Commentary: Desired changes to DD system are all about choice
by Michael Kirkman, Executive Director, Disability Rights Ohio
In July, Disability Rights Ohio and its co-counsel, Professor Sam Bagenstos, and the Center for Public Representation sent a letter to the state demanding changes in residential and employment options for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Ohio. In August, a story in the Columbus Dispatch noted the opposition some families of individuals with developmental disabilities have toward efforts to advocate for a more integrated and community-based developmental disabilities system in Ohio. The decision to approach state officials about the many flaws in the system and to demand changes is about creating opportunities for independence and meaningful choice for people with developmental disabilities. States that have changed their systems to focus on true community integration for people with developmental disabilities have found that many people who were initially opposed changed their minds once they saw the benefits of integration and learned about all of the options.
Currently, people in need of services in Ohio are not given a choice, and often the only real option under the residential system in Ohio is institutional care or to be placed on a long wait list. The same is true for vocational and day programs, where segregated programs receive the bulk of the funding. Individuals do not actually have a choice where they live, how they spend their days, with whom they interact, and what type of work best suits their unique skills, abilities and interests. The system the law requires, and that Disability Rights Ohio is advocating for, is one that would allow people with developmental disabilities to live the lives they want to live with the supports they need to do so.
Disability Rights Ohio’s July 1, 2014, letter to the Kasich Administration on the unconstitutionality of Ohio’s DD system
DoDD’s Director Martin’s July 31, 2014, response to DRO’s letter
DRO Director of Advocacy Kerstin Sjoberg Witt’s August 1, 2014, response to the state’s July 31 letter