Disability Rights Ohio is designated under federal law as the system to protect and advocate the rights of people with disabilities and as the Client Assistance Program under the Rehabilitation Act. The mission of Disability Rights Ohio is to advocate for the human, civil, and legal rights of people with disabilities in Ohio.
Disability Rights Ohio provides legal advocacy and rights protection to a wide range of people with disabilities. This includes assisting individuals with problems such as abuse, neglect, discrimination, access to assistive technology devices, special education, housing, employment, voting, community integration, and rights protection issues within the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
Disability Rights Ohio administers the following programs:
Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT)
Congress expanded the Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act in 1994 to include funding for a Protection and Advocacy systems to assist individuals with disabilities and their family members in accessing assistive technology devices and services through legal representation and self-advocacy.
Client Assistance Program (CAP)
Since October 1, 1998, Disability Rights Ohio (formerly Ohio Legal Rights Service) has been designated as the Client Assistance Program (CAP), which is also mandated by federal law. CAP advocates for people who are applying for or receiving services from the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (BVR) or the Bureau of Services for the Visually Impaired (BSVI), and/or the Independent Living Centers throughout Ohio. CAP also provides information on Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Read more about CAP: Client Assistance Program (CAP) Brochure
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD)
Congress, in 1975, enacted the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act to protect the human and civil rights of this vulnerable population. Congress recognized that a federally-directed system of legal advocacy is necessary to ensure the humane care, treatment, habilitation and protection of persons with developmental disabilities. The Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD) program serves people in Ohio communities and in developmental centers, and students with developmental disabilities receiving special education in private or public schools or other settings.
Protection and Advocacy for voting accessibility (PAVA)
Disability Rights Ohio is mandated by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (PL 107-252) to advocate for the rights of Ohio voters with disabilities and to assist the Secretary of State to fulfill the Secretary's obligations to those voters under the federal law. Through this program, Disability Rights Ohio:
- educates individuals, communities, poll workers and boards of election about the voting rights of people with disabilities;
- monitors and investigates complaints about polling place accessibility and privacy;
- collaborates with other voting rights advocates for systemic change for people with disabilities;
- participates in the implementation of provisions of the Help America Vote Act affecting people with disabilities; and
- assists and represents individual voters in State-based administrative grievance processes.
See the Voting section for more information about voter rights and assistance for people with disabilities.
Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR)
The Protection and Advocacy of Individual Rights (PAIR) program serves individuals with any significant disability other than the two groups Disability Rights Ohio has historically served and those eligible for the Client Assistance Program. PAIR-eligible people include, for example, those with chronic or serious medical conditions, people with physical disabilities, and people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who received the disabling injury after the age of 22. The PAIR program advocates for people who have been discriminated against or those whose rights have been violated.
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI)
Congress, in 1986, found that individuals with mental illness were and continue to be vulnerable to abuse, neglect, serious injury and lack of treatment, discharge planning and health care. State systems for monitoring compliance with respect to the rights of individuals labeled mentally ill varied widely and are frequently inadequate. Through the federal Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI), Disability Rights Ohio serves adults, children and youth in public or private psychiatric hospitals or units.
The federal mandate requires the establishment of an advisory council. The Disability Rights Ohio PAIMI Advisory Council advises Disability Rights Ohio on priorities and issues important to people receiving mental health services in Ohio, and promotes recovery through increased access to client rights and advocacy services. Read more about the PAIMI Advisory Council.
Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS)
Disability Rights Ohio is designated under the Social Security Act to provide information and advocacy services to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries to help them secure or regain gainful employment. This program also provides information and advocacy to SSI and SSDI beneficiaries on issues affecting employment networks, and other service providers under the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act.
Through the PABSS program, Disability Rights Ohio may investigate and review any complaint of improper or inadequate services provided to a person with a disability by a service provider, employer or other entity involved in the beneficiary's return to work effort; provide information and referral to Social Security beneficiaries with disabilities about work incentives and employment; provide information and technical assistance on work incentives to individuals; advocate to identify and correct deficiencies in entities providing vocational rehabilitation services, employment services and other support services to beneficiaries with disabilities; and assist beneficiaries who are working with accommodations or discrimination issues.
Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI)
Created by the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-166) as amended, the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) program is designed to improve access to health and other services for all individuals with brain injury and their families through grants to State Agencies and Protection and Advocacy Systems. PATBI serves to protect the rights of adults with TBI and ensures access to services for students with TBI.
VICTIMS OF CRIME ACT (VOCA)
Congress enacted the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which aims to expand aid to victims of crime beyond the criminal’s prosecution. Disability Rights Ohio applied for and was awarded a grant under this act, beginning in 2015. DRO provides individual advocacy services for people with disabilities who are also victims of crime. DRO educates and informs victims of their rights to programs, services, and assistance while advocating that these services are available and accessible to people with disabilities.
Disability Rights Ohio also partners with local crime victim advocates, law enforcement, and prosecutors to ensure that victims with disabilities have comprehensive support afforded to all victims of crime under these programs.
STRENGTHENING PROTECTIONS FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFICIARIES ACT
In August 2018, Disability Rights Ohio started implementing the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act. In partnership with the Social Security Administration, DRO manages this program designed to increase independent oversight and protection for beneficiaries who use a representative payee. This follows investigations that some representative payees—people who act as the receiver of Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income for people who are not fully capable of managing their own benefits—have mistreated the very people they were supposed to help.
This act allows Disability Rights Ohio to investigate and review how representative payees administer these funds. Additionally, the program allows DRO to report representative payees that steal and misuse funds, or otherwise exploit, neglect or abuse their beneficiaries to the Social Security Administration.