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FY21 – Priorities

Although our areas of focus may change from year to year, we remain dedicated to enforcing and strengthening laws that protect the opportunities, choices, and legal rights of people with disabilities in Utah. We always welcome suggestions for new areas of focus. If you would like to suggest a new area of focus, please complete the form found at the bottom of this page.

To view previous year priorities, visit our Priorities Archive at http://disabiltylawcenter.org/priorities-archive.

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Abuse & Neglect

Goal: Adults or youth with disabilities living in or being treated in facilities or correctional institutions, will be free from abuse and neglect and will receive appropriate services.

  • Area of Focus 1: Investigating abuse of individuals in county jails or in the custody of Utah Department of Corrections (UDC). DLC will provide legally-based advocacy to inmates in the county jails or UDC custody who, as determined by the team, are allegedly being seriously abused or neglected.
  • Area of Focus 2: Monitoring facilities and services. Based on complaints, incident reports, resident/patient advocate referrals, or survey results from facility licensing, and as determined by the DLC, the DLC will monitor facilities and institutions for serious abuse or neglect, and provide legally-based advocacy to residents of facilities who are allegedly being seriously abused or neglected.
  • Area of Focus 3: Individual Advocacy. Although focusing primarily on systemic work during FY21, the DLC will conduct investigations of suspected serious abuse, as determined by the team. In addition to cases from the facilities or institutions above, we will investigate concerns arising from the Community Integration Team’s work with DSPD residential or community-based providers, private ICFs/ID, nursing facilities, or assisted living facilities.
  • Area of Focus 4: Policy. The DLC will advocate for CIT statewide and that officer who complete best practices training receive state certification. The team will push for increased access to mental health/drug with sufficient access to and funding of case management, treatment, and housing resources.

Access & Rights

Goal 1: Reduce or eliminate architectural and programmatic barriers faced by people with disabilities using public buildings, public accommodations, transportation and Post-Secondary Education. Increase the cultural and linguistic competency in the delivery system for people with disabilities.

  • Area of Focus 1: Architectural Accessibility. Continue to survey places of public accommodation in rural Utah, specifically where the DLC has begun building relationships with community officials through the voting program or encountered pervasive accessibility violations. Continue to investigate, when necessary, ADA/ADAAG compliance in Salt Lake City for public buildings or private businesses, including encouraging individuals to file DOJ complaints where noncompliance is not remedied after notification.
  • Area of Focus 2: Programmatic Accessibility. Continue to build relationships with the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Accessibility Council; continue to build relationships with other advocacy organizations and partners to learn about systemic access issues throughout the State.
  • Area of Focus 3: Public Education. Continue to expand work into access to education/504 issues in K-12.
  • Area of Focus 4: Higher Education. Determine appropriate methods to reach higher ed. students regarding available accommodations, procedure and DRC resources.
  • Area of Focus 5: Transportation. Continue to participate in the Bear River Association of Governments Mobility Management Council to organize and guide local and regional coordination efforts that directly or indirectly improve transportation options for people with disabilities, seniors, veterans and/or persons with low income. Continue to investigate the barriers to public transportation along the Wasatch Front, specifically, monitoring the services of UTA to ensure they are compliant with the ADA and its regulations.
  • Area of Focus 6: Access to Culturally Competent Services. Continue to participate in the Utah Community of Practice associated with Georgetown’s Center for Culture and Linguistic Competence. Create partnerships with organizations who serve people with disabilities and work towards increasing the cultural and linguistic competency of delivery systems.

Goal 2: People belonging to protected classes will be free from housing discrimination.

  • Area of Focus 1: Housing Advocacy.  The DLC Fair Housing program will 1) conduct fair housing tests, 2) educate the public at fair housing outreach events, 3) mediate cases and file administrative complaints, 4) conduct tester trainings, 5) conduct design and construction surveys, and 6) develop a plan to address systemic housing discrimination.

Goal 3: Address barriers which prevent people of all abilities the right to vote privately and independently.

  • Area of Focus 1: Full Electoral Participation. Ensure full participation in the electoral process for individuals with disabilities including: registering to vote, casting a vote and accessing polling places. Activities may include: systemic advocacy, consumer education/training, assisting individuals in the state-based administrative grievance procedure required by HAA, and representing individuals with disabilities in any hearing that may be held regarding the complaint.
  • Area of Focus 2: Accessible Voting Experience. Improve voting accessibility by working with election officials to ensure: polling places and equipment are accessible, poll workers and volunteers understand how to provide an accessible voting experience, and state policies and practices are consistent with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

Community Integration

Goal 1: Advocate for Utahns to live and receive services and supports in the most integrated and least restrictive settings appropriate to their choices and needs.

  • Area of Focus 1: Services and Supports in the Most Integrated Settings. The DLC will provide systemic, legally-based advocacy to ensure that individuals with disabilities are being served in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs and preferences.
  • Area of Focus 2: Implementation of CMS’s Home and Community Based Settings (HCBS) Rule. The DLC will conduct systemic advocacy to ensure the Utah Department of Health (DOH) will develop and carry out a transition plan to become fully compliant with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Service’s HCBS Settings Rule. As a part of this continuing advocacy, the CI team will develop a plan to monitor the State’s implementation of the heightened scrutiny process.
  • Area of Focus 3: Covid Response: People with disabilities, including those residing in long term care facilities, will be free from abuse, neglect and discrimination, and receive appropriate services during the Covid 19 pandemic and its aftermath.

Goal 2: People with disabilities facing denial, reduction, or termination of healthcare and/or assistive technology services will receive appropriate healthcare services.

  • Area of Focus 1: Access to Healthcare and Assistive Technology. The DLC will advocate on behalf of Individuals to receive healthcare/assistive technology services that have been denied or reduced. This includes Medicaid and Medicare as well as assistive technology denials through various sources. Clients and potential clients will be served through a clinic model.
  • Area of Focus 2: Inappropriate discharge from residential healthcare services. The DLC will investigate allegations of inappropriate discharge of those receiving inpatient residential healthcare services in long-term care and skilled nursing facilities. Clinics will be held over the phone with the intent of ensuring that the process is being followed.
  • Area of Focus 3: Utah Medical-Legal Partnership. Addressing health inequities experienced by Utah patients by providing legal assistance in the form of direct screening, legal care, and referrals, as well as legal training for providers, around health-harming civil legal issues. The UMLP attorney primarily takes referrals directly from community health center providers through channels established by partnership memoranda of understanding.  Referrals will be comprehensively screened by the UMLP attorney, referred to partner agencies when cases meet their case criteria, referred to external resources as needed, or provided with direct legal services in partnership with other issue teams for those cases that meet DLC case criteria.

Education

Goal: All Utah students with disabilities will have available to them a free, appropriate public education designed to meet their unique needs.

  • Area of Focus 1: Self-advocacy. The DLC will assist self-advocates and also implement systemic legal efforts with issues related to: eligibility, placement in the least restrictive environment, suspension, expulsion, and highly intrusive interventions.
  • Area of Focus 2: Training. Efforts to train and advocate on behalf of students with disabilities will focus on issues related to eligibility, placement in the least restrictive environment, suspension, expulsion, and highly intrusive interventions.
  • Area of Focus 3: Individual cases. 80 people will be assisted annually in self advocacy efforts, on a one-to-one basis, and many more will be impacted through systemic legal efforts with issues related to restraint and seclusion; discriminatory discipline (including  suspension and expulsion); inclusion and the least restrictive environment (LRE); and denial of access to educational and related services in public K-12 schools.

Employment

Goal: People with disabilities will have equal employment opportunities and be free from discrimination.

  • Area of Focus 1: Client Assistance Program. The DLC will help applicants or clients of programs under the Division of Rehabilitation Services achieve high quality employment outcomes consistent with their primary employment factors. Strategies will include providing outreach and education to individuals about: 1) employment rights, 2) employment discrimination, and; 3) the services available through the Client Assistance Program and Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security programs (CAP & PABSS).
  • Area of Focus 2: Beneficiaries of Social Security. The DLC will advocate for people who receive SSI and SSDI – who either wish to return to work or are struggling to maintain their current employment – will have the information they need to do so, and are not penalized in the process by an unfair or incorrect overpayment with the Social Security Administration.
  • Area of Focus 3: Employment Discrimination. Advocating for people with disabilities on a one-to-one basis with issues related to discrimination and other barriers to employment, while providing education/training to consumers, service providers and other employment related agencies about the rights of people with disabilities in employment.

Short Term Assistance

Goal: The DLC will provide information about disability rights and disability law as well as gather information from individuals about legal issues they are experiencing related to their disability.

  • Area of Focus 1: Information and Short Term Assistance. A team of DLC employees will provide up-to-date relevant information to individuals seeking information about disability rights/disability law and disability services available in the community.
  • Area of Focus 2: Intake. Legal issues brought to the attention of the DLC by callers seeking assistance will be reviewed by an intake team. The team will evaluate the issue to determine if it meets the case criteria developed by DLC teams, consult with DLC attorneys as needed and bring issues of critical need to the attention of DLC teams.

Adding Areas of Focus – Executive Director’s Discretion

Throughout the year, the Executive Director (ED) of DLC may add areas of focus to address emergent issues that arise. These additional areas of focus shall be in writing and posted to the DLC website. The ED shall seek ratification of any additional areas of focus at the Board of Trustees next regular meeting.


Suggest a New Area of Focus

Complete this form if you would like to suggest additional areas of focus to Disability Law Center. We appreciate all suggestions and we will carefully consider each one. If you wish to follow up on your suggestion, please contact us at (800) 662-9080.