Laws and regulations are often the underlying cause of the problems people with disabilities face. For example, a statute or regulation may not be protective enough, or it may be interpreted in a way that reduces access for people with disabilities. Laws and policies in every area of state and local government—education, health care, law enforcement, voting, transportation, housing, and others—affect people with disabilities. In addition, state budget decisions often determine whether people with disabilities can get the services they need.
We engage in policy and legislative advocacy to protect and expand the rights of people with disabilities. We educate state legislators about the diverse lives and needs of people with disabilities and how a proposed change to a policy or program may impact them. At times, we may work with lawmakers and their staff to draft legislation. We do not use our federal grant funds to pay for lobbying work.
Once a law is passed, state and local agencies usually are responsible for creating the policies that put the law into action. Policy development requires expertise in state and federal law and a deep understanding of how programs work. Our staff members have those skills. They work closely with agency officials to ensure that they create policies and regulations that protect and improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Our recent policy and legislative work includes:
- Securing a law that keeps children with disabilities out of the adult criminal system. As of December 1, 2019, 16- and 17-year olds charged with misdemeanors or low-level felonies will go through the juvenile justice system, rather than the adult system. Children with disabilities are much more likely to face criminal charges than their non-disabled peers. This law protects these children from the many collateral consequences of an adult criminal conviction, and gives them access to the services and programs they need to put themselves on a better life path.
- Ensuring that children in residential psychiatric facilities can get an education. We worked to secure a change to the law that established the licensing guidelines for these facilities. Now, a resident psychiatric facility that serves children must have a school on site.
- Preventing dangerous changes to the state’s Medicaid program for children with significant medical needs, known as CAP-C. We assisted parents of children in the program with their advocacy efforts and partnered with other advocacy organizations to educate policymakers about the damaging effects the proposed changes would have. Then we worked with state policymakers to craft better policies.
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