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The legislative session is full of both expected and unexpected twists, turns, and developments. It is the place where advocacy is preached, prized, and practiced. Senators, advocates, lobbyists, and concerned citizens propose and respond to new ideas, and much more. Public Policy Director Bradley Meurrens talks about this past legislative session.

The transition into adulthood isn't easy for anyone, including young people with disabilities. Learning self-advocacy skills can help teenagers and young adults with disabilities speak up for themselves and live the lives they envision for themselves. Administrative secretary, Tess Barnes, discusses the importance of building self-advocacy skills in Disability Rights Nebraska's most recent blog post.

People with disabilities are at grave risk of losing assistance that allows them to not only live more independently, but to participate in the classroom and receive the medical care they need in President Trump’s proposed budget plan, titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness”.

The human needs community is concerned about the massive attack the FY18 Trump Budget takes on low-income and vulnerable people. Read CHN’s Statement on the Trump Budget, “The Trump Budget: A Harsh Attack On Our Own People.”

One out of every 100 special education students was restrained by school personnel or secluded in school from his or her peers in the 2013-14 school year, presumably to quell behavior that teachers considered disruptive or dangerous.

In all, the House bill takes roughly $1 trillion over ten years out of Medicaid and subsidies to help low- and middle-income people afford decent coverage and meet high deductibles and cost-sharing charges — and uses the bulk of this money to give lavish tax cuts to the nation’s richest people instead.

Staff attorney, Michael Elsken writes about the regulations that entitle students with disabilities to transition services. He discusses the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act and what it means for employment opportunities for the disability community.

Community Outreach Disability Advocate Mindy Baird from our Scottsbluff office shares her experience with a pro-active, cross-agency collaboration on transportation. In that geographically broad area, a greater range of dependable transportation options will make it easier for people with disabilities in the panhandle to live a typical life.

Toys are for kids, not adults. Adults with physical or mental disabilities are still adults. Pets are one of life’s joys. And I think real pets are the best kind for all of us.

Public Policy Director, Bradley Meurrens, discusses disability rights advocates' involvement in the legislative process. Meurrens explains why it is important for citizens to reach out to their legislators and provide their perspectives on policy.

Case Advocate Karen Masterson paints a more detailed picture of the "why" and the "what" of Information and Referral.

New Kaiser Family Foundation paper contains data on how the AHCA can impact nonelderly adults with disabilities.

ADAPT is in the Rotunda of the US Capitol Building protesting Congress’ and the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate Medicaid and Affordable Care Act protections that are critical for disabled people’s survival.

The movement to “rightsize” the operations at BSDC and its companion action to transition Bridges residents into more inclusive, community-based services are steps in the right direction.

It's not new, and it's not special: disability has been a part of American life since the country's birth, whether we realize it or not.

Sexuality plays a significant role in most peoples' lives -- including the lives of people with disabilities. Mike Chittenden, Executive Director of The Arc of Nebraska, taps into his experience as a Social/Sexual Educator to discuss physical intimacy and relationships for those who have disabilities.

Administrative secretary, Tess Barnes, discusses how her views on disability-related issues have changed after seven months of working for Disability Rights Nebraska.

Reaching outside our comfort zone to understand what life is like for another person could lead to a lifetime of friendship. Case Advocate Karen K. Masterson talks about the experiences that brought her to advocacy and the importance of natural relationships in a person's life.

In lieu of this week's blog, here's a quick snapshot of action on two bills we have been monitoring: testimony on LB 417, and a letter of support for LB 442.

Seeing your mother in restraints: Case Advocate Molly Klocksin talks about family experiences with the mental health system that led her to eventually become an advocate.

"What is it that makes people - all people - worthy of being seen, respected...?" Sharon Ohmberger contemplates the root and the "why" of advocacy.

Attorney Brian Craig examines the power that perception of a person's role in society can have, and how people with disabilities are sometimes viewed as “less than.” Although integration is something that can be addressed through the law, attitudes towards people with disabilities play an equally important part.

We are saddened by the recent news of the passing of Kathleen Hanson, advocate, Peer Support & Wellness Specialist, and member of the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council. In her memory, we are sharing a guest blog post she composed in 2015 about the Olmstead decision and a call for greater choice and support for Nebraskans with significant mental disabilities living in community settings.

From life in an institution to running for City Council in Wood River: Self-Advocate Lynn Redding shares a little about her advocacy journey and jumping into the political process with both feet, as told to Brad Meurrens, Public Policy Director.

"Just one caring and nurturing adult is enough, despite the difficult situations that may arise in a child’s life, to lift up that child. "

Staff Attorney Mike Elsken gives a behind-the-scenes answer to the question, "What do you do?"

In this first blog post, Disability Rights Nebraska CEO Eric Evans looks back at the origins of the P&A system and the unique elements that make it effective in protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

Senior Disability Rights Nebraska Attorney Dianne DeLair appointed to serve on Advisory Council for Nebraska's Office of Public Guardian. She will be representing the perspective of professionals who work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

On November 16th, Disability Rights Advocates recognized Dr. Michael Argenyi and his legal team for their victory in Argenyi's case against Creighton University. Dianne DeLair, an attorney at Disability Rights Nebraska, was among the five members of Argenyi's legal team who were presented with Disability Rights Advocates' Eagle Award for their work on this groundbreaking case. As a deaf student at Creighton University School of Medicine, Argenyi was denied accommodations essential to his educational success. After a 5-year legal battle, Dr. Argenyi and his team won this case, which resulted in Argenyi's graduation from Creighton University and set a trailblazing precedent for future cases. To learn more about this year's Eagle Award recipients and Argenyi's case, visit the "Read More" link below.

Andrew R. Webb is an Equal Justice Works fellow at Equip for Equality sponsored by McDermott Will & Emery LLP in Chicago, IL. He provides educational materials and legal representation to Illinois residents with disabilities. He helps them access health care and services and appeals insurance providers’ denials when necessary. He just happens to be blind. Webb said most people in the general public know of so few blind people that he sometimes has to teach people how capable a blind person can be. He said he enjoys that role.

An article in the Star Tribune introduces us to Noah McCourt, a 22-year-old man with autism, who is running for City Council in Waconia, Minnesota. His opponents question his ability to hold an elected office, but his supporters rave about McCourt's knowledgeability and passion for his community. McCourt is also receiving support from Randy Maluchnik, Carver County Commissioner, and Jason Schellack, director of the Autism Advocacy and Law Center in Minneapolis. Although he has never met McCourt, Schellack says his candidacy should be seen as "more of an inspiration." No matter the outcome of the election, McCourt's candidacy is opening up opportunites for other leaders with disabilities and redefining diversity in politics.

Over half of the world's 65 million children with disabilities are out of school due to the current state of education financing. Children with disabilities are disproportionately affected by this underfunding, as they are usually not targeted directly by donations and other humanitarian efforts. The recent #CostingEquity report by the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) extensively details the current financing of inclusive education and the benefits of funding this effort. Additionally, the IDDC's report provides recommendations to donors and government officials that aim to reduce the discrepancy between educational opportunities for children with and without disabilities . Follow the "Read More" button to access the IDDC's website for a link to the full report and related resources.

Betsy Poor Bear talks about the origins of wastunkala and issues an invitation to the Scottsbluff Lakota Center fundraiser to benefit the work of Disability Rights Nebraska. It will take place October 13, 2016 at Noon at the Lakota Lutheran Center, 1200 East Overland, Scottsbluff NE. For more information see the Event Calendar on our website under "How to Help" --> "Get Involved" or call 1-308-633-1352.

New ride hailing companies making their way into town haven't come without issues. A disability rights Texas attorney filed two lawsuits Wednesday against Get Me and Fare for discriminating against those who are visually impaired. He says the companies have refused to make their ridesharing phone apps accessible to riders who use text-to-speech software.

An article written by Brian Craig, a staff attorney at Disability Rights Nebraska, was recently published in the September/October 2016 issue of The Nebraska Lawyer magazine. Brian's article, "A Confusion of Roles: The Attorney-Guardian Conflict," provides professional insight on ethical concerns pertaining to attorney-guardians. In the article, Brian explores issues with the roles of these individuals, including inevitable conflicts of interest and unreasonable attorney-guardian fees in Nebraska, among other considerations. Disability Rights Nebraska is proud to be represented by staff members like Brian who truly care about and continually advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.

Legislative Aide Claudia Lindley tells how disability rights advocacy became an important part of her life.

Today, The AVID Prison Project of Disability Rights Washington released a report on the segregation of inmates with mental illness. The report is titled: Locked Up and Locked Down, and AVID attorney Anna Guy wrote the report. Disability Rights Washington would like to thank all of the P&As that contributed case examples to this report. Over 20 state examples are included in the report.

During the regular quarterly meeting of the Disability Rights Nebraska Board here at the office on Saturday, August 27th, we celebrated the achievements of three long-term Board members. Victoria Rasmussen, Jill Flagel and Julie Stahla have all completed at least three full 3-year terms on the Board. All have been strong and active advocates and were rewarded (at least to some small extent) with custom-engraved awards, really really good cake, and lots of well-wishes.

We have been extremely fortunate to have these three strong women leaders on our Board since 2007. As they transition off the Board and we begin orienting three new members, we wish them the very best in their personal endeavors and thank them heartily for all of the time, energy, advocacy and passion they contributed to Disability Rights Nebraska.

July 26, 2016 marks the 26th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This article provides helpful information on this groundbreaking law that changed the lives of Americans with disabilities.

1. Talkin’ ‘bout the ADA Generation.

Young people with disabilities are often called the “ADA Generation” because they were born or grew up after the ADA became a law. Laws such as the ADA exist thanks to the leadership of dedicated disability rights advocates, including Justin Dart, Jr., Ed Roberts and Judith Heumann. These individuals are positive role models that youth with disabilities should know about as they become the next generation of disability leaders. Justin Dart, Jr., called the “father of the ADA,” traveled around the U.S. gathering stories from people with disabilities about the discrimination they faced. These accounts directly impacted the creation of the ADA. Ed Roberts helped create the Independent Living Movement, formed the first Center for Independent Living and co-founded the World Institute on Disability with Judith Heumann. Heumann assisted with the passing of the ADA, served as the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services and is now the State Department’s Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. Young people with disabilities who wish to follow in the footsteps of these leaders can start by reading these self-advocacy guides.

As a result of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), new restrictions on subminimum wage went into effect on July 22, 2016. These new requirements under Section 511 of WIOA should be used to divert people from subminimum wage employment, and move individuals from subminimum wage jobs into competitive integrated employment.

As stated in WIOA, the goal of the Act is to “ensure that individuals with disabilities, especially youth with disabilities, have a meaningful opportunity to prepare for, obtain, maintain, advance in, or regain competitive integrated employment, including supported or customized employment.”

The sub-minimum wage provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act dates to 1938, which allows employers to obtain special minimum wage certificates from the Department of Labor. The certificates give employers the right to pay disabled workers according to their abilities, with no bottom limit to the wage.

Segregating people with disabilities limits their opportunities for advancement and economic mobility. The provision is based on the false assumption that workers with disabilities are less productive than workers without disabilities. However, successful employment models have emerged in the last 78 years to assist people with significant disabilities in acquiring the job skills needed for competitive work. The goal of employers should be to transition workers into a traditional workplace, not perpetuate their segregation.

Read The Full WIOA – Section 511

The Saudi Student Association at University of Nebraska - Lincoln staffed the concessions stand at the Guardians of Freedom Air Show, and donated the proceeds of $1,440 to Disability Rights Nebraska. The Association is a 60-student group led by Ahmed Alserhani, the President of the association. They chose a disability rights focus for their donation, and are considering doing this again next year.

Thank you to Saudi Student Association at UNL for their hard work and generous donation. Click HERE to watch a conversation with Ahmed Alserhani.

Aside from donation, there are many other ways to get involved in advocacy work and defend disability rights. Disability Rights Nebraska provides volunteer opportunities for individuals wanting to join us in our advocacy work. Individuals with disabilities, family members, advocates and persons interested in the legal and human rights of all people with disabilities are encouraged to join us. Get involved today!

A summer self-advocacy course for students with disabilities will be available in July! ‘It’s All About the Plan!’ allows students to learn about and practice self-advocacy. It includes hands-on activities, community speakers, and e-learning tools. It is developed through partnership of Disability Rights Nebraska, Arc of Lincoln, Autism Family Network, and Fritz & O’Hare Associates.

The course will be completed in five days with 2.5 hour daily sessions at Southeast Community College. Students with disabilities, ages 14 to 21 are invited to the course. Parents of students attending ‘It’s All About the Plan!’ are invited to a self-advocacy session on July 6th. Attendance is not mandatory.

Self-advocacy skills help people speak up for what they need and want in life. It is especially important for students with disabilities to learn how they can make their voices heard!

The course will be free of charge. Stipends will be available, upon request, to help with transportation costs.

First National Bank of Omaha and the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office formally invite you and your family to join a celebration announcing the launch of the Enable Savings Plan—one of the nation’s first ABLE plans created to help individuals with disabilities attain financial independence.

The launch event is being held June 30th at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium at 9:30 am. There will be special events, entertainment and lunch. Please stay and enjoy the zoo following the festivities.

Limited space is available. Please click HERE to RSVP by Friday, June 17.

To learn more about the Enable Savings Plan, visit EnableSavings.com

Disability Rights Nebraska is once again participating in Give to Lincoln on May 26th. All donations will be eligible for a portion of the $300,000 match.

Give To Lincoln Day is your chance to make a real impact on Lincoln’s quality of life. We encourage everyone to join us for a record-setting day of giving. Together, we have the power to support Lincoln’s nonprofit organizations and improve lives.

Gifts to Disability Rights Nebraska can be made online at this site beginning May 1 and will qualify for Give To Lincoln Day.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was signed into law on July 22, 2014. The act’s two main aims are to end sub-minimum wage and segregation of those with developmental disabilities from the rest of society, said Amy Scherer, staff attorney for the National Disability Rights Network.

The National Disability Rights Network has issued a statement praising U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-Ala.) for introducing the Protection and Advocacy for Veterans Act.

Nebraska’s Office of Public Guardian (OPG) is the 50th of state public guardianship offices in the country and is one of only four public guardianship offices under the judicial branch. The OPG is directly responsible to the Supreme Court Administrator. The OPG is assisted by an Advisory Council, appointed by the Administrator of the Courts.

In researching best practices for serving Nebraska’s potentially incapacitated persons in a manner that balances the “two faces” of guardianship, and in accordance with the Legislative intent and requirements of the Public Guardian Act, the OPG researched multiple models of public guardianship.

Congratulations to Senior Staff Attorney Dianne DeLair and our entire Public Policy Team! Their efforts, and those of Senator Kathy Campbell, were rewarded this week with the passing of LB 1033, the Olmstead Plan Bill. The bill passed on a unanimous vote of 49-0 with no abstentions. Disability Rights Nebraska congratulates the Legislature on their recognition of this bill and its importance to Nebraskans with disabilities.

Nebraska's new Aging & Disability Resource Centers will create a "one-stop" system to connect people with services without hunting through multiple systems/agencies. View the employment posting here.

Disability Rights Nebraska has received funding from the Woods Charitable Fund, the Nebraska Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, in addition, in-kind donations from Nebraska Wesleyan University, to support the Inclusive Education Institute this June...

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