Public Policy

DRW utilizes public policy and educating policymakers as very effective method of systems advocacy for policy reform. Policy reform processes are often difficult for individuals to access or understand, so DRW’s work here is two-fold. DRW works with individuals with disabilities to meaningfully access, educate and influence policymakers on issues that matter to them. DRW also listens carefully to people with disabilities, then accordingly advocates policy reform as administrative, judicial and legislative rules and laws evolve. This assures disability rights, protections and perspectives are upheld as society moves forward. DRW’s education efforts with legislators, administrative agency staff and the courts have promulgated meaningful systemic change for people with developmental disabilities over the years.

Independent Corrections Ombuds

People with mental illness, traumatic brain injury, intellectual/developmental disabilities and physical disabilities have more difficulty in prison because of disability. Inmates with disabilities often can’t access needed medical treatment or reasonable disability accommodations, and can’t work their way through the complex, unforgiving prison grievance system. People with disabilities may be punished because of a disability. They are also more likely to be segregated or isolated, which can make disabilities worse. A coalition in Washington State is advocating for an independent corrections ombuds. This would provide access for investigation and advocacy for inmates with disabilities in Washington’s correctional facilities.

Related Links:
SB 5465: Creating an Office for the Corrections Ombuds
HB 1889: Creating an Office for the Corrections Ombuds
DRW's Independent Corrections Ombuds page: Watch the video, and read more details. Sign up for updates about the independent corrections ombuds.
Guiding Principles of the Coalition for an Independent Ombuds

Police Use of Excessive Force

A task force established to respond to concerns about use of deadly force by Washington Law Enforcement released recommendations to Governor Inslee and the Washington State Legislature on December 1, 2016.  A key recommendation is modification of Washington’s stature, which currently makes it almost impossible to successfully prosecute police who have used excessive force. A bill has been introduced in the Senate and House that removes the requirement of “malice” on the part of the officer – and a failure to act with a “good faith” belief that s/he was in danger.  

Related links:
HB 1000: Concerning the use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers
SB 5000: Concerning the Use of Deadly Force by Law Enforcement and Corrections Officers
Joint Legislative Task Force on the Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing
The AVID Jail Project

Supporting Individual Rights and Decision Making 

Legislation has been introduced that will allow the Office of Public Guardianship (OPG) to provide not just guardianship, but also less restrictive options, to its clients. The OPG serves people who are poor, have significant limitations on their capacity to make decisions, and have no family or others who can assist. Less restrictive options include help with supported decision making, and also payeeship, power of attorney, trusts, with the goal that the person with a disability will be supported in their autonomy and independence in making decisions.

Sometimes a guardian wants to restrict who a person with a disability can or cannot visit with. The guardian may be worried that the person will be abused, or have other good reasons to keep people separated. On the other hand, a guardian may arbitrarily restrict a person with a disability from seeing a boyfriend of girlfriend, family member, or another relationship, where the person wants to have contact. Though it is important to protect a person with a disability from harmful relationships, advocates have asked that the law require guardians explain to the court why they want to restrict a relationship, with an opportunity for the person with a disability to express their views. Legislation has been introduced that allows the guardian to restrict contact where they have a valid reason, but the guardian must go to court and get the judge’s approval, or the restriction lapses.

Related Links:
HB 1139: Broadening Services Provided by the Office of Public Guardianship
HB 1402: Concerning the Rights and Obligations Associated with Incapacitated Persons and Other Vulnerable Adults
Empowering Choice: From Pizza to Politics [PDF]

Assuring Availability of Work Force

People with disabilities struggle with access to care providers or homecare workers. A recent federal change in fair labor standards placed a cap on overtime, which curtailed homecare availability for people with disabilities. There are also training requirements many find burdensome, which may lower the number of available home care providers. Advocates, providers, and DSHS are working together to look for solutions so individuals have access to critical personal care and independent living supports.