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DISABILITY RIGHTS GROUPS AND IDAHO LEGISLATURE ENTER INTO CONSENT DECREE ASSURING ONGOING ACCESS DURING CURRENT LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Click here to download a PDF version of this press release.

March 5, 2021 — Five disability rights advocacy organizations and two Idahoans with disabilities have entered into a consent decree with the Idaho State Legislature, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Chuck Winder to ensure that persons with disabilities can testify before legislative committees and participate in activities at the State Capitol during this legislative session without risk of exposure to or contracting Covid-19.  Persons with disabilities are at heightened risk of severe complications from Covid-19.

The consent decree resolves a lawsuit brought in January seeking reasonable modifications under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and to enforce their First Amendment rights to petition their government.  Through the consent decree, the Idaho State Legislature agrees to continue a number of measures implemented since the start of the Legislative session after the lawsuit was filed.  Those measures include allowing remote testimony for all committee hearings where public testimony is allowed and providing adequate technology to do so, improving the Legislature’s website to include a prominent link to direct users to the information for committee accessibility and remote testimony, working with a third-party consultant to ensure that the website is digitally accessible and providing adequate social distancing for individuals who wish to attend legislative sessions in person.

“We are pleased that the Idaho State Legislature, Speaker Bedke and Senator Winder, through this Consent Decree, have recognized and worked to accommodate the rights of persons with disabilities to participate equitably in this year’s legislative session without the added stress or risk of contracting Covid-19,” said Jeremy Maxand, Executive Director for Living Independence Network Corporation.  “We also appreciate the cooperative manner in which this matter was resolved.  Persons with disabilities are at higher risk of severe complications, and even of dying from Covid-19.  We look forward to making our voices heard and continuing to participate in the legislative process through fully functional remote testimony and the in-person precaution of adequate social distancing.”

“No one should have to choose between their health and their right to petition their government,” said Amy Cunningham, Executive Director for DisAbility Rights Idaho.  “The Americans with Disabilities Act provides important protections, and here ensures that persons with disabilities can receive the same government services as persons without disabilities.”

The lawsuit was brought by Ahniah Selene, Kassie Howe, Disability Action Center – Northwest, Inc., DisAbility Rights Idaho, Living Independence Network Corporation Idaho, Life, A Center For Independent Living, and the Intermountain Fair Housing Council.  They were represented by Mary McCord, Annie Owens, Amy Marshak, Seth Wayne and Jennifer Safstrom from the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law School and Wendy Olson and Elijah Watkins of Stoel Rives, LLP.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects “the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protect the rights of individuals with disabilities by guaranteeing equal access to government activities and prohibiting discrimination on account of their disabilities.  Title II of the ADA provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”  Similarly, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act provides in relevant part, “[n]o otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Notice of Monitor at MHA

Click here to download a PDF version of this announcement.

March 1, 2021

Attention: All Parents and/or Guardians of Any Residents Currently Placed Mountain  Home Academy – Located at 2850 Industrial Way, Mountain Home, Idaho  83647 

The purpose of this announcement is to inform parents and guardians of residents currently  placed at Mountain Home Academy that DRI will be monitoring activities at the facility the week of March 8, 2021 and may in the course of such monitoring have access to the  minor or adult with a legal guardian. 42 C.F.R. 51.42(e).

Disability Rights Idaho (DRI) is Idaho’s designated Protection & Advocacy (P&A) system—part of a nationwide network of agencies that work to protect the legal rights of people with  disabilities. One of our core duties as Idaho P&A system is to conduct periodic monitoring  visits to facilities, which provide care or treatment to individuals with mental illness. 42 U.S.C.  10805; 42 C.F.R. §51.42. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, DRI is using remote monitoring  to exercise our statutory duties and has scheduled to conduct remote monitoring activities at  Mountain Home Academy the week of March 8, 2021.

Under Federal law, the P&A system must have reasonable unaccompanied access to facilities  which may house or render care to individuals with disabilities, including all areas which are  used by residents, accessible to residents, and to programs and their residents at reasonable  times – which, at a minimum, shall include normal working and visiting hours. 42 C.F.R.  §51.42(c). Such residents that the P&A is to have access to during a monitor include adults and  minors who have legal guardians or conservators. 42 C.F.R. §51.42(e).

DRI also has authority to educate individuals with disabilities about their rights and available  P&A services. 42 C.F.R. §51.42(c)(1). Thus, as part of our remote monitoring, DRI intends to  present on and provide materials to educate individuals regarding their rights, services available  from DRI, and other appropriate referrals.

DRI has asked the facility place this notification in the visiting room and with any other  materials provided to parents/guardians of youth placed in this facility.

If any parent or guardian has any questions about this announcement or DRI’s monitoring activities at Mountain Home Academy, please contact Courtney R. Holthus, Director of Legal  and Advocacy Services at DRI at (208) 336-5353, ext. 119 or via email at  courtney@disabilityrightsidaho.org.

BOISE OFFICE

4477 EMERALD, SUITE B-100  BOISE, ID 83706

TOLL FREE: 866-262-3462

WEBSITE: www.disabilityrightsidaho.org  E-MAIL: info@disabilityrightsidaho.org

POCATELLO OFFICE

1246 YELLOWSTONE AVE., STE A-3 POCATELLO, ID 83201

TEL: 208-336-5353 FAX: 208-336-5396

Native Americans with Disabilities Issues and Recommendations for the Biden Administration

A coalition comprised of The Native American Disability Law Center, Disability Rights Idaho, Disability Rights California, Parents Reaching Out (PRO), Native parents of children with disabilities, and the National Congress of American Indians Disability Sub-Committee, worked together in an organized effort to respond to the Biden-Harris Transition Team’s inquiry regarding issues facing Native Americans with disabilities. The coalition presented policy statements with short and long term goals, addressing Community and Home Based services, Education and Medical Services in urban and tribal communities.

The coalition encouraged the Biden-Harris Administration to review current policies, regulations, and funding through a holistic approach and with a goal of improving tribally based services that support the ability of Native Americans with disabilities to be able to live and thrive in their respective communities enhancing a high quality of life, and increase treaty obligated funding that impacts the educational and medical services they receive in their tribal communities. Policy statements were prepared and read before the Biden-Harris Transition Team and Deb Haaland (D) New Mexico, Secretary of the Interior Nominee, requesting more funding for these key areas that have consistently been underfunded.

For the Idaho team; Nancy Grant, a Non-Attorney Senior Advocate with Disability Rights Idaho participated. She is a member of the Potawatomi and Ottawa Tribes; Hannahville Band. Her husband, Wesley Edmo MSW, also participated and is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. They reside on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in Southeastern Idaho. If you would like more information on this project, please contact our office.

#GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday

Want to support a good cause? This #GivingTuesday help raise money for DisAbility Rights Idaho, Inc. and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. And on GivingTuesday Dec 1, Facebook will match $7 million in qualifying donations. Thank you for your support. We’ve included information about DisAbility Rights Idaho, Inc. (DRI) below.

DRI Protects, Promotes And Advances The Legal And Human Rights Of Individuals With Disabilities, Through Quality, Legal, Individual. And System Advocacy.

Last year alone, our attorneys and non-attorney advocates accepted over 200 cases – including investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities in facilities. For cases we are unable to assign to staff, DRI still provides information and referrals to assist callers in addressing their issue(s). This past year, DRI sent over 800 information and referral letters to callers needing assistance – further demonstrating the great need for legal and advocacy services for individuals with disabilities here in Idaho. Our dedicated staff would love to be able to provide more assistance – but we need your help to do so! Your financial contributions will help DRI to expand its ability to serve more Idahoans with disabilities in the years to come.

NDRN Executive Director: “Count Every Vote”

For Immediate Release 11/04/2020

Contact: David Card

202.408.9514 x122

press@ndrn.org

NDRN Executive Director: “Count Every Vote”

Washington, DC – Like everyone else, we at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) anxiously await the results of the election. We hope that the votes can be counted quickly so that Americans can feel confident in knowing who will be their next president.

However, a quick vote count is no substitute for an accurate one. And that is why we are strongly calling upon state election officials, state legislatures, the courts, and the federal government to ensure that every vote is counted. Anything less than a full count will not only cast doubts upon the legitimacy of the process but potentially set a precedent for the future exclusion of voters with disabilities.

“If you did everything right, but your ballot isn’t returned on time due to mail delays, we want to ensure your vote is counted. If you did everything right, but have difficulty leaving an exact signature, we want to ensure your vote is counted. All of these challenges to counting mail in votes are, at times quite directly, a challenge to the right of individuals with disabilities to vote in a manner that is safe and secure. We stand strongly in favor of counting every vote to prevent further erosions of the rights of the one in six voters with a disability,” said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network.

The disability community is significantly more likely to vote by mail. This is for a variety of reasons including: the limited accessibility of in-person polling places, lack of adequate transportation, and an individual needing to limit their exposure to others due to being immunocompromised. When those who vote by mail have their ballots thrown out, it means that our community is disproportionately impacted. NDRN calls upon both parties and all individuals involved in the counting process to put the rights of Americans with disabilities ahead of partisanship, and count every vote.

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

Hospital Visitation Rights

Patients with disabilities who need a support person for disability related needs should be able to access this support while in the hospital. If you have problems with your support person being allowed into the hospital with you because of COVID-19 visitor limitations, please contact us.

 

Office of Civil Rights resolves complaints to allow patients with disabilities reasonable access to support persons in hospitals: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2020/06/09/ocr-resolves-complaints-after-state-connecticut-private-hospital-safeguard-rights-persons.html

 

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid guidance regarding hospital visitation limits: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/covid-hospital-visitation-phase-ii-visitation-covid-negative-patients.pdf