Select Committee Evaluates Disability Rights Ohio

What is the Joint Committee?

In the state’s biennial (meaning every two years) budget, passed in 2022, the legislature established a joint committee to examine Disability Rights Ohio’s (DRO) activities as the state’s protection and advocacy system.

It is important that Ohio’s legislators understand what DRO does and why it matters.

Who is on the Joint Committee?

Chair Scott Lipps: 614-644-6023; rep62@ohiohouse.gov

Representative Tavia Galonski: 614-644-6037; rep35@ohiohouse.gov

Representative Marilyn John: 614-466-5802; rep02@ohiohouse.gov

Senator Mark Romanchuk: 614-466-7505; romanchuk@ohiosenate.gov

Senator Andrew Brenner: 614-466-8086; brenner@ohiosenate.gov

Senator Vernon Sykes: 614-466-7041; sykes@ohiosenate.gov

Our Role

Too often people with disabilities, both historically and even still today, do not have a voice, do not have a place at the table, and are not treated as persons with equal value and the rights of all of us. DRO works to collaborate and support disabled Ohioans to use their voices and resources when decisions are being made about them

Decisions about people with disabilities should not be made without input and direction from people with disabilities

Providers, guardians, county boards, and state agencies also play important roles in the state. DRO’s role is to be an independent advocate for disabled Ohioans. It is critical this independent role exists

As an independent advocate, DRO first looks to the person with a disability for direction on what they want DRO to do or not do

DRO cannot, nor would we want to, make decisions for a person with a disability. We simply provide information about their rights so they can make their own decision

DRO’s independence ensures the ability to advocate for a more equitable society where disabled Ohioans are free from discrimination, abuse, and neglect

Sample Letter

Chair Lipps and members of the Joint Committee, I am writring to the Joint Committee to highlight the work of Ohio’s protection and advocacy system, Disability Rights Ohio (DRO).

As you know, DRO is an independent non-profit with the mission to advocate for an equitable Ohio for people with disabilities. DRO serves a necessary function here in Ohio to protect disabled Ohioans from abuse, neglect, exploitation, and discrimination. However, for me, DRO is more than just the protection and advocacy system.

[include personal story of how DRO has helped or supported you; discuss the importance of access to home and community based services and supports]

The protection and advocacy systems were created by Congress to ensure disabled people are not subjected to the kind of abuse and neglect they faced in places like Willowbrook State School. Having unrestricted access to disabled people is necessary to ensuring their rights are protected. DRO’s unique role is critical for a population that faces unnecessary institutionalization, forced treatment, lack of access to services and supports, and a direct care workforce that is underpaid.

Beyond their individual client work, DRO also works on systemic issues that impact disabled people. Our work in this area is led by disabled people who are most impacted by the issues, and each piece of advocacy we work on is a collaborative effort.  For instance, during the last budget DRO worked with over 150 individuals and organizations through the Ohio HCBS Coalition to advocate for an increase in provider rates. This year DRO has been actively working with advocates to connect them with people like you, their local representatives and senators, hosting several in-person events across the state. Additionally, DRO has been supporting the work of the Ohio 14c Task Force to advocate for the elimination of subminimum wage in Ohio. These are important to the disabled community and it is necessary our P&A advance these issues.

[include additional information on how important DRO is to you and why it is necessary to have an organization that protects individual rights and works to expand access to home and community based services and supports]

Chair Lipps, and members of the Joint Committee, I would like to thank you again for the opportunity to highlight some of the work of DRO, how they have supported me, and why they serve a necessary role in Ohio.

DRO’s Policy Team Contacts

Jordan Ballinger, Policy Director: 740-751-5724; jballinger@disabilityrigthsohio.org

Alexia Kemerling, Community Engagement Coordinator; 614-466-7264 x 113; akemerling@disabilityrightsohio.org