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Advocates' Blog


For families of children with disabilities, “a new school year” may mean waiting for another unscheduled call from school asking them to come pick up their child part way through the day. The more often it happens, the more a child misses out. Staff Attorney Madison Wurtele shares the protections students and families have from this type of school discipline in our next blog post.

New Nebraska law gives you the right to more personalized care in a mental health crisis—read more...

While the First Session of the 108th Legislature is complete, there’s still a lot of activity, especially around Interim Studies. Public Policy Director Brad Meurrens provides a short summary of what happened with a few of the bills on our priority list and what happens next.

Are you a student with a disability or do you have a child with a disability who is considering a summer job? Children or young people with disabilities who receive supplemental security income (SSI) are sometimes warned away from seeking a summer job. In the second installment of this two-part blog series by Disability Rights Attorney Michael Elsken, we look at how young people with developmental disabilities can not only take that job, but save for college / the big trip / the car without endangering Social Security benefits. To learn more, check out our blog.

Children or young people with disabilities who receive supplemental security income (SSI) are sometimes warned away from seeking a summer job. This two-part blog series by Disability Rights Attorney Michael Elsken explains how young people can reap the rewards of the summer job without endangering Social Security benefits.

Jenny was matched with Disability Rights Nebraska because of her interest in advocacy and worked with Public Policy Director Brad Meurrens at our office. She speaks of her experience testifying on LB 424.

“Education can really help breakdown barriers because it shows people that disability is nothing to be afraid of,” said Sharon Ohmberger, Community Engagement Director at Disability Rights Nebraska. “That there’s no harm in welcoming people and making some accommodations for people so they can participate like everyone else.”

You can reach Disability Rights Nebraska at 800-422-6691 or 402-413-2016!

Our new address is 2930 Ridge Line Road, Suite 205, Lincoln, NE 68516.

November 29, 2022, marked the 47th anniversary of the passage of Public Law 94-142, initially called the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) and later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Signed into law by President Gerald R. Ford on November 29, 1975, this Act ensured that children with disabilities would no longer be routinely excluded from accessing the public schools in their communities.

We have been quietly making our way across the state to doublecheck accessibility ahead of the November General Election. Our work has included: surveys of every single county election website to make sure it was usable for people who are blind or have low vision, in-person tours of the 30 largest counties’ election offices to identify any physical barriers for people who use wheelchairs, and ongoing collaboration with the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office to educate local voting officials.

Disability Rights Nebraska is fortunate to have a long history of dedicated public policy advocacy as a true compliment to our legal advocacy. Better late than never, below are some of our public policy success stories from the last legislative session and upcoming activity to watch out for.

Social Media is such a staple in our everyday lives. It can help create and foster friendships, open up new worlds of learning, and provide new opportunities for career connections. But how accessible are these platforms to everyone, especially to those with disabilities?

As Disability Rights Nebraska prepares to usher in a change in leadership, Sharon Ohmberger sat down with Eric Evans to talk with him about the top five points of advocacy he’d like people to remember during this transition and beyond. All of them are rooted in Eric’s deep passion for and commitment to disability rights and human rights. Since he has been an advocate here in Nebraska for almost 50 years, he has wisdom we can all use.

As of July 5, 2022, Tania Diaz will become Chief Executive Officer for Disability Rights Nebraska.  She began her career as a law clerk on work-study through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  After earning her law degree, she joined the organization as a staff attorney, a position that evolved into her role as Legal Services Director.  These roles have provided her with extensive knowledge and experience working with state and federal partners and stakeholders to protect and advocate for the legal and human rights of people with disabilities.

Tania believes it is imperative that the organization continue its engagement with values-based programs and principles; the philosophy provides the foundation for Disability Rights Nebraska as a progressive organization on the leading edge of disability rights. She is deeply committed to ensuring that the programs and services we provide uphold and complement the agency’s mission, vision, and purpose.

Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst: How Disability Rights Nebraska is working to ensure Nebraskans with Disabilities Are Protected in the Next Emergency, a blog post by Staff Attorney Amy Miller

At Disability Rights Nebraska, we believe a vote is one of the most powerful self-advocacy tools for individuals with disabilities. We also know that people with disabilities are often deterred -- or even prevented -- from voting for several different reasons. Our agency wants to make sure all Americans, especially those with disabilities, are fully informed about their voting rights and have the resources necessary to make their voice heard in every election.


The Inclusive Education Lay Advocacy Project is developing a network of Nebraskans across the state who can help families of students with disabilities advocate for educational opportunities and rely on other advocates for help when necessary. In this article, Attorney Madison Wurtele gleans perspectives from lay advocate, Angie Willey, and project coordinator, Pat Cottingham, to illustrate the project's goals and intended outcomes.

Seventeen years ago, Disability Rights Nebraska helped Sonya Kay Wing reinstate her disability status so she could continue to receive Social Security payments. In this blog piece, Sonya reflects on the case and discusses how working with our staff also helped her develop the skills necessary to advocate for herself and others.

November is Assistive Technology Awareness Month. In this blog post, Staff Attorney Michael Elsken recognizes and celebrates the far reaching definition of Assistive Technology and what it means to people with disabilities.

On October 1st, Nebraska DHHS launched changes to the Medicaid Insurance for Workers with Disabilities (MIWD) program. In this blog post, disability advocate and former Board member, Michael Warner, discusses the positive implications of these changes from the perspective of an individual with a disability.

Victoria Freeman, Lincoln High's award-winning Debate Coach, is the focus of our most recent blog article, written by Community Engagement Director, Sharon Ohmberger. Freeman, an individual with a disability, has earned local and national recognition for her commitment to securing equitable and inclusive environments for student debaters.

Disability Rights Nebraska, the designated federal protection and advocacy system for Nebraska, is seeking proposals to conduct accessibility assessments of county election commission websites, ballot drop boxes, office locations and DMV office locations.

Public Policy Director Brad Meurrens explains Nebraska's Medicaid for Workers with Disabilities Program and calls attention to the federal law that allows people with disabilities to be paid less than minimum wage.

Staff Attorney, Madison Wurtele, answers some of the most commonly asked questions about emotional support animals and student housing.

During Mental Health Awareness Month, Staff Attorney Amy Miller writes a timely blog post centered around this year's theme: You Are Not Alone. The piece covers COVID-19 and it's impact on mental health, as well as Disability Rights Nebraska's continual advocacy for people with mental illnesses.

While a "digital divide" within educational settings was not created by COVID-19, the pandemic has clearly highlighted its existence. In a brief exploration of the "digital divide," Staff Attorney Michael Elsken looks at its impacts, as well as potential options for addressing the divide. He concludes that, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to "fixing" the "digital divide," continual open discourse between families and schools is key when working toward truly accessible education.

Staff attorney Madison Wurtele connected with Kim Davis, an advocacy specialist for the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NCDHH), to discuss barriers to communication and accessibility.

In our newest blog post, Representative Payee Reviewer Nikki Evans talks about how TikTok's ADHD community has helped her embrace her truest self.

Disability Rights Nebraska has taken a major step toward cultivating a more inclusive, accessible online environment. With our recent implementation of the Recite Me assistive toolbar, our website visitors now have the ability to customize the way they interact with and view our website content.

Case Advocate Molly Klocksin discusses how COVID-19 has changed how Disability Rights Nebraska monitors facilities in the state. Further, Molly provides updates on the significant shortcomings in care for people living in congregated settings, which were uncovered in our November 2020 "A Widening Divide" report.

As you line up to get a COVID-19 vaccination, you might observe physical or other barriers that would make obtaining the vaccine harder for friends, family members, and neighbors with disabilities. You can help by being our “eyes and ears” on the ground.

People with mobility disabilities who encountered inaccessible Amtrak stations can begin submitting claims for monetary compensation. Claims must be submitted by May 29, 2021.

Nebraska's 107th Legislature is in full-swing! We'll be releasing our bill chart in the coming weeks. In the meantime, watch this video to catch up on some of our highlights from the 106th Legislature (2019-2020).

Disability Rights Nebraska released a report today outlining significant failures to provide for the needs of Nebraskans with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This video provides a quick look at Disability Rights Nebraska's "A Widening Divide" report, which details how Nebraskans with disabilities have been left behind during COVID-19.

Each year, Disability Rights Nebraska works in conjunction with other advocacy organizations to provide public policy internship opportunities for people with disabilities. It’s a great way to gain skills that support you in making a positive difference in how Nebraskans with disabilities are treated, seen, and included in our communities.

Disability Rights Nebraska has participated in Give to Lincoln for several years. Michael Elsken, Disability Rights Staff Attorney, encourages people to participate in Give to Lincoln and lets you see how your contribution really impacts students with disabilities and their families.

Disability Rights Nebraska Board Member and Mental Illness Advisory Council Member, Paulissa Kipp, describes life with a mental illness. In her blog article, Paulissa outlines some common symptoms and potential causes of mental illnesses.

Our guest vlogger is China Dixon. China explores the definition of "essential" and brings home the point that everyone contributes in their own way and nobody is disposable.

The 2020 Census is coming to a mailbox or location near you! The decennial census occurs once every ten years and provides every person in the United States with the perfect opportunity to make a difference in their state and local communities. Case Advocate, Karen Masterson, provides information about the census and how its results can benefit Nebraskans.

Disability Rights Nebraska recently submitted comments on the proposed changes in rules for Continuing Disability Reviews for people who are on SSDI and/or SSI. The proposed changes would modify the process and increase the frequency of Continuing Disability Reviews. In the comments, we detail how the porposed changes would only serve to increase the burden placed on the beneficiary, providers, and the State of Nebraska.

Community Engagement Director Sharon Ohmberger looks at how people, ideas and conditions grow toward becoming accepted, and then expected.

Communications Director, Sharon Ohmberger, discusses Al Condeluci's presentation on Social Capital. In addition to explaining the concept of Social Capital, Sharon identifies key takeaways from the presentation, including the importance of relationships and Al's suggestions for helping others to build social capital.

Molly Klocksin, case advocate, discusses the systemic change Disability Rights Nebraska's monitoring work can initiate. Specifically, Molly details the impact that one Lincoln Regional Center resident's lawsuit will have on the facility's operating procedures.

As Nebraska's Protection and Advocacy agency, one of our highest priorities is monitoring places where people with disabilities live and work. Case advocate, Molly Klocksin, discusses the importance of these monitoring visits and how they benefit people with disabilities.

According to the most recent available data reported from U.S. Department of Education, approximately 124,500 students across the nation were physically restrained, mechanically restrained, or secluded during the 2015–16 school year. Public Policy Director Brad Meurrens offers tips to increase both parents' awareness and students' safety.

Four top tips on navigating special education services in the new school year from Staff Attorney Michael Elsken and Case Advocate Karen Masterson.

Public Policy internships with Disability Rights Nebraska expose the interns to a variety of disability-related policy issues and to provide student interns with unique opportunities to be directly involved in (and gain a little experience with) public policy advocacy.

When you're trying to secure an assistive technology device, and you have multiple insurers (Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance), it's best to make sure everyone is on board before you make the purchase. Mike Elsken tells how to avoid some of the pitfalls.

The cost of hearing aids and/or cochlear implants counts for a huge, repeated expense that can reach upwards of $4000 annually. Most insurance companies need not even provide coverage of hearing aids. Public Policy Intern Olivia Versaw brings these issues to light as the Legislature evaluates the merits of a bill to change that situation.