People with disabilities are emerging leaders in public policy. As society’s laws, policies and rules change, Disability Rights Washington (DRW) works so people with disabilities are involved, heard, and have rights upheld in the process.
This is DRW’s role in public policy.
Law-making (legislation) and rule-making (regulations) are the primary means to advance rights and interests of people with disabilities through public policy.
DRW is a resource to people with disabilities, the broader disability community, legislature, governor, state agencies, and the public in efforts to craft public policy that addresses the needs of people with disabilities and makes sense for our times.
The way DRW fulfills this public policy resource role is to:
- Support involvement of people with disabilities
- Provide legal analysis of legislative policy and budget initiatives
- Monitor bills during the legislative session
- Identify and report systemic problems
- Serve on legislative and departmental task forces
- Comment on proposed rules and regulations
- Educate lawmakers
DRW’s most important role is to remove barriers faced by people with disabilities in the public policy process. People with disabilities must receive the access, accommodation, and technical assistance necessary for full participation, with the same opportunities as the general public, to share experiences and insights with lawmakers and other decision makers.
DRW’s unique public policy role stems from experience and training in disability and the law. The disability community relies on DRW’s years of disability-related legal experience to interpret potential effects of any given bill. To understand a bill, one must have an accurate analysis of what it would do. DRW is pleased to serve as a resource to the disability community and lawmakers in this regard.
People with disabilities and the disability community want information on the array of disability-related bills considered each legislative session -- not just the ones DRW deems important -- so they can determine for themselves what is critical to their lives. As a service to them, DRW tracks disability-related bills as they move through the process.
DRW provides summary information on a number of disability-related bills and links to where more information is available. Because thousands of new bills may be introduced each year, DRW pays closer attention to bills related to our priorities and disability-related bills advancing to become law.
DRW may or may not favor a specific bill; but it is not our intent that anyone act on our analysis alone. Those who want to be active in the legislative process should weigh all proposals competing for lawmaker attention and use of limited public resources. Whether people are new to the policy process or experts, they should consider input from a variety of sources -- not just DRW – to make informed decisions about what to support.
People interested in different perspectives on state legislation can visit the Washington State Legislature website, and read bill reports, find out who supports or opposes a bill, and contact legislators for more information. Disability-related coalitions as well as political organizations are also sources for information.
DRW learns how systems funded to serve and protect the rights of people with disabilities do or don’t work.
Often we capture that knowledge by writing reports that identify and define systemic problems as well as propose solutions. These reports are made available to decision makers, such as lawmakers and state agencies, who have responsibility to address identified problems.
DRW is, at times, named in legislation or asked by a state agency to participate in a task force, sit on a council or participate in a study to lend expertise or find a solution to a particular systemic problem. We accept these invitations when it involves an issue important to people with disabilities and we have the resources.
DRW, along with other stakeholders, is often asked by government entities to comment on either proposed rules, or the repeal or revision of existing rules. Again, we pursue these opportunities when it is clearly an important issue to people with disabilities and we have the resources.
Working in collaboration with our partners, DRW educates lawmakers on systemic reform initiatives suited to our particular set of skills and legal focus.
Additionally, on occasions when there is common ground between a problem on which lawmakers are working and a problem identified in our priorities as important those we serve, DRW works so legislators understand how particular problems affect the lives of people with disabilities. We provide, when asked, technical assistance on matters related to our mission and priorities.