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Advocacy Director's Report

May 19, 2017
This report is a summary of the work Disability Rights California (DRC) advocacy programs and projects reported October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017; some activities on the press front may be more current. The Advocacy Unit is comprised of the Communications program, Legislation Unit, Peer Self-Advocacy Unit, and Voting Practice Group.




Highlights of DRC Coverage in Mainstream Media

During this period DRC’s investigation into nursing home penalties received coverage from two high profile media outlets – CNN and The Sacramento Bee.
Highlights of our press coverage follow:
-    Reveal News, part of the Center for Investigative Reporting, ran a story about the right to vote for people with disabilities who are under a conservatorship. One of the featured individuals was a DRC client.
-    The East County Magazine reported on the governor signing a voting bill supported by DRC.
-    The Sacramento Bee ran an investigative piece on our report about nursing home penalties. We gave the story exclusively to Marjie Lundstrom, who does a thorough job covering our issues.
-    CNN cited our nursing home citation report in a story about nursing home abuse.
-    New Mobility Magazine mentioned how DRC can help people with disabilities handle affordable housing issues.
-    The Sacramento Bee quoted Advocacy Director Margaret Johnson in a story about the DMV cracking down on misuse of parking placards.
-    OCRA Director Katie Hornberger was quoted in an in-depth feature story by The Orange County Register, about members of a family fighting over whether a young man with developmental disabilities is happily married to his conservator or the victim of abuse.
See here for press stories:
Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Pat McConahay, Katie Hornberger, Margaret Johnson, Pamila Lew, Fred Nisen
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PADD, PAIMI, PAIR, PAVA, Equal Access, Trust Fund


Press Releases

In the October – March period, DRC issued five press releases:
November – Disability Rights California announces hotline for voters with disabilities:
January – Disability Rights California investigation finds state not holding nursing homes fully accountable for resident deaths:
February – Disability rights groups and the State of California reach novel settlement agreement to ensure effective communication for blind and visually impaired Medi-Cal IHSS recipients:
March – Disability Rights California issues statement on ACA repeal proposal:
March – Disability rights advocates call on the California Congressional Delegation to preserve critical parts of the Affordable Care Act:
Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Pat McConahay, Pamila Lew, Fred Nisen, Elizabeth Zirker
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA, PAIMI, Equal Access, Trust Fund


Outreach and Education

Disability Capitol Action Day (DCAD) June 13, 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Theme – “Keep California Healthy”
Communications Director Pat McConahay joined the Outreach and Media Workgroup for Disability Capitol Action Day (DCAD) to help publicize the event – other members of the coalition include: the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers; Californians for Disability Rights, Inc.; California Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments; and California Coalition for Mental Health. Thousands are expected to gather in unity for DCAD. Activities begin at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Sacramento and continue to the south side of the State Capitol for announcements and legislative visits.
For more information, visit:
Public Policy Goals: Goal 2
DRC Staff: Pat McConahay
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund


Website, Social Media and Publications

Website: Our web visits decreased this period to 382,571 total visits to our website (276,846 unique visitors). For this same reporting period last year, we reported 408,168 visits (298,036 unique visitors), a decrease of 6.27% and 7.11% respectively. We believe the decrease in visits is due to changing consumer habits (using social media more than traditional websites); we posted more publications during the same time period last year; we discontinued our enewsletter; and we did not announce new publications on social media for four months of the reporting period. Publication posting varies over the year, this year we will be posting more during the second half of the year. We discontinued the enewsletter and did not announce publications because of staff transitions. Our top five visited pages were About & Contact Us, Services, Publications, Publications SERR, and Staff Directory.

Social Media: DRC’s social media channels continue to do well and continue to grow in popularity. We currently have 6,079 followers on Twitter and 5,188 likes on Facebook. For this same reporting period last year, we reported 5,202 followers on Twitter and 4,104 likes on Facebook, an increase of 16.86% and 26.41% respectively. See and
YouTube: We released 13 new videos on our YouTube channel during this period:

- Restraint & Seclusion Post - Nicole 1; 14 views

- Restraint & Seclusion Post - Nicole 2; 65 views

- Donna Shields; 37 views

- Restraint and seclusion don’t belong in school; 134 views

- Restraint and Seclusion - Keith & Zander; 34 views

- Keeping students safe: Reducing restraint and seclusion in California Schools – Xander’s story; 169 views

- Student describes the pain of being restrained and secluded in school; 141 views

- Restraint and seclusion do more harm than good; 46 views

- Restraint and seclusion lead to death and injury; 1,123 views

- Restraint and seclusion are abusive practices; 98 views

- More children are restrained and secluded than adults; 57 views

- Restraining and secluding children leave lasting scars; 114 views

- Stuart describes the harm of being restrained in school; 66 views

These 13 videos have received a total of 2,098 views. See

Publications: Our top five downloaded publications were all in English: “Special Education Rights and Responsibilities,” “Rights under the Lanterman Act,” “In-Home Supportive Services Nuts & Bolts,” “Confidentiality of Mental Health Records/Information,” and “How to Get the Extra Help You Need To Stay in Your Own Home and Avoid a Long-Term Care Facility.”

Our top five downloaded publications in non-English languages were all in Spanish: “Writing to your legislator,” “SERR - Chapter 4: Information on IEP Process,” “IHSS Fair Hearing and Self-Assessment Packet,” “Special Education Rights and Responsibilities for Children with Attention Deficit Disorders (ADD/ADHD),” and “SERR - Special Education Appendices.”

During this time period, we created 6 new publications: Your Voting Rights Under Conservatorship (SB 589); The Nursing Facility/Acute Hospital Waiver: The Basics; Self-Employment Services from the Department of Rehabilitation; Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) Services for Regional Center Consumers; VAAC’s: How Voters with Disabilities Can Make Elections More Accessible; and Medical Exemption Requests (MERs). We translated 10 publications into our 11 threshold languages: Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Russian, Tagalog, Hmong, Armenian, Arabic, and Farsi. An additional 9 publications are in the in the process of being translated. We will be translating approximately 30 additional publications before the end of fiscal year.
Communications Goal(s): Goal 3, Objectives A, B, C, and D
DRC Staff: Mimi Hoang, Margaret Johnson, Pat McConahay
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): Equal Access, Trust Fund

May 19, 2017
This report is a summary of the work Disability Rights California (DRC) advocacy programs and projects reported October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017; some activities on the legislative front may be more current. The Advocacy Unit is comprised of the Communications program, Legislation Unit, Peer Self-Advocacy Unit, and Voting Practice Group.



NOTE: Legislative activities are current at the time this report was prepared; however, the legislature sometimes moves quickly and things can change overnight. For the most current information about legislative activities reported here, check our home page and legislative website: and


Sponsored Legislation

AB 286 (Gipson) – Medi-Cal: Home Upkeep Allowance
In the last legislative session, DRC sponsored AB 1235 (Gipson). It would have increased the Home Upkeep Allowance so Medi-Cal recipients in nursing homes could keep money to use to return to their home or get a home for their return. That bill was held in the Senate Appropriations Committee last year after only receiving one “no” vote in the Assembly and the Senate Health Committees. Assembly Member Gipson reintroduced the legislation again this year as AB 286.

We amended last year’s bill to tie the allowance to 100% of the federal poverty level, which would raise the amount from $209 per month to $990. This amount may be more likely to pass based on last year’s informal technical assistance from the California Department of Health Care Services. The Home Upkeep Allowance has not changed since the 1970s; this increase could give a significant opportunity for nursing home residents to return to their homes.

Also, are pursuing the Home Upkeep Allowance as a budget item with the hope that the funding will be included in the 2017-18 budget. This bill is on the Assembly Appropriations Committee suspense file.

AB 1335 (Kalra) – Sanctions Against Long Term Care Facilities
In January 2017, DRC released a report on oversight of California’s nursing homes and failures in the state licensing and enforcement process. There were findings in the report about the lack of consistency in applying citation levels and inadequate penalties for facility violations. AB 1335 is a response to the report.
This bill changes the definition used by the Department of Public Health (DPH) to determine Class AA violations (the highest citation level for a death of a resident due to facility negligence) to current negligence law applied by state courts. The bill requires for repeated Class A violations (the citation level for facility conduct that poses an imminent danger, probability of death, or serious harm to residents) where a death occurs that DPH must consider suspending or revoking the license for 12 months.  For a third or subsequent violation, DPH must begin proceedings to suspend or revoke the license. DRC staff met with representatives of the nursing home industry and discussed possible amendments to avoid their opposition. This bill passed the Assembly on Aging Committee and the Assembly Health Committee. The Assembly Appropriations Committee will hear the bill next.

AB 1379 (Thurmond) – Certified Access Specialist Program
In 2008, SB 1608 (Corbett) required at least one building inspector in each local jurisdiction be a certified access specialist (CASp). A CASp is a person who has been tested and certified by the state of California Division of State Architect as an expert in disability access laws. Building inspector CASps play a crucial role in preventing accessibility violations as they provide permitting and plan check services for new construction and renovations. They make sure buildings are accessible so people with disabilities have equal access to them and can fully participate in society. SB 1608 also required each local jurisdiction to have a sufficient number of CASp building inspectors, but no less than one. Current law, which funds the program with a one-dollar fee on business licenses, sunsets on December 31, 2018.

AB 1379 gives additional resources to local jurisdictions to help with CASp training and certification costs by increasing the business license and building permit fees. The bill will also extend the sunset date. The bill passed unanimously out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB 354 (Portantino) – Translation of Individual Education Programs
This bill would require a school district to give a parent a copy of the individualized education plan (IEP), any revisions, and certain documents discussed at an IEP team meeting in the native language of the parent. The parent would have to receive it within 30 days of the meeting, if requested, or within 30 days of a later request. The bill requires translation of the documents by a qualified translator. SB 354 ensures parents, whose native language is not English, have timely access to their child’s IEP and key documents. This allows for meaningful involvement in their child’s education.

At the hearing of the Senate Education Committee, the committee amended the bill to allow for a 45-day timeline for translation of the IEP and underlying documents, except when a consent decree requires a shorter timeline. The amendment requires translation of only the top eight languages in the district within 45 days. Many parents and advocates, including DRC, opposed the amendment, as it would delay translation of critical documents. They shared their concerns with committee members and legislative staff via calls, meetings, letters and testimony. We will continue to work with the author’s office and legislative staff as the bill moves to address these concerns. This bill is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Other Legislation:

AB 74 (Chiu) – Housing. Support: This bill requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to establish the “Housing for a Healthy California Program.” This program would be responsible for distributing grant money to applicants who meet requirements such as identifying a source of funding; agreeing to contribute funding for interim and long-term rental assistance; and agreeing to collect and report data. The awarded funds can be used for long-term rental assistance and interim housing. Chiu states that supportive housing stabilizes individuals and families with disabilities who have significant barriers to housing stability. We support this bill because it will make more affordable housing available. This bill is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 216 (Fletcher) – Vote by Mail Ballots. Support: This bill clarifies that elections officials are required to deliver to each qualified applicant a prepaid identification envelope to return a vote-by-mail ballot. Many people with disabilities have difficulty getting to a post office when the ballot requires additional postage. Often people with disabilities or seniors are on fixed incomes, with few resources to purchase stamps or travel to a post office or other location for stamps. This bill will help ensure people with disabilities can vote and have their voices heard. This bill is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 411 (Bloom) – Witness Testimony: Therapy and Facility Dogs. Support: This bill allows witnesses who need emotional support to have specially trained facility or therapy dogs to provide the support. Existing law allows prosecuting witnesses to have up to two people of their choice for support at the preliminary hearing and at trial, or at a juvenile court proceeding, during their testimony. This bill would authorize these witnesses, as well as certain child witnesses, to have a dog, trained in providing emotional support, while testifying. Many witnesses with disabilities may need such support to testify. The author agreed to add a provision indicating the bill does not apply to witnesses who use service animals for mental health or other disabilities, since we were concerned this bill could cause court personnel to be confused. This bill is in the Senate awaiting assignment to a policy committee.

AB 470 (Arambula) – Medi-Cal: Specialty Mental Health Services. Support: This bill requires the Department of Health Care Services, in collaboration with the California Health and Human Services Agency, to create a performance outcome dashboard for specialty mental health services provided to eligible Medi-Cal beneficiaries. The bill also requires the department to convene a stakeholder advisory committee to inform the creation of the performance outcome. We support this bill because its goals are to develop useful data to direct the delivery of services and eliminate disparities in the delivery of those services. This bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 720 (Eggman) – Inmates: Psychiatric Medication: Informed Consent. Oppose: This bill expands who a county jail can involuntarily medicate to include a very different group: individuals detained in a county jail who face criminal charges but have not been convicted and sentenced. Existing law allows for the involuntary medication of sentenced inmates in county jails with due process protections distinct from protections that apply to the general population. We oppose this bill for several reasons. First, because of the undetermined, and often short time this newly affected group is in custody, this expansion of a county jail’s authority may mean the person will not be afforded due process. Second, the uncertainty of continued access to medication raises continuity of care concerns. Third, the bill affects poor people disproportionality. Fourth, this bill would treat differently situated individuals (such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees) the same, when different procedures are appropriate. We have been working with the author and sponsors on amendments to help with our concerns. The bill is in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

AB 763 (Salas) – Independent Living Centers: Funding. Support: Last year, AB 2565 (Salas) would have made minimum state funding available to all Independent Living Centers (ILCs). This would have meant the three ILCs originally established with only federal funds that receive no state funding (Independent Living Center of Kern County, Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living, and Placer Independent Living Resources), could receive the same minimum state funding of 235,000 as other ILCs. The modest investment of $705,000 for the three unfunded ILCs was ultimately included in the 2016-17 budget. Unfortunately, the funding was not included in Governor’s 2017-18 budget proposal. AB 763, essentially the same bill as AB 2565, would help restore this funding inequity. California’s 28 ILCs are a valuable resource for people with disabilities. They are independent, statewide nonprofits that work with people with all types of disabilities to help them to live, learn, and work independently.
Although ILCs must provide core services, funding has failed to keep pace with the demand for ILC services. The lack of any funding has left substantial numbers of un-served and underserved people with disabilities in the catchment areas of all 28 ILCs. This bill was in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on April 26.

AB 796 (Kalra) – Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment Grant Amounts. Support: This bill reinstates the State Supplementary Payment cost-of-living adjustment beginning January 1, 2018. It requires a maximum aid payment for an individual or a married couple that does not equal or exceed 96% of the 2017 federal level, or 100% of the 2018 federal poverty level to be increased to an amount that equals the federal poverty level. The budget committees in each house are considering a similar approach. This bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 913 (Gray) – Construction Related Accessibility Claims. Oppose: This bill would have expanded current law to create a new “high frequency litigant” standard and impose substantive and procedural burdens on plaintiffs who file 15 or more construction-related accessibility claims in 12 months. We opposed the bill because it violates due process, treats people with disabilities who are enforcing their rights as a “suspect class,” and limits their access to the courts based on the number of cases filed without regard to the merit of the case. It treats people with disabilities differently by creating additional procedural burdens they must overcome to enforce their civil rights. Finally, we opposed it because there have been many changes to the law recently to address concerns raised by the business community, including changes in the last session that have not been given an opportunity to work. This bill failed in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

AB 1569 (Caballero) – Reasonable Accommodations: Animals. Oppose: This bill requires a current or future tenant, who requests a disability-related reasonable accommodation to keep an animal on the property and the disability is not readily apparent, to provide verification of the disability and the disability-related need for the animal. This bill would require the verification come from a third party with specific knowledge about tenant’s medical condition based on an individualized examination and would specify allowed verification documents. This bill would only apply to support animals and not guide dogs or service animals. Under the Federal Fair Housing Act an individual’s right to have a support animal is a reasonable accommodation in housing. DRC opposes this bill for that reason and because the Fair Employment and Housing Council is currently leading a public process to promulgate regulations on this issue. We believe the Council is the proper forum for providing sufficient clarification of federal standards. The bill before is now a two-year bill in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

SB 34 (Bates), SB 786 (Mendoza), AB 285 (Melendez), AB 1095 (Melendez) – Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facilities That Serve Six or Fewer Persons. Oppose: This series of bills are attempts to undermine the exemption to local zoning ordinances for drug and alcohol treatment facilities that serve six or fewer persons in a residential facility under the guise of “retaining the character of the neighborhood.” Each bill proposes a different tact for limiting “sober living” facilities within residential communities, which have been tried and rejected in bills over many years. DRC opposes these bills because the facilities have long been part of the treatment continuum of care. Limiting their siting, narrows treatment options, promotes “Not in My Back Yard” community opposition, stigmatizes small treatment facilities, and violates state and federal fair housing laws. SB 34 was amended in the Senate Health Committee to only contain a directive for a study of the over concentration of residential treatment facilities. It is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. SB 786 is a two-year bill. AB 285 is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. AB 1095 failed in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

SB 218 (Dodd) – Qualified ABLE Program: Tax-Advantaged Savings Account. Support: This bill amends the recently adopted Stephen Beck, Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE) of 2014. The ABLE Act allows certain individuals with disabilities to add to savings without losing their eligibility for Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, and other government benefit programs. The money in an ABLE account pays for a broad range of qualified disability expenses. Senate Bill 218 allows the designated beneficiary of any ABLE account, or their estate, to transfer all amounts remaining in the account upon death to another ABLE account beneficiary. It also states that following the death of a designated beneficiary, the state cannot seek distribution of any amount remaining in the designated beneficiary’s ABLE account for any medical assistance paid for by Medi-Cal. DRC supports this bill because allowing designated beneficiaries to transfer their money will calm recipient fears, encourage program enrollment, as well as increase contribution levels. This bill is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 283 (Wilk) – Developmental Services: Traumatic Brain Injuries. Support: This bill would change the definition of developmental disability. It would change to mean a disability that started before 22 years of age, continues, or is expected to continue, indefinitely, and is a substantial disability for the person. This change would make a difference and expand eligibility for people, who are currently not eligible, so they could receive needed community-based services from the regional centers. This bill is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Public Policy Goal: Goal 1
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Curt Child, Margaret Johnson, Jaclyn Zdanowski
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund, Equal Access

Advocacy Director’s Report
May 19, 2017
This report is a summary of the work Disability Rights California (DRC) advocacy programs and projects reported October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017. The Advocacy Unit is comprised of the Communications program, Legislation Unit, Peer Self-Advocacy Unit, and Voting Practice Group.



Change Can and Does Happen!
Irene participates in the “El Progreso” self-advocacy group at San Pedro Mental Health Clinic. She applied for Section 8 housing a few years ago. She recently moved into an apartment on the third floor and was happy to have her own home. However due to a heart condition, it was nearly impossible to walk up 3 flights of stairs. Mentioning this issue to the group members, they requested information on housing rights and reasonable accommodations. PSA staff reviewed and discussed several DRC publications on this topic, including “Supportive Housing under the Mental Health Services Act,” “Providing Reasonable Modifications to Tenants with Mental Health Disabilities,” and “Tenants with Mental Health Disabilities: The Right to Reasonable Modifications in Housing.”  With this information, Irene wrote a letter to management specifying all the accommodations she needed, and within one month she was moved from the 3rd floor to the 1st floor. The group celebrated her success and saw firsthand that “change can and does happen.”
Peer Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Senobia Pichardo
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Napa State Hospital Residents Advocate for a Self-Advocacy Group on Their Unit
Residential unit T-12 at Napa State Hospital is an intensive substance abuse treatment program. The program uses a level system from Level One to Level Three. Residents on all levels at T-12 are unable to attend the Self-Help Office (SHO), either because they have restricted access off the unit (Level 1 and 2) or require staff escorts (Level 3) to attend the SHO, and staff are unavailable during that time.

T-12 residents advocated to bring self-help to their unit and started a self-advocacy group they called “Our Group.” At monthly meetings, group members decide what advocacy topic they want to learn about and PSA staff brings information and materials to review and discuss. For example, group members request legal forms, such as writs of habeas corpus, 1026.2 petitions, court fee waiver forms and information about law cases they otherwise cannot access.
Because staff are not available to take Level 3 residents to Our Group meetings and the SHO, Level 3 residents asked how they could obtain legal forms and cases to advocate for themselves to get what they want. PSA staff brought this issue to Our Group members, who are on either Level 1 or Level 2, and sought a solution, since Our Group members knew at some point they would be on Level 3.

Discussing several ideas, they decided the best solution was to provide copies of the legal forms in the T-12 dayroom. Because of their advocacy, Level 3 residents can now access forms and cases by leaving a note requesting the information.
Peer Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Debi Davis
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Writing and Sharing her Journal Helps Group Member with Treatment Planning
Samantha regularly attends the Sunshine peer self-advocacy group at Alpine Special Treatment Center in San Diego. Her family was her only support system. Living at the facility, Samantha felt alone until she joined the group.

Learning about treatment planning, she wrote her treatment goals in a journal, which included wanting to learn more effective ways to communicate and learn habits to stay “cool, calm and collected” in stressful situations. But she feared if she shared her journal with her treatment team, she would be judged for her learning disability, which made spelling difficult. She used skills she learned in the Sunshine group to ask for help with her spelling. As a result, she gained confidence to show facility staff her journal. She now brings her journal to weekly treatment team meetings to develop her aftercare plan and believes it will help her once she moves into the community.
Peer Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Linda Naranjo
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Receiving Reasonable Accommodations in Higher Education
By attending the peer self-advocacy group in Rialto, a community college sophomore, James, discovered he had the right to disability services in higher education. Learning about reasonable accommodations and how to request them, James received help, such as longer test times and the use of pre-approved notes during exams, to help with his panic disorder so he could succeed in school.

The services were very helpful for James, but he was still having difficulty completing his AA degree in Sociology. He did not pass a research methods class after taking the class twice, failing both times. James was told he was allowed to take a course three times. However, the school had a policy of not providing financial aid for a third attempt.
James worried he wouldn’t obtain his AA degree. He spoke with PSA staff, who provided him with more information on students’ rights in higher education, including how to file complaints. With the self-advocacy skills and new information provided by PSA staff, James decided to ask the college to change the financial aid policy as a reasonable accommodation for his disability.

After researching the school’s policies, making and documenting multiple phone calls with financial aid and the disability services center, he discovered the policy was inaccurate. The school was supposed to allow a student to take a course three times and receive financial aid for all three attempts.
James’ self-advocacy not only helped him, but benefits other students who will now have accurate information. James is currently taking research methods for a third time and is excited to move forward in his education.
Peer Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Babs Acosta
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Using Self-Advocacy Skills to Live Independently in the Community
Dahlia, featured in a prior report and who attended the peer self-advocacy group at Crestwood San Diego, was recently discharged and moved into a board and care facility. Having learned about several self-advocacy topics, including discharge planning, Section 8 housing, conservatorship, and how to talk to doctors, she used her knowledge and self-advocacy skills to meet her needs living outside the facility.

Although she didn’t have a car, her new home was near a bus stop.  She wanted a monthly bus pass to visit clubhouses, go to the grocery store, and get around town. She feared getting lost, but wanted to learn how to use public transportation. She found a person on her case management team to help her become familiar with the transportation system and get around without a car. In addition, she asked her doctor to fill out a reduced fare bus application so she could afford a pass.

Participating in the self-advocacy group at Crestwood helped her learn community living skills. As a result she wanted to start a peer self-advocacy group at the board and care facility. To interest other residents in having a group, she spread the word about the value and benefits of peer self-advocacy. She invited PSA staff to meet the house manager to help her start a peer self-advocacy group. Unfortunately the facility did not want to have a group at this time. PSA will pursue other options for holding a group at the board and care, if the residents want one.
Peer Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Linda Naranjo
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Starting Peer-Self-Advocacy Programs on Campus
At the annual Alternatives 2017 Conference, PSA staff presented a workshop, “Students Unite: Helping Students Build Peer Self-Advocacy Programs on Campus,” to give participants tools and strategies for starting a peer-led student self-advocacy group at school. Based on what we learned from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Student Self-Advocacy pilot project (made possible by a grant from the UCLA Disability Studies Philanthropy class), we discussed ways to interest student organizations in collaborating on similar projects. 

Emphasizing the importance of learning their rights as a key to self-advocacy, the workshop reviewed laws that protect students with disabilities against discrimination and require reasonable accommodations to help them maintain their mental health while succeeding academically. Based on Train-the-Trainer workshops we provided to UCLA students, we discussed best practices for training students to be group facilitators and strategies for getting students interested in attending the self-advocacy group.
After the workshop, several participants asked for materials on students’ higher education rights, the reasonable accommodation process and a Train-the-Trainers guide to start student self-advocacy groups. One of the attendees from a Santa Cruz community college requested we present the workshop in her local area. As a result, PSA staff will present at the California Mental Health Advocates for Children and Youth (CMHACY) May 2017 conference in Monterey.
Peer Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective B (Workshops, Outreaches and Materials Development)
DRC Staff: Babs Acosta, Robyn Gantsweg
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Advocacy Director’s Report
May 19, 2017


Voting Practice Group

This report is a summary of the work Disability Rights California (DRC) advocacy programs and projects reported October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017. The Advocacy Unit is comprised of the Communications program, Legislation Unit, Peer Self-Advocacy Unit, and Voting Practice Group.

DRC Creates Toolkit Outlining Best Practices for VAAC Formation
We recently completed a toolkit geared towards county elections officials about forming a Voting Accessibility Advisory Committee (VAAC). DRC has long encouraged counties to form an optional VAAC, a committee that is a partnership between the disability community and the county elections official. The VAAC raises and advises the elections officials on accessibility issues.

The Voter’s Choice Act, SB 450 (Allen 2016), which allows certain counties to use a “vote center model” in 2018, requires those counties to form a VAAC. The toolkit covers the practical issues faced by election officials forming a VAAC and outlines best practices. The toolkit provides advice on recruiting members and ways to make meetings accessible. The toolkit suggests potential topics for meetings and when to schedule the quarterly meetings. The toolkit also covers unique issues faced by counties using a vote center model under the Voter’s Choice Act.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Margaret Johnson, Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Represents Mary at Secretary of State (SOS) Hearing; SOS Recommends County Review Training Materials Regarding Accessible Voting System
We assisted Mary with filing Help America Vote Act (HAVA) complaints due to accessibility issues on Election Day. Mary requested an in-person hearing. The accessible voting system at Mary’s polling place malfunctioned when she attempted to vote and the poll workers were unable to get the device to work after trying for an hour. We represented Mary at the hearing and hoped to get a determination from the Secretary of State (SOS) that the systemic inability of poll workers in this county to fix a malfunctioning accessible voting system is a violation of the HAVA requirement to provide an accessible voting system at every polling place. Unfortunately, the SOS did not find there was a HAVA violation and is not requiring the county to improve their processes. On the other hand, the SOS did agree that the placement of the accessible voting system needs better privacy protections and made recommendations that the county review its training material regarding whether to include more detailed descriptions of where to place it, and how to troubleshoot problems with the accessible voting system. The SOS recommended that the county develop a video for poll workers about the accessible voting system
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Sends Letter to DMV: Advocates for Accessible Kiosks to Ensure Voter Registration is Accessible
The California Motor Voter Law, AB 1461 (Gonzalez 2015) requires the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make changes to increase voter registration. People applying for or renewing driver’s licenses and state identification cards or changing their address will have their voter registration information collected by the DMV and electronically transferred to the SOS. They will be registered to vote after their eligibility to vote has been confirmed by the SOS. AB 1461 is supposed to be implemented by 2018.

In a report to the Legislature in December 2016, the DMV indicated a strong preference to use kiosks and tablets for in-person customer transactions and move away from a paper-based system. The new system will integrate the drivers’ license/identification card application with the voter registration application. The DMV is required by state and federal law to offer voter registration opportunities to all customers. DRC wants to ensure that the future kiosk/tablet interface is accessible for customers with disabilities. The system the DMV currently uses for in-person transactions is not accessible.

DRC researched accessible kiosks, contacted kiosk manufacturers and attended a presentation from a digital accessibility consulting company that helped airlines make their kiosks accessible. Initially, DRC provided informal advice via email to the DMV with best practices for making kiosks/tablets accessible. DRC subsequently sent the Director of the DMV a letter detailing the need for accessibility. The letter discusses the features needed to make kiosks/tablets accessible. The letter advises the DMV to incorporate accessibility from the beginning of the process and strongly encourages the DMV to hire a digital accessibility consulting company.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Margaret Johnson, Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): RAD-PAVA

DRC Works to Ensure Elections Implemented under the Voter’s Choice Act are Accessible to Voters with Disabilities
The Voter’s Choice Act (VCA), SB 450 (Allen 2016) gives 14 counties the option of holding elections using a vote center model in 2018. In an election administered under the VCA, all voters would receive a ballot in the mail and instead of one polling place for every 1,000 registered voters, there would be one vote center for every 10,000 registered voters on Election Day and for the three days before. There will be one vote center for every 50,000 registered voters beginning ten days before the elections. Unlike traditional polling places, a voter will be able to vote at any vote center in the county.

The VCA includes numerous protections for voters with disabilities and we are working to ensure counties adopt best practices. We are participating in stakeholder groups organized by the Secretary of State and the Future of California Elections.

We have had in person and phone meetings with election officials from Orange, Inyo, Calaveras, Nevada, Napa and San Mateo counties to discuss VCA adoption. Orange County is the largest of the 14 counties eligible to opt into VCA. Orange County has conducted more extensive planning than other counties. We have attended multiple meetings and consistently engage the elections staff about adopting best practices. We have gotten Orange County to agree to hold a VAAC meeting early in 2017, earlier than required by the bill, and conduct the meetings independent of other stakeholder groups.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Margaret Johnson, Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Provided Feedback on Accessible Voting Systems to Orange County
DRC attended a vendor demonstration event at the Orange County Registrar of Voters office on March 29, 2017. The event included demonstrations of potential voting systems from vendors throughout the country. We tested many of the new systems on display and provided feedback to the county on the different accessibility features each system offered.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC and Los Angeles County Elections Staff Give a Collaborative Voting Presentation to the Los Angeles Commission on Disabilities
Los Angeles County Elections staff collaborated with DRC and the Los Angeles VAAC on a presentation to the Los Angeles County Commission on Disability. The Commission contacted DRC because they were interested in the work of the county’s VAAC. Additionally, they wanted information on how to increase involvement and engagement for voters with disabilities within Los Angeles County.

The presentation provided the commissioners with information on the history of the VAAC. VAAC projects that members worked on over the past year were discussed. These included participation in the production of the county’s public service announcement for voters with disabilities, numerous voting rights trainings for disability organizations, and providing ongoing feedback to the county on their proposed new voting system.

They discussed opportunities for voters with disabilities to get involved with the elections process. They provided the commissioners information on the steps they can take if they encounter a problem while voting. The commissioners asked questions during the presentation, which allowed for feedback to the county elections staff.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Staff Participates in a Panel about Los Angeles County’s New Voting System at the CSUN Conference
In preparation for the changes in the voting system taking place in Los Angeles County, we participated in a panel discussion at California State University, Northridge (CSUN)’s Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.

The panel discussion focused on the developments taking place in Los Angeles County related to its new voting system. In addition to DRC, the panel included the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder and a private data systems company. The discussion covered the history of the design process for the new voting system. DRC described the evolution of the system and our role in the feedback process, including providing input to the design team.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Organizes and Participates on a Panel on New State Laws and How Voters with Disabilities Can Participate
The fifth “Future of California Elections” conference took place in Los Angeles. The conference was organized by the “Future of California Elections” (FOCE) statewide workgroup, of which DRC is a member. Over two hundred people attended including California legislators, county election officials, policymakers, civil rights organizations, and election reform organizations. The conference’s purpose was to discuss policymaker and public opportunities to improve California elections and to spotlight the 2016 collaborative accomplishments of FOCE.

DRC organized and participated on the panel “Accessible Voting and How Voters with Disabilities Can Assist with Election Planning.” DRC gave an overview of most frequent accessibility issues, typically related to the private and independent vote. We also discussed laws passed recently that affect voters with disabilities: the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) SB 450 (Allen 2016) and AB 2252 (Gonzalez 2016) regarding remote accessible vote-by-mail ballots. On the panel, two community-based advocates discussed how to help county elections officials get input to make elections accessible. The county elections official from Santa Cruz County talked about her experience with accessible voting and her own VAAC.

The presentation highlighted new opportunities for voters with disabilities to be involved with the county elections process during the coming years.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Runs its most Active Election Day Hotline for the November 8, 2016 Election
On Election Day, DRC received 54 requests for assistance with voting issues. A majority of the calls were about emergency ballots, vote by mail, and curbside voting with twelve, eleven, and nine calls respectively. Calls related to determining polling location, polling location accessibility, and issues specific to the accessible voting system accounted for the remaining calls. DRC received four calls regarding polling location, five calls regarding accessibility, and five calls about accessible voting systems.

We received thirteen calls from voters who needed an emergency ballot because they were either hospitalized or unable to leave their home because of an illness or injury, or exacerbation of their disability. We provided people with information about how to get emergency ballots and, in some situations, assisted in contacting the county election official to get their emergency ballot. Only one county refused to bring a voter a ballot who could not get to the polling place and was not a vote by mail voter. We subsequently helped the person file a complaint.

For the month prior to Election Day, we received an additional 56 requests for assistance, on issues relating to vote-by-mail ballots, emergency ballots and accessibility. The main reason for the relatively high number of calls is that we placed our hotline number on the sample ballots in 40 of California’s 58 counties.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective B
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Assists Five Voters in Filing Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Complaints
DRC helped five voters file complaints with the Secretary of State under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Most of the issues were regarding an accessible voting system that did not work or the poll workers not knowing how to use or troubleshoot it. Another HAVA complaint was against a county that denied a voter’s request to have a ballot delivered to their home because they were not able to leave. The county denied the request at 7:30 PM, not allowing the voter to make last ditch efforts to get to their polling place or find somebody to pick up an emergency ballot.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

DRC Advocates to Make Berkeley All-Mail Special Election Accessible to Voters Who Cannot Read and Mark Paper Ballots
A former Berkeley City Councilmember was elected mayor. As a result, there was a special election for a City Councilmember to replace him. The election was to be an all-mail election. We received a call from a blind voter in the district concerned she could not vote privately and independently.

Paper ballots are not accessible to voters who have certain disabilities. Instead, an accessible voting system is typically available at polling places so voters with disabilities can vote privately and independently using a touchscreen or an audio component. Without this assistance, a voter who cannot read or mark a ballot would need to tell someone how to mark the ballot, waiving the right to a private and independent vote.

DRC contacted the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office. We asked that an accessible voting system be available and that they let voters know it is available. The registrar put an accessible voting system at the registrar’s office and at Berkeley City Hall. They advertised it prominently in the Voter Information Guide and on its website (in print and a video). At the last VAAC, the Registrar’s office said they will have the same protocol for future special elections.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA