Disability Legislation in Oklahoma:
How Oklahoma legislators are stepping up to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are included in our society.
At Tulsa Advocates for the Rights of Citizens with Developmental Disabilities (TARC), we fight for the rights of those we serve year round. We take stock of those successes and celebrate them during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March.
Much of our advocacy efforts happen at the State Capitol. From education to access to health care to political rights, Oklahoma legislators are stepping up this session to ensure individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are included in our society.
Dena Drabek, Representative Carol Bush, and TARC Executive Director Lisa Turner
While the coronavirus threatens to halt this legislative session, the House and Senate have each passed a number of bills that help advance the rights of people with I/DD. Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month began with the State Senate voting to update the terminology to “individual with intellectual disability” in current state statutes. This people-first language in government helps set the tone for all Oklahomans to avoid marginalization or dehumanization when discussing people with a disability.
Senators also passed bills that would increase the amount of teachers available to teach in comprehensive special education across the state; support the political rights of Oklahomans with developmental disabilities by making sure that their voting ballots are correct; and create an income tax deduction for contributions to Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts.
In the House, Representatives passed bills that would affect individuals with developmental disabilities and their families throughout the state by financially encouraging doctors to remain in rural areas; add developmental disability awareness training to the topics covered in police officer training; and require public buildings in Oklahoma to have universal changing stations, making them more inclusive for individuals with developmental disabilities.
TARC always stands ready to lead the charge for the rights and inclusion of those with I/DD, but sometimes we play a supporting role, like with HB 3952. The bill introduced by Rep. Mickey Dollens is also known as Max’s Law, named for a constituent in his district.
Like so many parents of children with I/DD, Max’s mom Audra Beasley is a fierce advocate for her son who was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus and Arnold Chiari Malformation II. Her forward thinking about the future needs of her three-year-old son led to legislation calling for universal changing stations to provide a dignified place to change a diaper for older children and adults in public buildings.
Dena and Max
TARC helped distribute Hot Wheels “wheelie chair” toys to legislators and state leaders to generate awareness about the need for universal changing stations in Oklahoma. Our Executive Director Lisa Turner even appeared in a KJRH news story explaining the legislation.
TARC exists to support people just like Max and his mom. We look forward to sharing more stories like theirs with each passing legislative session.
TARC is committed to ensuring a high quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families through education, empowerment, support, and advocacy. For more information, visit ddadvocay.net