DD Council Connection - October 2019

logo of dd council connection newsletter bannerDD Council Connection is a way for the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council to introduce to you our Council members, provide updates on the work we do and the grant projects we manage, and inform you on the activities and initiatives of Ohio's community of self-advocates and others who work on behalf of people with disabilities and their families. We hope you enjoy this e-newsletter. Please share your thoughts, story ideas and event calendar submissions with us at DDCInfo@dodd.ohio.gov.

This month's articles include:

Ohioans with Disabilities, Make Your Voice Heard!

The Ohio DD Council is seeking input on its Five Year State Plan Survey from Ohioans with disabilities to provide feedback on issues and problems that affect people with developmental disabilities.

The input will then be used to develop the next five-year plan (2022 - 2027) for the DD Council that will allow it to develop grants and projects that benefit the developmental disability community across the state. This is a powerful form of advocacy, and we hope you participate.

Complete the survey or if you need it in other formats, contact Fatica Ayers at fatica.ayers@dodd.ohio.gov or call 614-466-5205 or 800-766-7426.

DODD Releases RFP for Family Network of Services

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) has posted a Request for Proposals for organizations to be a part of the Ohio Family Network of services. The Ohio Family Network will be led by people with developmental disabilities, as well as their families and siblings, and supported through collaborations with community partners. Family networks help expand access to information and training; foster connections to other people with developmental disabilities, as well as their families and siblings; and increase community engagement and capacity.

The goal of the project is to leverage the knowledge, diversity, and strengths of Ohioans with developmental disabilities, as well as their families and siblings, along with public and private resources, to establish an Ohio Family Network of services that are deeply integrated with neighborhoods and local communities. See RFP for additional details.

Deadline to apply is 12 PM on November 25, 2019.

Written questions shall be emailed to dodd.grant.applications@dodd.ohio.gov. Subject lines of emails must contain the applicant’s organization name and “Ohio Family Network SFY20- Q&A”.

Ohio DD Council Members Go to Washington!

Picture of Council members with Sherrod BrownOhio DD Council Member Michael Denlinger was one of almost a dozen Council Members who traveled to Washington DC this past September to participate in federal briefings on disability policy and to meet with members of Congress. Denlinger, serving as a DD Council Member from Hamilton County, was able to meet with his Congressman Steve Chabot and with U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.

The trip, planned by the Ohio DD Council, and also by the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities and the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, provided members of all three organizations an opportunity to learn, network and advocate. The program included a day where members learned about Medicaid block-grants, the Disability Integration Act, and efforts to eliminate healthcare discrimination against people with disabilities.

Picture of Council members at Washington DCDenlinger has been a vocal advocate with his federal policymakers for years, but he said this was the first time he was able to meet face-to-face with his Congressman.

“It was only a few minutes with Chabot, but I’m glad he saw that we were there and had a chance to say hi to us,” said Denlinger. “Sherrod Brown spent a considerable amount of time with us and I feel like he really heard us when we spoke up.”

Jo Spargo, Chairwoman of the DD Council, said this trip was the best one she’s participated in as a member of the Council.

“Our meetings with legislators went very well, and having folks representing county boards and independent living centers in each meeting made the conversation with each of the policymakers flow very smoothly,” said Spargo. “I know this was a lot of work to plan, but it was definitely worth it in the end.”

Council members were armed with two Fact Sheets to share with legislators or their staff: a sheet highlighting DD Council project outcomes from 2018 and a sheet identifying federal policy barriers to employment for people with disabilities. Each member participated in three meetings on Capitol Hill.

Speakers during the Wednesday afternoon briefings included Andy Schneider, Research Professor of the Practice at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy; Sheryl Grossman, Community Living Advocate for the National Council on Independent Living; Roger Severino, Director of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and Erin Prangley, Director of Policy for the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.

The State of Tech: Teaching Tech

The State of Tech: Teaching Tech logoSeveral years ago, Connie Hartman was in a meeting when she had an interesting idea. What if two groups with different strengths and similar challenges could help each other while engaging socially? Hartman, an assistive technology specialist for the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities, then established Tech Connect, a program that brings together senior citizens and people with developmental disabilities to exchange social and technological skills.

Tech Connect is one of many educational programs throughout Ohio meant to break down barriers to technology and positively impact lives. According to Hartman, education and training are critical access points to digital participation and closing the digital divide.

“You could hand somebody the coolest piece of something, and if they don’t have practice and they don’t have ways that it’s useful to them, it’s a piece of junk,” said Hartman. “It will not work. And for people with intellectual disabilities, it requires a lot of practice. It may be months until they really can do lots of different things that make life easier.”

Tech Connect meets twice monthly, and it’s been successful in Medina County. People with disabilities practice communicating with technology like iPads in a social environment, and because the program focuses on conversation and collaboration, the incorporation of technology feels more natural. Other resources for information and education exist online, such as The Arc’s Tech Toolbox and the Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) My Technology Handbook.

Across the state of Ohio, there are also lending libraries available for those with disabilities. These libraries have different types of assistive and off-the-shelf technologies, typically available for checkout periods of 30 days. These programs are often free, and allow people to try out new types of technology and start learning how to use them on their own time, before they purchase a device.

On the West Campus of The Ohio State University, Bill Darling runs Assistive Technology of Ohio (AT Ohio), which includes a demonstration space and statewide lending library. AT Ohio is the state’s designated Tech Act program, and it serves Ohioans with any type of disability.

“One of our programs that we have is a computer refurbishing program that is set up so that people with disabilities can get a computer,” said Darling. “We have this because people with disabilities are the least likely to own a computer and know how to use it, and we think it’s so incredibly important that they be part of that world, that they be on the internet and be a part of social media. In the world of computers maybe more than any other area of life, you don’t know what you don’t know—until you get on there and start messing around and learning things yourself. It opens up a whole new world for them.”

Sometimes, people with developmental disabilities aren’t aware that technology exists that could be useful to them. When they find a device, they also have to learn how to use it. Educational programs that teach technology are one way to make sure people with developmental disabilities aren’t left behind due to the fast pace of technological development.

“The training aspect of accessing technology is difficult because when you’re given a piece of technology, you need training to learn how to use it,” said Robert Shuemak, an advocacy support advisor for the Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services. Robert also served as a member of the Technology First Council. “It’s easy to get the initial training, but then six months later there are things that have changed. Just think about your use with a cellphone and how often they turn over. You know, it’s a new iPhone out every year. So, you’re always upgrading with non-traditional technology and traditional technology. Things are always changing.”

In addition, findings from a Request for Information (RFI) by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) about Ohio’s digital infrastructure states that companies who have done work to expand broad access in other states have experienced issues with “digital literacy.” Specifically, AT&T emphasized the issue of “If you build it, will [emphasis added] they come” with broadband in rural areas. One solution AT&T suggests is “developing a digital literacy program that would educate rural communities about the services being provided to increase adoption rates.” InnovateOhio, in a press release from the Governor’s Office, will work with ODOT and other partner agencies to develop the statewide broadband strategy with a particular focus on addressing the challenges identified in the report, including digital literacy.

Conclusion of The State of Tech information series

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, through its Public Awareness grantee, began writing “The State of Tech” series in mid-2019. As each part of the series was released, each part had to be updated due to the continual progress and positive changes that continue to happen with technology and its use by people with developmental disabilities. The information provided in this series is up-to-date as of October 2019.

People with developmental disabilities, families, advocates, and professionals are encouraged to express their support to government agencies, organizations and advocacy groups to help continue the momentum to increase the use of technology by people with disabilities so they can lead more independent and self-determined lives.

Clay Voytek of O'Neill Communications wrote the articles for this series. O'Neill Communications is Ohio DD Council's Public Awareness grantee. The articles in this series were funded by the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act.

Event Alert - Facebook Live: Accessing Medicaid Healthcare for Children

Disability Rights Ohio is hosting a series of Facebook Live events to help families of children with disabilities better understand services available to them.

The next event will be held on November 8 at 12 PM on Disability Rights Ohio’s Facebook Page. In this event, two of its attorneys and a senior advocate will provide an overview of Medicaid's child health program called Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services (EPSDT), the Ohio Medicaid Schools Program, and Disability Rights Ohio's Medicaid Pro Bono Program.

There is no registration required. Tune into Disability Rights Ohio’s Facebook page on November 8 at 12 PM, and participate! An ASL interpreter will be provided on-screen, and captioning will be added in the archived video.

More information about Medicaid and DRO’s Pro Bono Program is available on its website.