’s Legal Director, Brian Wilkerson.

Letter to Governor and Office of the Courts-Evictions


 

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. Sends Letter to Governor Opposing Discriminatory Medical Rationing Policies – Expresses Need for Statewide Guidelines Preventing Discriminatory Allocation of Life-Saving Medical Care

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 31, 2020

PRESS CONTACT:

Melissa Sublett, Executive Director
918-830-5559
melissa@okdlc.org

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. Sends Letter to Governor Opposing Discriminatory Medical Rationing Policies – Expresses Need for Statewide Guidelines Preventing Discriminatory Allocation of Life-Saving Medical Care

 

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. (ODLC) urges Governor Stitt to immediately adopt and disseminate mandatory statewide guidelines to ensure that life-saving care is not illegally withheld or removed from disabled residents.   ODLC advocates for statewide guidelines mandating individualized and objective medical standards that deny or remove care only when continued treatment would be futile.

As COVID-19 cases increase, the experience in other countries and predictions of U.S. health officials is that there will not be enough acute care services or equipment, such as ventilators, to meet the demand of patients with the virus who require intensive treatment.  Health care professionals in the United States are already developing protocols for responding to COVID-19, including treatment rationing that will determine who will and will not have access to life-saving treatment.

“Oklahoma’s draft Hospital Crisis Standards of care plan contains many troubling provisions that would deny or remove lifesaving care from individuals with disabilities. We will not sit by as members of our community are left for dead. We stand up for those with preexisting disabilities and those with newly acquired disabilities who are impacted by COVID-19.  We implore Governor Stitt to amend the current plan and provide urgently needed guidance to the health care professionals to ensure Oklahomans with disabilities are not illegally denied lifesaving care based disability,” said Melissa Sublett, Executive Director, Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc.

“Even in the midst of the current crisis, Oklahoma must abide by its obligation to not discriminate against people with disabilities.  Lives of Oklahomans with disabilities are at stake. I urge Governor Stitt to take swift action to protect them,” said ODLC’s Legal Director, Brian Wilkerson.

 

FINAL- ODLC Medical Rationing Response Letter


 

Coronavirus Tips for Staying Healthy

Here are some important tips for staying healthy from our friends at the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities.


 

ODLC Services Continue During COVID-19 Outbreak, Offices Closed to the Public

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 16, 2020

PRESS CONTACT:

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

OTHER HELPFUL NUMBERS:

Applying for our legal services or clients who have open cases: 1-800-880-5575

ODLC Continues Providing Services During COVID-19 Outbreak

Offices Closed to the Public, Temporary Operational Procedures in Place

Tulsa—Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc., the federally designated protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Oklahoma, is committed to the health and safety of our staff, their families, the people we serve and our communities.

Because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and in an effort to prevent community spread, we are taking the following precautions until at least April 16, 2020, or longer if needed. These safeguards are in place not only to protect our staff and clients, but also the communities where we live and especially populations that are more vulnerable to the virus.

Please know we are equally committed during this time to continuing our services to protect and advocate for people with disabilities.

Starting March 16, 2020, and continuing until at least April 16, 2020, or longer if required:

  1. We have asked our staff to work from home. Our Information Technology Team is providing support and resources to allow our staff to continue to do their work and offer services to our clients and the community with as little interruption as possible. You can still contact our main line and individual staff through email addresses or phone numbers previously provided.
  2. Our offices throughout the state will be closed to the public. Locations include our both our Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices.
  3. Our intake phone lines and our office and staff phone lines will remain open during regular business hours.
  4. Our staff will not participate in any in-person meetings at our offices or in other locations. We will use email, telephone, video conferencing and other means to communicate with clients and others.
  5. All staff speaking engagements and exhibiting events are cancelled.
  6. All non-essential staff travel is suspended.

We urge you to continue taking preventive measures recommended by the CDC including proper hand washing, social distancing, and more.

Watch our Facebook, Twitter and our website for special resources for people with disabilities who might be facing unique disability rights situations because of the outbreak.

We will continue to monitor the rapidly evolving situation regarding COVID-19 and provide regular updates to our community on changes in our time frame or specifics of these preventive measures.

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Oklahoma Disability Law Center Inc. is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Oklahoma. Its mission is to protect, promote and expand the rights of people with disabilities. Learn more on our website at http://okdlc.org/ or call us to apply for legal services at 1-800-880-5575.