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Advocacy Director's Report

November 8, 2016
This report is a summary of the work Disability Rights California (DRC) advocacy programs and projects reported April 1, 2016, through September 30, 2016; some activities on the legislative and press front may be more current.

 

COMMUNICATIONS

 

Highlights of DRC Coverage in Mainstream Media

During this period primary news coverage focused on DRC’s proactive work on pupils with disabilities, affordable housing and jail advocacy.
Highlights of our press coverage follow:
April
-    Oakland North quoted Suge Lee in a story about Oakland schools make LGBTQ representation a priority in history curriculum: https://oaklandnorth.net/2016/04/04/oakland-schools-make-lgbtq-representation-a-priority-in-history-curriculums/.
May
-    KRON TV story about DRC wanting a ban on restraining students amid alleged abuse at Tobinworld: http://kron4.com/2016/05/27/in-depth-advocates-want-change-in-state-law-to-ban-students-from-being-restrained-amid-alleged-abuse-at-antioch-special-needs-school-tobinworld/.
-    Our Sonoma County Jail report was covered by the following outlets: KSRO radio, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, KQED radio and KQED News: http://www.ksro.com/mental-health-in-question-at-the-sonoma-county-jail/; http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/5627391-181/sonoma-county-jail-officials-acknowledge?artslide=0; http://ww2.kqed.org/forum/2016/05/16/disability-rights-advocates-expose-poor-conditions-neglect-at-sonoma-county-jail/; https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/05/16/sonoma-county-accused-of-involuntarily-medicating-inmates.
June
-    The Chronicle of Social Change ran a story about the Attorney General launching an investigation into San Diego juvenile halls after DRC raised concerns in a report: https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/child-welfare-2/calif-bureau-childrens-justice-launches-five-investigations/19201.
-    Coverage of our voter hotline by KHTS AM radio: http://www.hometownstation.com/santa-clarita-news/politics/elections-2/primary-election-hotline-available-for-disabled-voters-171761.
-    EdSource wrote a piece about discipline in private special education schools being investigated by the Attorney General following DRC legal action: https://edsource.org/2016/discipline-in-private-special-education-schools-under-investigation-by-california-attorney-general/565577.
-    Sacramento Bee quoted DRC in a story about the Department of Motor Vehicles audit of placard use in California. Pat McConahay was quoted: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/back-seat-driver/article81966397.html.
July
-    The Desert Sun ran a story about Coachella Valley hotels complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and quoted Evelyn Abouhassan: http://www.desertsun.com/story/money/business/tourism/2016/07/12/why-arizona-woman-sued-more-than-30-hotels-where-she-hadnt-stayed/86875122/.
-    EdSource had a piece about more oversight of the Oakland Unified School District’s special education schools. The publication also wrote about Tobinworld closing its Antioch school for students with disabilities: https://edsource.org/2016/tobinworld-closing-its-antioch-school-for-special-education-students/566741.
-    Sacramento Bee covered the stigmatizing of students with disabilities being forced to pick up trash as part of their Individualized Educational Plan at schools in the Elk Grove District. Taymour Ravandi was quoted: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article87652802.html.
August
-    Four news outlets covered DRC’s settlement with the City of Los Angeles over affordable housing for people with disabilities – Sacramento Bee, ABC News, AP Radio News and the Los Angeles Daily News: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/la-settles-disabled-housing-lawsuit-200-million-41754065; http://bigstory.ap.org/article/cbec85e8cec447beaa8425fd3da5d927/la-settles-disabled-housing-lawsuit-200-million; http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20160830/la-agrees-to-record-200-million-settlement-in-disabled-housing-lawsuit.
-    The settlement DRC reached with the Oakland Unified School District over restraint and seclusion of a boy with autism was covered by KTVU Fox2, the San Jose Mercury News, NBC Bay Area TV and EdSource. Suge Lee and our client were quoted: http://www.ktvu.com/news/185053492-story; http://www.mercurynews.com/2016/08/02/autistic-oakland-boy-restrained-92-times-in-11-months-by-concord-school/; http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/Oakland-Unified-Discriminated-Against-Boy-With-Autism-Feds-389025552.html; https://edsource.org/2016/oversight-of-private-special-education-schools-begins-at-oakland-unified/568041?utm_source=Aug.+19+digest+-+John&utm_campaign=Daily+email&utm_medium=email.
-    San Diego Voice & Viewpoint wrote a story about our bill, AB 488, when it passed out of the Senate: http://sdvoice.info/gonzalez-bill-to-protect-workers-with-disabilities-from-discrimination-passes-senate/.
September
-    Three media outlets covered DRC’s settlement with the City of Los Angeles requiring the city to spend $200 million on affordable housing for people with disabilities. The Los Angeles Times, wrote a supportive opinion piece; Los Angeles Daily News wrote a follow-up story and Eastern Group Publications News covered the settlement: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-affordable-disabled-housing-20160901-snap-story.html; http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20160912/las-housing-crunch-leaves-disabled-with-few-options; http://egpnews.com/2016/09/l-a-to-spend-200m-on-housing-for-disabled/.
-    California Memorial Project – the Napa Valley Register and Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported on our ceremonies at the Sonoma Developmental Center and Napa State Hospital, Yvonne McGough was quoted: http://napavalleyregister.com/news/local/napa-state-hospital-remembers-deceased-patients/article_a1f371d1-2869-5f8b-8dfb-9e34727e7b08.html; http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6106108-181/forgotten-mendocino-mental-hospital-patients?artslide=0.
-    La Opinion, the largest Hispanic newspaper in the country, covered DRC’s lawsuit against West Los Angeles Community College and the Los Angeles Community College District for not providing accessible transportation on the college campus. Our client was featured: http://www.laopinion.com/2016/09/24/discapacitados-demandan-al-colegio-comunitario-west-los-angeles/.
-    San Diego LGBT Weekly covered the Governor’s signing of our sponsored bill, AB 488, which protects workers with disabilities from discrimination on the job: http://lgbtweekly.com/2016/09/27/bill-to-protect-workers-with-disabilities-from-discrimination-signed-by-governor/.
-    Two legal publications, Northern California Record and the California Bar Journal, reported on Executive Director Catherine Blakemore’s award by the California Bar Association: http://norcalrecord.com/stories/511009447-longtime-disability-rights-lawyer-honored-with-loren-miller-service-award; http://calbarjournal.com/September2016/TopHeadlines/TH1.aspx.


See here for press stories: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/press.htm


Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Catherine Blakemore, Suge Lee, Pat McConahay, Yvonne McGough, Fred Nisen, Taymour Ravandi
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PADD, PAIMI, PAIR, PAVA, EA, Trust Fund


 

Press Releases

In the April – September period, DRC issued nine press releases:
April – none
May – Disability Rights California urges state to accelerate community services after Sonoma Developmental Center loses funding: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160527SonomaDevCenterLosesFederalFunding.htm
Disability Rights California Report finds the Sonoma County Jail neglects prisoners with disabilities: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160516SonomaCountyJail.htm
June – Disability rights California honors Cooley LLP for pro bono partnership: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160613DRCHonorsCooleyLLP.htm
Disability Rights California honors Assembly Member Tony Thurmond: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160613DRCHonorsThurmond.htm
Disability Rights California announces hotline for voters with disabilities: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160601VotingHotline.htm
July – none
August – Los Angeles endorses landmark accessible housing settlement: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160830LosAngelesEndorsesLandmarkAccessibleHousingSettlement.htm
US Department of Education finds school restraint and seclusion is discriminatory: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160802DepEdFindsSchoolRestraint.htm
September – Governor Brown signs bill sponsored by Disability Rights California to protect workers with disabilities from discrimination: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160928AB488GovernorBrownSignsBillSponsoredByDisabilityRightsCalifornia.htm
Disability Rights California files federal lawsuit against West Los Angles College and Los Angeles Community College:
http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160920DRCFilesFederalLawsuitAgainstWestLACollegeAndLACommunityCollegeDistrict.html


Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Rebecca Cervenak, Autumn Elliott, Anne Hadreas, Suge Lee, Pat McConahay, Fred Nisen
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PADD, PAIMI, PAIR, PAVA, EA, Trust Fund

 

Website, Social Media and Publications

Website: Our web visits stayed fairly consistent this period at 403,563 total visits to our website (294,324 unique visitors). For this same reporting period last year, we reported 400,537 visits (291,231 unique visitors), an increase of 10.08% and 10.11% respectively. Our top five visited pages were: About Us, Publications, Connect with Us, Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy homepage, and Jobs at DRC.
Social Media: DRC’s social media channels continue to do well and continue to grow in popularity. We currently have 5,680 followers on Twitter and 4,615 likes on Facebook. For this same reporting period last year, we reported 4,632 followers on Twitter and 3,460 likes on Facebook, an increase of 12.26% and 13.34% respectively. See https://twitter.com/DisabilityCA and https://www.facebook.com/DisabilityRightsCalifornia.
YouTube: We released 14 new videos on our YouTube channel during this time period: Twelve involved parents and one child talking about the negative effects of restraint and seclusion. These videos were part of the fundraising campaign. In addition, we completed two videos approved by the Board of Directors. The first was “Your Vote Matters!” It described voting rights for people with disabilities. The second was “A Home of My Own: moving from an institution to the community.” It was the story of client Donna Shields’ successful move from Sonoma Developmental Center to her own apartment. These videos received 2,682 views. See https://www.youtube.com/user/DisabilityRightsCA?feature=watch.
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 “Reasonable Accommodations Under Section 8.”
Our top five most downloaded non-English publications for this period were all in Spanish: “Special Education Rights and Responsibilities,” “Rights Under the Lanterman Act,” “In-Home Supportive Services Protective Supervision,” “Limited Conservatorships & Alternatives,” and “IHSS Fair Hearing and Self-Assessment Packet.”
We continued work on a language access plan for publications. We have already gathered feedback from staff based on that feedback we will prioritize translation of publications through the end of this fiscal year and create an ongoing list of priority languages for publication translations.
Our web redesign project continued to move forward as analyzed web content and created mockup solutions. We expect to have a contract in place by mid-January for a web designer.


Communications Goal(s): Goal 3, Objectives A, B, C, and D
DRC Staff: Adam Borovkoff, Mimi Hoang, Margaret Johnson, Pat McConahay
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): Equal Access, Trust Fund


LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES

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: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/ and http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/legislature/index.htm

 

Sponsored Legislation

AB 488 (Gonzalez): Signed by the Governor. State law did not provide protections under the Fair Employment and Housing Act to individuals employed under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop or rehabilitation facility. This left people with disabilities employed in these settings no recourse for discrimination or harassment by their employer.  AB 488 extends these protections. The bill gives an employer an affirmative defense to the action if they can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, both of the following: 1) the activity was permitted by statute or regulation; and 2) activity was necessary to serve employees with disabilities under a special license pursuant to the Labor Code.
AB 1235 (Gipson): Modernized California’s Home Upkeep Allowance, a Medi-Cal provision allowing certain people in nursing homes to keep their home so when they leave the facility they have a home to return to and introduced a way for people who have already lost their homes to set aside funds for new home. While the bill did not make it through the legislative process, staff negotiated a compromise solution on the Home Upkeep Allowance. The goal is to have the negotiated deal enacted through the budget process which starts January 2017.
AB 1518: Nursing Facility/Acute Hospital (NF/AH) Waiver Modernization Act of 2015: This bill would have made the Medi-Cal waiver a useful tool so Californians can receive long term services and supports in their own homes and avoid unwanted, unnecessary, and expensive institutional care. While the bill was a two-year bill that did not make it through the legislative process, we were involved in the state’s stakeholder process about the waiver renewal terms, and wrote and distributed analyses of the state’s proposed renewal. The renewal incorporates some of AB 1518’s most important concepts, including an aggregate rather than individual cost neutrality and a substantial increase in waiver slots.
AB 2873 (Thurmond): Died on the Senate floor because we lacked votes to move it. The bill increased funding and training so more building officials could become Certified Access Specialists (CASp). Despite negotiations, representatives from the building industry and the California Association of Building Officials (CALBO) remained concerned about training and testing on subsidized housing accessibility claiming applicants already receive training. CALBO wanted to grandfather in existing employees and objected to requiring CASp certification of all inspectors who do accessibility permitting and plan check services. The Department of State Architect and the Department of Finance opposed because of costs. Because of our advocacy, we developed relationships with the building industry and CALBO and developed a foundation to address these issues in the future.
Outcome of Other 2016 Bill Ideas:
In-Home Supportive Services Share of Cost Buy-out Program: Until 2009, there was a share of cost buy-out, which meant the state was paying the share of cost for some In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) recipients who had income above the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) level, allowing them to pay a share of cost which left them income equal to the SSI standard (currently $889 for an individual). The repeal of the IHSS share of cost in 2009 meant payment of a greater share of cost, leaving them with only $600– the Medically Needy Income Level (MNIL). This left them – who should be at less risk for institutionalization – at more risk and penalized for having income for which they may have worked and should be able to keep. It impedes the chances for people to leave institutions if they have only $600 a month to live on. We were unable to fix this situation in 2015-2016 but the California Association of Public Authorities will sponsor a bill in the next session to fix it.

 

Other Legislation:

Abuse and Neglect
AB 2231 (Calderon)–Support: Increases the amount of civil penalties the Department of Social Services (DSS) imposes for a licensing violation and would impose civil penalties for repeat violations at residential care facilities for the elderly, day care centers, and family day care homes they license. Authorizes DSS to reduce the civil penalty if it determines that the cited repeat violation is not substantially similar to the original violation. The bill also requires the department to make a good faith effort to work with the licensee to determine the cause of the deficiency and ways to prevent any repeat violations. Increasing the penalties for violations and repeat violations will help ensure the health and safety of people who reside in DSS licensed facilities. The bill was signed into law.


Access Legislation
AB 2093 (Steinorth) and SB 1406 (Mendoza)–Neutral: Both bills were signed by the Governor. AB 2093 establishes a presumption that repairs necessary to correct access violations are the responsibility of the property’s owner unless otherwise agreed to by the parties. The bill grants a tenant the opportunity to review any CASp report prior to execution of a lease. SB 1406 requires an attorney who sends a pre-litigation letter or complaint about an access violation to an education entity, such as a community college, to submit information about the complaint with a copy of the complaint and demand letter to the California Commission on Disability Access and to notify it of judgment, settlement, or dismissal of the complaint. The bill imposes discipline on an attorney who fails to comply. We were neutral on AB 2093 because it did not go far enough to protect tenants and on SB 1406 because colleges are not in the same position as small businesses, since they are public entities with resources and sophisticated knowledge about access requirements. 


Benefits
AB 1584 (Brown) – Support: Vetoed by the Governor. It would have increased Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) grants annually for the next 4 years, and restores the annual “Cost-Of-Living Adjustment.”
AB 2394 (Garcia)–Support: The Governor signed this legislation. Nonmedical transportation means transportation not done by ambulance or other medical vehicle. AB 2394 clarifies that accessible nonmedical transportation is a covered Medi-Cal benefit and includes roundtrip transportation to covered Medi-Cal services. This Medi-Cal benefit is critical for rural residents, where distances to specialty care are significant, public transport is scarce, and transportation options for low-income beneficiaries are limited.


Developmental Disabilities
AB 2809 (Rodriguez) – Support if Amended: The measure died. The bill required regional centers to provide certain information about exemptions and exceptions to consumers and families about suspended or limited services in threshold languages. We had concerns about limiting it to threshold languages given the existing state law obligation, which requires regional centers to provide alternative communication services to underserved communities. We proposed amendments to affirm the regional centers’ obligation to provide alternative communication services to consumers and families, but the amendments were not adopted.


Disability Rights
AB 2565 (Salas)–Support: The bill died in Senate Appropriations. It would have increased state funding for independent living centers, non-profits that provide services and advocate for people with disabilities.


Mental Health
AB 1300 (Ridley-Thomas) – Oppose unless amended: The bill died as a result of stakeholder input. It bill would have authorized a non-designated emergency physician, upon probable cause, to take a person who is a danger to self or others or gravely disabled, into custody for a period of up to 72 hours for the purpose of obtaining evaluation and treatment from a designated person. It would have authorized the communication of patient information between peace officers and qualified professionals during an emergency. A group of stakeholders including DRC worked with the sponsors and author on suggested amendments to ensure patients were not dumped, that emergency room doctors received necessary training to care for people with mental health disabilities in crisis, and personal information sharing and liability immunities were not overly broad.


Youth
SB 568 (Hernandez)–Support: The bill was signed by the Governor. It reformed California Children’s Services (CCS) program by folding it into California’s Medi-Cal Managed Care and authorized, no sooner than July 1, 2017, the establishment a Whole Child Model program. Protections in the bill include that before an application can be approved, managed care plans must meet readiness standards. Such standards include demonstrating the availability of an appropriate provider network and complying with all CCS program guidelines. The bill ensures children who are enrolled with a managed care contractor retain rights to CCS program appeals and fair hearings of denials of medical eligibility or of service authorizations.
AB 1849 (Gipson)–Support: This bill was enacted by the Governor. It ensures that eligible former foster youth, who are often youth with disabilities, or non-minor dependents are automatically enrolled in Medi-Cal when they become 18. The Affordable Care Act expanded coverage for former foster youth to the age of 26. Current law did not require social workers to explain information about automatic Medi-Cal eligibility.
AB 2097 (Melendez)–Support: The bill was signed by the Governor. It repealed current law that allows the Superintendent of Public Instruction to collect and use Social Security numbers of students with disabilities to assist the state in evaluating the effectiveness of special education programs. The bill instead requires the Superintendent to assign student identification numbers to students with disabilities to evaluate special education programs and related services. It prohibits school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools from collecting Social Security numbers or the last 4 digits of Social Security numbers unless otherwise required to do so by state or federal law. The legislation protects the identity of students and make it easier to assess special education programs.
SB 1143 (Leno) – Support if Amended: This bill was signed by the Governor. It limits the use of room confinement at state and county juvenile correctional facilities, and creates statewide standards about how isolation can be used in these facilities. The bill limits room confinement to four hours and allows it only when less harmful options have been exhausted and documented. It creates rules to ensure room confinement is not used for punishment, coercion, convenience, or retaliation. It was amended to allow staff very broad discretion to confine a juvenile when they believe there is a threat to safety or security of the ward or others. We offered amendments to address our concerns with the amendments, however the author declined to take them.


Voting
SB 450 (Allen) – Neutral: Signed by the Governor, this bill allows a county to hold any election as an all-mailed ballot election if certain conditions are met. As a result of our involvement the bill was amended to include a number of accessibility provisions, including accessible vote centers and drop-off locations; proximity to public transportation; more favorable ratios for vote centers; specific outreach to people with disabilities; and for people with disabilities who are blind, have manual dexterity disabilities or other disabilities making a paper ballot inaccessible, a way to read and mark the ballot.
Public Policy Goal: Goal 1
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Catherine Blakemore, Rebecca Cervenak, Deborah Doctor, Marilyn Holle, Margaret Jakobson, Andrew Mudryk, Fred Nisen
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund, Equal Access


 

PEER SELF-ADVOCACY

Peer Self Advocacy Group Successes

Finding a Better Home
Many members in the peer self-advocacy group, “Clubhouse Awakening,” live in room-and-board or board-and-care residential facilities. “Josie” struggled with her room-and-board, because the operators require residents to leave during the day.
While attending the group, Josie learned about her rights in residential facilities and found that room-and-boards – like board-and-cares – had to follow specific laws. Based on landlord-tenant rights, she found she had a right to stay at her home any time of the day. Josie realized her rights were being violated at her current living situation and decided to move.
With self-advocacy skills learned in the group, she wrote a 30-day notice to leave the facility and asked the operator to sign it. Although he refused, Josie kept a copy of the letter for documentation, having learned from the group that documentation was important. PSA staff showed her how to find board-and-cares through the Community Care Licensing website and Josie found a place she liked.
Although moving was difficult, it was worth it. After her move, Josie has more options and can stay home or hang out with her friends. As a result of applying the knowledge and self-advocacy skills she learned in group, Josie is very happy at her new home. She has made new friends and invited them to go to the group with her.


Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Babs Acosta
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Learning Job-Seeking Skills


When a new peer self-advocacy group formed at Wally’s House, group members initially had difficulty identifying goals and what they wanted to learn about. With PSA staff encouragement, the group chose to learn assertiveness skills. They discussed different communication styles and the importance of being assertive and speaking up. Next they decided to learn strategies for finding and obtaining employment. Group members shared personal experiences looking for work and requested information on creating resumes.
PSA staff pointed them to websites that provide job announcements and assistance with drafting resumes and cover letters. Since some group members were not comfortable using computers or the internet, PSA staff taught them other ways to obtain help, such as one-on-one assistance through public libraries and local branches of the Employment Development Department.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Leo Alfaro
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

The Long Road Home
“D’Arcy” lives at Crestwood. She attended the peer self-advocacy group there and learned about Section 8 housing, because she wanted her own room, needed privacy and missed her family. PSA staff used a Smartboard to teach group members how to use the Housing Commission website to sign up for the Section 8 waitlist. She showed them how to update their contact information and check their status on the waitlist.
D’Arcy said she “wouldn’t have signed up for Section 8 on her own” because she had “no computer skills.” With encouragement and help from PSA staff, D’Arcy learned how to use the computer and applied for the Section 8 waitlist online.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Linda Naranjo
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s):  PAIMI

Discharge Planning Successes
PSA staff taught Auto Abogacia group members, soon to be released from the hospital, about discharge planning. One of the group members, “Jorge,” worked with his support team to find a place to live when discharged. He had a plan for handling his finances and taking care of himself and would stay with a friend. He planned on returning to work. By participating in the self-advocacy group, he realized he was part of his treatment and discharge team and successfully advocated for what he wanted.
Another group member, “Luis,” worked on finding a board and care facility where he could live when discharged. He identified a facility. Then worked with his team on his discharge plan to become a member of a mental health program that provides residential programs, job training, and support groups.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Leo Alfaro
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

UCLA Students Learn Rights and Skills to Start Campus Peer Self-Advocacy Group
As part of the UCLA Student Self-Advocacy Project, the president of UCLA’s National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI)-on-Campus chapter collaborated with PSA staff to inform students about mental health issues, campus resources and higher education rights. Students face challenges to obtaining the assistance they need; for example, they experience stigma and discrimination if they joined the club, talked about mental health, or sought help from campus mental health services. They had long-wait times for appointments at UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services, and didn’t know their service rights.
The club president worked with PSA staff to coordinate workshops on “Reasonable Accommodations in Higher Education,” “Strategies for Reducing Stigma and Discrimination,” and “To Tell or Not to Tell:  Self-Disclosure and Stigma.” She coordinated students to participate in Train-the-Trainer workshops to learn how to start and facilitate a student-led peer self-advocacy group. They practiced role-plays to learn group facilitation skills and strategies. After the workshops, the students posted flyers on campus and sent emails to university department listservs to announce the new group to start the following quarter.
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): UCLA/PAIMI

Rights to Psychiatric Service and Emotional Support Animals
Upon request from Santa Fe Social Clubhouse self-advocacy group members, PSA staff presented a workshop on psychiatric service and emotional support animals. Participants learned the difference between service animals and emotional support animals. They learned the laws that protect their right to public access with psychiatric service animals and their right to request reasonable accommodations to have their emotional support animals at home or work. Because she thought proof of training is required for service animals and didn’t know she could train her own service animal, one member had refrained from getting a psychiatric service animal because she couldn’t afford professional training. After learning her rights, she plans to get a psychiatric service animal to do safety checks when she experiences anxiety entering a room.
Another member didn’t know he could request an accommodation to waive his apartment complex’s no-pets policy. He plans to talk with his landlord and get a note from his doctor to have a cat to lessen his anxiety. By learning their rights, participants decided to take action to bring animals into their lives to assist with and support their mental health.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective B (Workshops, Outreaches and Materials Development)
DRC Staff: Robyn Gantsweg
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Assertiveness and Self-Advocacy in Action
A Spanish-speaking peer self-advocacy group member, using skills he learned in the group, asked questions about his treatment and discharge planning. “Gilberto” wanted passes to go on supervised outings. It turned out he had not had a treatment team meeting in some time. As a result of his questions, a treatment team meeting was scheduled immediately. He learned how to obtain a pass for outings. Soon after, he let PSA staff know he was going on outings.  Using self-advocacy skills he learned in the peer self-advocacy group, he took action to meet his needs.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Senobia Pichardo
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAIMI


Voting

DRC Participates on a Stakeholder Committee with the Secretary of State and the Department of Motor Vehicles to Implement New State Motor Voter Law
Last year, California's Legislature passed AB 1461 (Gonzalez), which calls for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to automatically register people who apply for a driver’s license or an ID card unless the person opts out. DRC participates on a stakeholder group put together by the Secretary of State (SOS) focused on improving the voter registration process at the DMV. DRC advocates to make the voter registration process more accessible. We have focused on getting the DMV to properly train staff on how to help customers with disabilities navigate the voter registration process. Our efforts led the DMV to change when customers at the DMV interact with the touch screen terminal, which is required for DMV customers to complete the registration, making it more likely that people with disabilities can complete the registration process. Previously the process had the voter registration at the end, so people left before finishing registration. We are pushing to make the process better.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Margaret Johnson, Paul Spencer
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Meeting with Seven State Agencies and Trade Groups about Best Practices to Ensure National Voter Registration Act Compliance
DRC staff, joined by an attorney with the ACLU of California, met with three agencies which serve people with disabilities, (the Department of Developmental Services, Department of Rehabilitation and Department of Social Services), as well as the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) team at the Secretary of State’s office, the County Behavioral Health Directors Association, the Association of Regional Center Agencies and the California Foundation of Independent Living Centers. DRC staff discussed the NVRA’s shortcomings and ways to improve voter registration data collection and best practices for complying with NVRA and its state law equivalent, SB 35.
DRC used these meetings to gather information about how to best correct NVRA compliance issues in the future. For example, DRC asked the agencies to send out surveys requesting information on NVRA coordinators in each office. In the future, DRC will use this information to plan trainings and correct systemic issues causing voter registration problems at specific NVRA agencies.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Paul Spencer
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s):  PAVA

June 2016 Presidential Primary Election Day Hotline
On June 6, 2016, DRC held an Election Day Hotline to help people with disabilities exercise their right to vote in the Presidential Primary Election.  DRC had a dedicated line solely for the Election Day Hotline. The hotline phone number was given out to the disability community through targeted outreaches, a widely distributed flyer, YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8SkMzS42cY), and social media. In addition, six county election officials put DRC’s hotline in their sample ballot/voter information guide.
DRC staff fielded approximately 15 calls to the Election Day Hotline, ranging from voters with disabilities who were unexpectedly hospitalized, to problems with polling place accessibility (including problems with the accessible voting system) to transportation to the polling place.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective B
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

For the First Time in Ten Years, “Renata” Can Vote in Person at an Accessible Polling Place in the November 8, 2016 General Election
Renata contacted DRC because her polling place has not been accessible for 10 years. She had several interactions with the Registrar of Voters without success and was forced to vote by mail. DRC contacted staff from the Registrar of Voters’ office explained the situation and, after several conversations, the polling place for Renata’s precinct was moved to an accessible location.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Fred Nisen
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

“Jack” Gets His Right to Vote Reinstated
Jack’s father contacted DRC after finding out the probate court, when it granted Jack’s conservatorship, had removed Jack’s right to vote. Before contacting DRC, Jack’s father contacted Jack’s public defender, who said the judge would not reinstate Jack’s voting rights since Jack is non-verbal and cannot state his address. When DRC staff met Jack, it was apparent he could communicate, with or without reasonable accommodations, his desire to vote, the new standard under SB 589 (2015). After DRC staff explained SB 589 and how it applied to Jack, his public defender went to court and got Jack’s voting rights reinstated.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Fred Nisen
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

“Jeff” Gets to His Polling Place
Jeff called DRC late in the afternoon on June 6. He was concerned about making it to his polling place because of his disability. DRC contacted the San Francisco Department of Elections on his behalf and they sent a poll worker to escort him to his polling place. Jeff voted before the polls closed.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Pumas County Post Information about the Availability of Accessible Voting System
Plumas County is an all Vote-by-Mail (VBM) county, but it did not notify voters about its accessible voting system (AVS) at the courthouse. DRC staff contacted the county Registrar of Voters (ROV) and learned she did not think there were any voters with disabilities in Plumas County. She based this on her belief that since no one uses the AVS, there are no voters with disabilities in the county. DRC worked to correct this misunderstanding and explained VBM is not a substitute for an ROV for voters who can’t complete a paper ballot. We also noticed there was very little information available for voters with disabilities. As a result of our intervention, the ROV agreed to add information to the website and use social media to reach voters with disabilities.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Training People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing on Their Voting Rights and Voting Summit for Youth with Disabilities
DRC staff provided a training to the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness. The training was held in their Los Angeles office, but was simulcast to their three additional offices in Orange, Riverside, and Bakersfield.
The training covered information on the services and accommodations available for voters who are deaf and hard of hearing in each of the three Counties. There was discussion about the different voting systems used in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and Kern Counties.
DRC participated in a voting summit for youth with disabilities aged 18 to 26 sponsored by Youth Organizing, Disabled and Proud, a program of the California Foundation of Independent Living. There were approximately 20 attendees for around the state.
Both trainings discussed the importance of voting, how to register and the changes to the law for people under a conservatorship. The training covered information on services and accommodations available for voters with disabilities. Also covered was how voters can get involved with their local Voting Accessibility Advisory Committees (VAAC), as well as poll-worker opportunities.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen and Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Reviewing Accessible Voting Information on Every County Election Official’s Website, Discussing What We Found and DRC Services with the Counties
We reviewed the websites of all county election offices to see what information about services for voters with disabilities was available. Then, we contacted all of the county election officials to discuss our findings and explain our services at DRC. DRC advocated for a wide range of issues: including DRC’s Election Day Hotline number’s inclusion on county sample ballot and voter information pamphlets, website updates to improve information about accessible voting options and make the website accessible, encouraging poll workers to offer the accessible voting system to all voters, establishing a VAAC and allowing DRC to participate in poll -worker trainer trainings. Through our work we got our hotline number placed in 40 out of California’s 58 counties’ voter information pamphlets. Many counties are reevaluating their outreach to voters with disabilities and some have told us they are going to update their websites. Our work increased the number of counties requesting poll-worker training. For example, one county told us they are creating a voters with disabilities page and invited us to a train-the-trainers event. DRC staff met with all the poll-worker trainers in the county and had a discussion about best practices for training poll workers to ensure voting is accessible for people with disabilities.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Contra Costa County VAAC Advocacy Results in Poll Workers Telling Voters About Accessible Voting Systems
Because of DRC’s advocacy at Contra Costa County VAAC meetings, the Registrar of Voters changed its policy and now requires poll workers to offer all voters a paper ballot or the Auto-MARK (the accessible voting system). This policy change is crucial because it ensures everybody who may benefit from an accessible voting system will know that it is available and it increases the likelihood that poll workers will set it up.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Fred Nisen
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Training Poll Worker Trainers in Seven Counties
Rather than attempt to train the literally thousands of California poll-workers, DRC focuses training activities on poll-worker trainers.
DRC provided trainings to the poll-worker trainers in Alameda, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside Counties. The trainings consist of a PowerPoint presentation and handout that covers a range of accessible voting issues, such as: how best to interact with people with disabilities, curbside voting, accessible polling places, accessible voting systems and the right to a private and independent vote. Approximately 400 trainers and other county election official staff were in attendance at these trainings.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Bill Hershon, Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Five Forums for County Election Officials
The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials held forums across the state about recent changes to voting laws. DRC staff presented at all five of the forums regarding SB 589, the new law regarding conservatorship and voting. DRC also used it as a platform to discuss best practices such as offering accessible voting to all voters at the polling place and the need to add “voters with disabilities” information to county election websites.
Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA

Voting Rights Video
DRC produced a voting rights video. The video stars two actors with disabilities voting in a polling place and explains topics such as: accessible voting systems; who can help at a polling place; and voting under a conservatorship. We got a talent agency in Los Angeles to allow us to use their actors for free. We filmed it at the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office. It is posted on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvZKbwwKTiw) and has had 1,023 views so far. We are showing it at community events and the response has been very positive. The Secretary of State posted it on their website (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voting-resources/voters-disabilities/).


Voting Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A
Communications Goal(s): Goal 3, Objectives A, B, C, and D
DRC Staff: Fred Nisen, Paul Spencer, Gabriel Taylor, Pat McConahay
Grant(s)/Funding Source(s): PAVA