Goals & Priorities for 2019

Our Priorities:

We focus on empowering Oregonians with disabilities with information and tools that they can use to uphold their civil rights. We prioritize issues that will impact the lives of the greatest number of Oregonians, and provide limited legal advice and representation.

Emphasis is placed on:

  • Cases where a person is at risk of long-term harm
  • Services to minority, rural, and other underserved communities


Disability Rights Oregon does not:

  • Bring cases that do not have a reasonable likelihood of success based on the facts and the law
  • Provide legal representation on matters where we don’t have expertise or staff capacity
  • Provide representation in criminal cases
  • Provide help with family law matters

Tell Us What You Think Our Priorities Should Be

Terms that We Use


  • Facilities that provide care or treatment to individuals with disabilities, including hospitals, jails, and prisons.

Reasonable accommodations:

  • Changes or adjustments to a job, work environment, housing, or public place that enables a person with a disability to perform essential job functions, live in and move about their community, or access public places like everyone else.

Community Living & Accessibility


Help People with Mental Health Conditions Live Successfully in the Community

Some people with mental health conditions may spend time in an institution. It could be a private hospital, the state psychiatric hospital, prison, jail, or a Stabilization and Crisis Unit. Success in transitioning back to community life depends on effective discharge planning. People are much more likely to maintain stable, fulfilling lives in our communities when they have a place to live, health insurance, a community healthcare provider​, and help getting an I.D. and government benefits.  We advocate for comprehensive discharge planning.

Treat Mental Illness as a Health Issue 

Too many people with mental health conditions end up in our jails. Conditions in jails can be traumatizing, dangerous, and even life threatening for people with mental health conditions. We’re working to help communities decriminalize mental illness in a number of ways.

First, we support expanding pre-arrest or pre-booking diversion and training for law enforcement in order to create tools (other than arrest and incarceration) to respond to behavior related to behavioral health crisis.

Second, we’re encouraging district attorneys to stop charging people with mental health conditions who are arrested for public nuisance crimes. Under Oregon’s current system, we waste millions of dollars and disrupt thousands of lives by sending far too many people to the state hospital in order to be restored to competency in order to face minor charges related to their disability.

We need to reform this process to eliminate needless delays and sharply reduce the number of people sent to the state hospital for competency restoration.

Expand Community-Based Supports for People with Mental Health Conditions

Many people who experience mental illness have endured trauma related to the criminalization of their condition, or coercive treatment in healthcare settings. This trauma leads to fear and distrust, and may discourage people from receiving the care and services that they need.

We support trauma-informed, client-driven healthcare services focused on harm-reduction rather than coercion. People with lived experience in the mental health system should be involved in the planning and delivery of care.

We’re also working to promote supportive housing and a range of low-barrier housing and shelter options so that people can people can stay safe. Safe, stable, and affordable housing is the foundation for community integration.

Protecting Home Care Services from Arbitrary Cuts

People with disabilities who have substantial needs can receive in-home care assistance from personal services workers for a wide array of activities of daily living, including help with eating, food preparation, toileting, communication, behavioral assistance, medication administration, and bathing.

In September 2017, DHS made across-the-board cuts to in-home care services without explanation – eliminating hundreds of hours of critical supports. We filed a class action lawsuit arguing that people with disabilities who can live in and mix with the community should not be not unnecessarily isolated. DHS agreed to a temporary freeze to ongoing cuts.

We are monitoring DHS’s efforts to create a long-term plan for assessing needs and providing fair notice to people with disabilities of changes to their services.

Accessibility: Making Street Crossings Safer

Oregonians with physical disabilities rely on being able to safely cross streets, travel on sidewalks and use public transit. When this access is blocked, it prevents them from living independently, traveling to doctor’s appointments, visiting the grocery store and participating fully in community life. We work to make street crossings, crossing signals, sidewalks, and public transit safer and more accessible for everyone.

Effective Communications: Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Some people have disabilities that affect how they communicate. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that state and local governments [and public accommodations] offer “communications with people with disabilities that are as effective as communications with others.” That means that “whatever is written or spoken must be as clear and understandable to people with disabilities as it is for people who do not have disabilities.”

We will enforce ADA requirements that help people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing who are in jails or hospitals, attending public entertainment events, or receiving government services effectively communicate.

Reasonable Accommodation: Employment

A strong, inclusive workforce opens the door to greater prosperity for our state. Lifting barriers to employment for people who are ready, willing, and able to work helps Oregonians with disabilities build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Disability Rights Oregon helps people keep their jobs and advance in their careers by assisting with the reasonable accommodations process. We offer information and referral on reasonable accommodations under the ADA.

In a limited number of cases, we can provide representation to people with disabilities who are working and trying to keep their job by negotiating reasonable accommodations with their employer.

Raising awareness about service animals  

We’re launching a public education campaign on service animals to raise awareness about why we have these laws and emphasize the impact that service animals have on the lives of people with disabilities. The campaign aims to clear up  misconceptions about service animals and the laws protecting them. We will promote positive media stories that show the difference that service animals make in people’s lives, and partner with community members to identify pressing legal issues on service animal access. 

The Right to Vote

People with disabilities have the same right to cast a private and independent ballot as their fellow Americans. People with disabilities vote at lower rates than other people. We work to lift barriers to voting for Oregonians with disabilities. We help educate members of the community about their right to vote, lift barriers to accessing a ballot, and make sure that that people who need assistance to read, mark, or turn in their ballot get it.

Social Security Disability Benefits

Social Security Benefits: Employment

Oregonians with disabilities can build a brighter future for themselves and their families through work. Disability Rights Oregon helps workers with disabilities keep their jobs and advance in their careers by assisting with the ADA’s reasonable accommodations process. We provide individuals with information and referrals.

In a limited number of cases, we can provide representation to people with disabilities who are working and trying to keep their job by negotiating reasonable accommodations with their employer.

Social Security Benefits: Overpayments

From time to time, the Social Security Administration pays an individual more money in their check than they should have. This could happen for a number of reasons, such as a change in the person’s income, starting a new job, a new living situation or a change in marital or disability status.

The Social Security Administration then sends a notice of overpayment and the individual must respond. Disability Rights Oregon provides information and referral on overpayment issues.

Social Security Benefits: Plan for Work

Some people who receive Social Security disability-based benefits—Social Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability (SSD)—decide to pursue work, but don’t know how this change may affect their benefits and healthcare. Regulations make it possible for people who receive disability benefits to work without losing their benefits until they become self-supporting.

Although the rules are different for SSI and SSD, both programs allow a person time to test his or her ability to work without losing money and health coverage. Disability Rights Oregon helps these individuals make informed decisions about work and successfully transition to greater financial independence.


Client Assistance Program (CAP): Lifting Barriers to Getting or Keeping a Job

A job can be a pathway to economic self-sufficiency and give people the opportunity to achieve their dreams. Individuals with disabilities who are ready, willing, and able to work often face barriers. We help empower individuals who are having difficulty getting or keeping a job because of disability-related barriers to protect and assert their rights.

We help Oregonians seeking or receiving services from Oregon’s Vocational Rehabilitation Office to communicate their needs, aspirations, and point of view to the employment counselors. We help people with applying or appealing a legally improper decision related to vocational rehabilitation, independent living, or employment services.

Upholding Individuals’ Civil Rights in Institutions

Stopping Solitary Confinement

Research shows that social isolation and sensory deprivation cause mental illness symptoms to get worse. In some cases, isolation can cause mental illness in individuals with no history. Yet, institutions continue to isolate individuals, including people with serious mental health conditions.

We’re working to end solitary confinement for people with serious mental illness in our jails and prisons.

Preventing Discrimination Based on Disability & Other Identities

People with disabilities may view themselves as being part of more than one marginalized community. We will focus on preventing discrimination in institutions by focusing on individuals who experience disability and other marginalized identities.

Protecting Rights of Individuals in State Psychiatric Hospital

Practices at the state hospital have improved significantly in recent decades. Disability Rights Oregon continues to monitor conditions, use of restraints and forced medications, and recognition of patient rights. Individuals placed in restraints may feel profoundly vulnerable and frightened, or may relive moments from a traumatic history.

Enforce the Civil Rights of Individuals in Institutions

People with disabilities who live in an institution still have civil rights. Disability Rights Oregon will advocate that every facility to have a designated ADA coordinator whose job it is to ensure that the institution is in compliance with the ADA. The coordinator must be responsible to explain how to make a reasonable accommodation request.

We will ensure that individuals with hearing impairments have access to interpreter services, and that facilities have adequate policies guaranteeing communication access.

Ensure Institutions Provide Individuals Access to Adequate Healthcare

A large number of people in jails and prisons have experienced trauma. They must have access to adequate mental health care to address serious needs and help them heal. We are working to strengthen jails’ suicide prevention efforts by ensuring that their policies are rooted in clinical care and take into account each individual’s needs.

We are also helping to lead the state psychiatric hospital’s sexual healthcare and pregnancy policy work groups.


Ensure Every Child Can Attend School for a Full Day with Adequate Behavior Supports

Students with disabilities are often not provided the behavioral supports they need to maintain appropriate behavior for the whole school day. Some districts, rather than providing appropriate supports, either prevent students from coming to school and provide only one hour of tutoring per day, or send them home from school early.

To fix this, we introduced legislation to limit a school district’s ability to shorten a child’s school day. We also supported a bill that requires that service providers be involved in the development and implementation of behavioral intervention plans. In June 2017, Governor Brown signed the bills SB 263 and HB 3318 into law.

We created a tool kit to help parents advocate for their child’s rights.

We will investigate districts where students are systemically and routinely provided with shortened school days rather than adequate behavior supports.

​Rural School Districts Shortchange Students with Disabilities

For many small, rural schools that lack behavioral experts, the new law alone isn’t enough. Kids with disabilities in rural areas are being left behind because those regions lack behavioral experts. We have asked the Oregon Department of Education to create a small group of on-call behavior and communication experts. These experts could travel to rural districts for tough cases and provide short-term support.

Prevent Seclusion and Restraint in K-12 education Schools

Students can only be physically restrained or secluded in school when their behavior poses a reasonable threat of imminent, serious bodily injury to self or others and when less restrictive interventions would not be effective. Physical restraint and seclusion may not be used for discipline, punishment or for the convenience of staff. We can provide advocacy services for only a limited number of students who have been restrained but will analyze reports from school districts to the Oregon Department of Education on seclusion and restraints to ensure these rules are followed.

Enforce Oregon Department of Education’s obligation to properly operate a comprehensive system that makes appropriate education available to all children

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) is responsible for ensuring that all students with disabilities in Oregon receive an appropriate education. Disability Rights Oregon is monitoring ODE’s actions to meet this responsibility as part of our system reform efforts.

Support parents in accessing Individualized Education Program (IEP) documents in their native language

Individualized Education Program documents are crucial to allowing parents to advocate for their child’s right to an education. Ensuring that all parents can access these advocacy tools by making them available in parents’ native language is vital. We’re working to ensure that parents can access translated IEP documents.

Freedom from Abuse & Neglect

Protect Oregonians with Disabilities from Abuse and Neglect

People with disabilities may be at risk of abuse. We will investigate allegations of abuse and neglect with probable cause when state and local authorities fail to adequately address the allegations, including at the state psychiatric hospital and school settings.


Transportation: Lifting Barriers to Accessing Medical Care

Access to medical care is important for everyone. Sometimes people with disabilities face barriers to reaching their medical appointments. Disability Rights Oregon will monitor non-emergency medical transport to prevent transportation barrier to accessing medical care.

Keep Law Enforcement Tools and Tactics Out of Healthcare Settings

Clinical settings need to be safe places for both the patients receiving care and for the clinical staff who administer their healthcare. Law enforcement tools and tactics, like guns, tasers, handcuffs, have no place in a clinical setting. Disability Rights Oregon will work to ensure that people experiencing behavioral health crises can access care in the safest, clinical environment possible.

Expand access to healthcare for individuals experiencing multiple disabilities

Sometimes people with disabilities have to go to the emergency room because their behavior is unsafe. We want to make sure that individuals do not spend more time in the emergency room than necessary.

We are investigating whether there are enough service providers across the state to ensure that people can receive appropriate care, and whether hospitals are effectively planning for discharge of patients who are experiencing homelessness.

Monitor Oregon Administrative Rules relating to provision or exclusion of assistive technology ensuring compliance with Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rules

Some people with disabilities use technology to assist them with daily living activities. Some of that technology is paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. We advocate to ensure that Oregon’s rules governing paying for this technology ​are​ as favorable as possible for people with disabilities who need assistive technology. We participate in Rules Advisory Committees (RACs), Durable Medical Equipment Prosthetics and Orthotics (DMEPOS) Work Group, and collaborate with partner groups (Northwest Assistive Technology Access Coalition) to improve Oregon administrative rules that harm Medicaid recipients.


Protect People Whose Guardians Violate Their Civil Rights

Some people with disabilities have another adult appointed by a court to make important decisions for them about their care and well-being. An adult must be considered incapacitated to have a guardian appointed. We work to protect people with guardians from abuse or neglect. We will empower clients with information about their rights under guardianship, like their right to terminate the guardianship, and their right to a less restrictive alternative to guardianship.

We partner with the Long Term Care Omsbudman and the Oregon Public Guardian to monitor the guardianship process.