Outreach Newsletter: November 2011

See the pdf version here.

Spotlight: Voter Education Project Attracts Talent from Several Counties

Voter education is the focus of a collaborative project between the Sacramento Regional office, the Developmental Disability Peer/Self Advocacy unit and the Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy, Far Northern Regional Center, Area Board II, and We Care A Lot Foundation. The project promotes voter education and registration for consumers living in Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity Counties.

Over 40 entries were received for a juried poster contest and exhibition for consumers on the theme “Voting: My Right and Responsibilities.”
On September 12, 2011, the artists’ reception opened with comments from Tammy Torum, executive director of We Care A Lot Foundation, who thanked many of the organizations that helped put the project together. The highlight of the reception was the opportunity for attendees to vote for their favorite poster. As part of the project, a voting booth was set up to help consumers participate in the process of voting.

Nina Marie Coker’s poster was selected as the recipient of the Award of Excellence and Audience Favorite. Ms. Coker is a 37 year old woman with cerebral palsy, who speaks American Sign Language. It was a proud moment for Nina’s father who said, “We are very proud of her. She has a very strong spirit.”

“It was very inspiring just to see how people view voting and their right to vote,” said Brandi Seater, Vote project coordinator for We Care A Lot Foundation.

Mary Ann Weston, community relations advocacy supports specialist for Far Northern Regional Center, remarked, “It was a success-it was awesome! Entries came from individuals living independently and those who participate in day programs.” Among those present were Disability Rights California staff attorney, Tho Vinh Banh and Legislative Advocate, Brandon Tartaglia; and Clients’ Rights Advocate, Andy Holcombe; and Area Board II Executive Director, Robin Keehn.

Bay Area

Homeless Project Draws More Than 200 People in Search of Assistance

On October 5, Disability Rights California participated in the Homeless Project in San Francisco, an event that takes place several times a year in different areas of the city. This event brings together many social service agencies that provide assistance to the homeless community.

Participants included the Department of Health and Human Services-San Francisco, the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Food Bank, the Salvation Army, the State Employment Development Department, the Community Vocational Enterprises, Inc., and the Department of Veterans Affairs. The event provided an opportunity to obtain medical treatment, dental, or eye care, or receive basic items such as food and clothing.

Several of the agencies were ready to provide one-on-one assistance housing needs, on public benefit information and application, and on employment opportunities. Over 200 homeless individuals attended the event. Disability Rights California was pleased to be part of the event by providing a one-on-one legal clinic to inform individuals with disabilities who are homeless about their rights to services.

Native American

Workshop on Rights to Special Education Helf for Tribal Members in Inyo County

A new community partnership was formed when Disability Rights California Senior Attor­ney, Barbara Ransom, and Native American Affairs Advocate, Phyllis Preston provided a training to parents and staff members of the Owens Valley Career Development Center (OVCDC) Tribal Program.
On September 14, 2011, the OVCDC Bishop Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) office hosted the Special Education workshops at the Tribal Community Center. Over 40 participants attended Barbara Ransom’s talk about the legal issues of eligibility for services under Special Education law and procedures for enforcing legal rights under due process. Phyllis Preston held an advocacy skills workshop at the OVCDC TANF program site. That evening a second training was presented in Lone Pine where we presented a training on Special Education to parents.

This partnership helped to increase the parents’ understanding of special education and yielded at least three new calls to the Sacramento Regional Office for advocacy services. Disability Rights California and OVCDC Bishop TANF Program are currently discussing a video conference workshop for the Spring of 2012. We are very excited to continue our partnership with the Native American community in Inyo County.

Fresno

Guelaguetza California 2011 Brings 1500 Oaxacan Families Togather

The Guelaguetza California 2011 held on September 25 in Fresno was hosted by Centro Binacional Para El Desarrollo Indigena Oaxaqueno (CBDIO). CBDIO serves indigenous migrant communities from Mexico that reside in California. It offers by providing information on workers’ rights and services such as interpreters for indigenous languages, counseling and referrals to other agencies.

This annual event brings together approximately 1500 individuals from indigenous communities from Oaxaca, Mexico who now reside in Madera, Tulare, Merced, Kings, and Fresno counties.

Ernie Moreno, Legal Secretary, and Lisa Navarro, Multicultural Affairs Advocate from the Fresno Satellite Office of Disability Rights California provided information about Disability Rights California and distributed publications. Participants inquired about public benefits, special education and regional center services. Contacts were made with Oralia Maceda, a community outreach worker for CBDIO. Disability Rights California will continue to work with Ms. Maceda to strengthen ties to continue reaching out to the Oaxacan community.

San Diego

Spanish-speaking Parents of Children with Disabilities Attend Our "Understanding Your Assessment" Presentation

The Annual Fiesta Educativa conference, attended by approximately 100 parents, was held at Southwestern College in Chula Vista on October 8. Several non-profit organizations were on hand to support the Latino community, including Team Advocates for Special Kids (TASK), Area Board XIII, County Mental Health, and Disability Rights California. This event provided an opportunity for parents to learn about the services and supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities.

In the afternoon, Griselda Delgadillo, Multicultural Affairs Advocate at Disability Rights California, presented “Understanding Your Assessment” and the importance of having a good assessment in Special Education. Interested parents and students asked many questions about the right to special education.

Office of Clients' Rights Advocacy

Self Advocacy Outreach Held at Independent Living Agency

A client advocacy group from Independent Community Resources, Inc. (ICR), a program that provides services to individuals with disabilities in order to transition into the community, invited the Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy to its advocacy group meeting to discuss clients’ rights. ICR provides services to individuals in areas of money management, supported living, mobility training and parenting skills in the Los Angeles area.

Irma Wagster, Supervising Attorney at the Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy, and Aimee Delgado, a Clients’ Rights Advocate who serves clients of the San Gabriel/Pomona Regional Center, provided a self advocacy training at ICR on June 15, 2011. Participants in the training played a bingo game as a way to better enforce their knowledge of self advocacy. Clients competed for prizes and actively participated in a discussion about clients’ rights.

Spanish-Speaking Parents Learn About Alternatives to Conservatorships

Help, Encourage, Advocate Resources Training, Support, (H.E.A.R.T.S.) Connection of Kern County invited the Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy (OCRA) to speak to a group of Latino parents from the Kern Regional Center. H.E.A.R.TS. serves families whose young or adult children, ages 3-22, need special services.

Mario Espinoza, a Clients’ Rights Advocate, conducted the presentation in Spanish, giving an overview of OCRA services and alternatives to conservatorship.

Parents had been told error that their child would have to be conserved at age 18. This was a serious concern for the parents who wanted to continue to make the financial and medical decisions they had always made for their child. Further, the parents did not know how they could afford the expense of hiring an attorney to help them. Many were unaware they had less expensive and less restrictive options.

Mario Espinoza outlined the vision and philosophy of Disability Rights California about how an individual with a disability should have personal choice and live independently. There was further discussion about how conservatorships take away a person’s rights and autonomy which is contrary to our agency’s goal of advancing the rights of all Californians with disabilities. Parents were provided with information about alternatives to conservatorships such as the power of attorney or advanced health care directive, which are less intrusive of rights and less costly than establishing conservatorships. The parents were relieved to discover that there are alternatives to conservatorships.

OCRA Works with Redwood Coast Regional Center on Regional Center Eligibility Training

Jim Stoepler, the Clients’ Rights Advocate for consumers at Redwood Coast Regional Center (RCRC), Claudia Gomez, the eligibility specialist at RCRC, Yulahlia Hernandez, the Clients’ Rights Advocate for consumers at North Bay Regional Center, and Gail Gresham, the Supervising Clients’ Rights Advocate, worked together to prepare a training on regional center eligibility. The training provided an opportunity for the audience to understand the criteria of regional center eligibility. Ms. Hernandez, a panel participant, presented on the topic.

This successful collaboration was attended by eight participants from the community who all had very thoughtful questions and comments. One participant said, “The panel did an excellent job presenting complex information clearly.” Another participant stated, “It is good to see the attention that the eligibility process gets.” All participants and presenters were engaged by the friendly dialogue and discussion.

Los Angeles

Special Education at Needles

The Los Angeles Regional office continues to reach out to the Inland Empire, conducting a series of trainings to underserved communities and in rural areas in San Bernardino. We collaborated with the Independent Living Center, and Rolling Start, who sponsored the trainings that were held in June and September. Candis Bowles, Managing Attorney of the Los Angeles Regional Office, and Mary Rios, Multicultural Affairs Advocate, provided three trainings on Special Education covering the subject of assessments, the Individual Education Plan (IEP) process, related services, due process, and the current status of obligations for providing AB 3632 services.

The series of trainings provided to approximately 20 parents and advocates was conducted in Spanish with translated materials. The training was interactive and partiicpants came away with more information and knowledge on special education. Feedback from our surveys showed that the participants were very thankful and that they would like to have these trainings take place more often. As a result of the training, Mary Rios was invited back as a guest on a local radio station in San Bernadino, “Ondas de Vida 105.5 FM” on September 19 to speak about Special Education. The radio listening audience covered numberous cities throughout the Inland Empire.

DDPSA

Training Focuses on Ways to Combat Stigma and Discimination

On August 16, Scott Barron, a coordinator for the Developmental Disability Peer/Self Advocacy (DDPSA) unit at Disability Rights California, provided a training at the Easter Seals Adult Day program in Torrance where consumers are given an opportunity to become involved in community based activities and to learn employment related skills.
The DDPSA unit provided six consumers with a training on stigma and discrimination. Consumers told personal stories and feelings about the different degrees of stigma and discrimination they face on a daily basis in many areas of their lives. Consumers reported back that they felt empowered when hearing about the possible solutions to combating these negative and painful experiences.

PSA

The 9th Annual California Memorial Project and Remembrance Day Ceremonoies

Remembrance Day honors and restores dignity to people with psychiatric and developmental disabilities who lived and died at state hospitals and developmental centers throughout California. The California Memorial Project, a collaborative project of the Peer Self-Advocacy (PSA) Unit and the Developmental Disabilities Peer Self- Advocacy (DDPSA) Unit of Disability Rights California, the California Network of Mental Health Clients, and People First of California, invited people from local communities across the state to attend and participate in the Remembrance ceremony.

PSA and DDPSA planned and coordinated the ceremonies, which included numerous speakers who presented personal insights based on their experiences. Other presentations included a meditation exercise guided by Catherine Bond to honor past residents of state hospitals; a recitation of a Spanish poem by Senobia Pichardo and Rosalinda Carreon spoken in English entitled “A Design for Living,” reading of excerpts from the book, The Lives They Left Behind, shared by Rachel Scherer, a staff attorney for Disability Rights California; and a personal story from Joseph Ramirez, who spoke about his battle with alcoholism and the trials and tribulations it brought to his life.

In addition, we dedicated a memorial plaque donated by Ivy Lawn Cemetery to the California State University – Channel Islands-- located on the former grounds of Camarillo State Hospital (CSH).

Numerous ceremonies were held at state hospitals, developmental centers and other sites where people from these institutions were buried statewide included Metropolitan State Hospital in Los Angeles, Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, Stockton Rural Cemetery, Porterville Cemetery, Napa State Hospital, Parkview Cemetery in Manteca, Ukiah Rural Cemetery, Agnews Historical Cemetery in Santa Clara, and the Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge California.

In memory of residents from the hospital, a drum performance was given by the group Heart Beat. A moment of silence held across the state, a symbolic release of balloons at several sites. Story boards and booths were on display with pictures and information about the history and purpose of the project involving various facilities.

Many attendees expressed how moving and enlightening the ceremonies were. Karyn Bates, a mental health consumer of the Ventura Client Network who attended the Camarillo ceremony, said, “This memorial project was a very soulful and memorable occasion. We are very moved and impressed by your document displays and events planning and overall dedication.” Several newspapers reported on various ceremonies including the Ventura County Star and the Ukiah Daily Journal. The event brought consumers, advocates and supporters together to celebrate the lives of people with disabilities. The ceremonies also evoked remembrance of the stigma and discrimination that people with disabilities continue to face in their daily lives.