Ohio accused of violating disabled residents’ rights

The state of Ohio has been accused by a disability rights group of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Disability Rights Ohio alleges that the state’s system does not encourage its residents with disabilities to integrate into homes and workplaces in the community and instead isolates them in institutions or sheltered workshops.

The 24-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act calls for people with disabilities to be provided supports in the most integrated and least restrictive settings possible.

The Dispatch reports that Ohio state officials are making some promises to improve the situation while also refuting the allegations.

John Martin [director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities]  told Disability Rights Ohio in a letter on Thursday, officials “do not agree with many of your findings and conclusions” about access to community-based services.

He said the department would discuss its current efforts to downsize institutions, get more people competitively employed and develop a long-term plan to set benchmarks for what the system should look like in 10 years.

Disability Rights Ohio may still file a lawsuit against the state.

“Simply referring to a 10-year strategic-planning process and a waiver-transition committee as a way forward is evidence that perhaps the state does not share our sense of urgency on this matter,” Kerstin Sjoberg-Witt, the agency’s advocacy director, said in a written statement.

Like Ohio, the state of Pennsylvania also has many thousands of people with disabilities who work in sheltered workshops, where they earn subminimum wages and their co-workers are almost solely other disabled people.

A recent PublicSource investigation found that roughly 13,000 Pennsylvanians with disabilities earn an average of $2.40 an hour for low-skill jobs, including shredding paper or folding boxes.

Reach Halle Stockton at 412-315-0263 or hstockton@publicsource.org.