July marks the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)! This is an annual celebration of an important civil rights law that works to ensure all people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. We caught up with Kevin Hurstell, Assistant Director of Communications & Outreach at Disability Rights Louisiana to discuss the importance of protecting and advocating for the human and legal rights of individuals with disabilities of all ages.
What does Disability Rights Louisiana work to achieve, and what support/programs do you provide for individuals with disabilities?
Disability Rights Louisiana (DRLA) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that protects and advocates for the human and legal rights of people with disabilities of all ages across our state. We work to empower the disability community to live an integrated life, free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
How is DRLA providing an inclusive experience for all Louisianians?
In 1977, our agency was founded to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities because they are all-too-often isolated, abused, denied decision-making power, and prevented from participating in their communities. We are part of a network of Protection & Advocacy organizations across the country that all fight for the rights of people with disabilities.
Disability Rights Louisiana (formerly Advocacy Center of Louisiana) has over fifty employees across the state who provide individual representation and client advocacy, promote policy change, take legal action, and train self-advocates to ensure people with disabilities:
- Have the power to make decisions about their own lives
- Have access to the quality care they need to live at home and out of hospitals, nursing homes, and care facilities
- Are allowed to stay in school with the services they need in order to learn and succeed after graduation
- Are not denied jobs because of their disabilities – they can get the training and tools they need to do their jobs, and understand how they can work while receiving disability benefits
- Are not being neglected or abused in hospitals, nursing homes, care facilities, jails, or prisons
- Have access to affordable housing and other critical services such as access to vote safely and securely at the polls
- Are protected from having their income exploited by a representative
- Have access to assistive technology necessary to help them live integrated lives in their communities
- Can get help when facing emergencies related to natural disasters and pandemics.
What does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mean for Disability Rights Louisiana?
Disability Rights Louisiana is the statewide Protection and Advocacy (P&A) agency with the mandate “to pursue legal, administrative, and other appropriate means to ensure the rights of persons with development disabilities in the state.” We work under the national organization of federally mandated P&A systems known as the National Disability Rights Network.
For more about the P&A Network, visit our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfWGSMJhoz8&feature=youtu.be
Since its passage in 1990, the Protection and Advocacy System agencies (P&As) have been the nation’s primary enforcers of the ADA by assisting people to access community-based services and support.
In addition to working with individuals, we work on the systems level for a wide range of community-based services and supports to meet differing individual needs. Our work to monitor these settings and services helps to ensure that they are safe and allow people to live fully integrated lives in our communities.
How does Recite Me play a role in your mission?
Recite Me gives people tools they can use to tailor their web browsing experience to their specific needs. This is extremely important to our clientele, and important across the board as recent figures show as many as one-third of Louisiana residents have a disability. Recite Me allows us to join organizations at the forefront of website accessibility for their viewership.
What does the future look like for Disability Rights Louisiana?
Disability Rights Louisiana continues to protect, advocate for, and empower people with disabilities in 2023 and beyond. We are working to expand our services and scope of resources and incorporate evolving technology into serving as many people that can benefit from our support as possible.