Residents of California who have a disability or a loved one with a disability have many resources available to them. One of those valuable resources is Disability Rights California. This organization provides advocacy for important issues facing individuals with disabilities, even when the outcome is unclear. Their approach is multi-faceted, including self-advocacy, legal, non-legal, media, public policy, legislative and investigatory.
Disability Rights California values diversity by hiring a staff that reflects the ethnic, language and disability diversity of California. The staff comes from a wide-ranging population in terms of age, sexual orientation, community and life experiences that reflect the disability community as a whole.
The advocacy pledge
Disability Rights California has many goals when it comes to the type of advocacy it provides. The organization describes its advocacy principles as follows:
- Our advocacy efforts will affirmatively address the needs of traditionally underserved and underrepresented communities through partnership with such communities.
- Our advocacy will be of high quality regardless of the type of service, the nature of the problem or who the client is. We will be honest, prepared, truthful, and informed.
- All staff is expected to contribute and their contributions will be valued and respected.
- With our patients’ rights advocacy, clients’ rights advocacy, and legal advocacy:
- We will do what the client wants – not what we or others think is best;
- We are honest about our limitations, values, resources and the likely outcome;
- The client chooses the outcome and the method of achieving the outcome and the client’s choices will be treated with respect;
- The client actively participates in every stage of the process.
Disability Rights California provides certain free services
For the benefit of the disabled community, Disability Rights California provides some critical services free of charge such as providing information to individuals with disabilities about their legal, civil and service rights, as well as, technical assistance, training, publications and advocacy support for Californians with disabilities, their families and representatives. The organization provides legislative advocacy. It also investigates complaints regarding serious physical and sexual abuse and neglect-related deaths in institutions.
Disability Rights California provides outreach to traditionally underserved communities. There is an opportunity for peer self-advocacy services for people with psychiatric or developmental disabilities.
The most common disability issues handled by Disability Rights California
There are many different disability-related problems for which the advocates at Disability Rights California can provide assistance. Here are a few examples
- Discrimination in housing, transportation, employment, and access to public and private programs and services.
- Abuse, neglect, and rights violations in an institution.
- Least restrictive environment, dignity, privacy, choice, and other basic rights.
- Special education rights.
- Mental health and support services that provide individualized treatment.
- Regional center eligibility and services that promote independence — such as supported living and family supports.
- Voting registration, vote casting and accessible polling places
- Access to technology — like communication devices and power wheelchairs.
Disability Rights California can also provide various services in the community, wherever children, youth and adults with disabilities live or go to school or obtain services.
Consider Disability Planning
One of the primary legal issues that people with disabilities must deal with is protecting their eligibility for government benefits. Receiving gifts from parents or children can put those benefits at risk unless you plan carefully. Many state and federal assistance programs, such as Medi-Cal and Supplement Security Income (SSI) are based on the financial needs of the individual. Put another way, if you have too many assets you may no longer qualify for benefits. On the other hand, if you incorporate disability planning into a comprehensive estate plan, you have an opportunity to better protect your loved one’s financial security without risking the loss of benefits from state and federal assistance programs.
How disability planning can help
One of the most common planning tools used is the “Special Needs” trust. This particular type of trust is irrevocable so it allows you to transfer assets into the trust to be used for providing supplemental care and maintenance your loved one receives from needs-based government programs. Essentially, assets placed in the trust can be used to provide for your loved one’s needs beyond what is provided by those government programs. Assets held in a special needs trust must only be used to provide specific types of care and maintenance to a person with a disability.
If you have questions regarding disabilities, or any other estate planning needs, contact the Northern California Center for Estate Planning and Elder Law for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (916) 437-3500.