Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act nearly 20 years ago, people with disabilities continue to face discrimination in employment, education, and housing. The ACLU continues to support affirmative policies promoting employment for people with disabilities, as well as inclusive and appropriate education for students with disabilities.
What's Happening in Ohio
Towns and cities across the nation, especially in Ohio, are increasingly enacting local nuisance ordinances that punish tenants and landlords for calling the police when there is an emergency at their home. These ordinances operate by categorizing a variety of behaviors – including criminal or disorderly conduct, and often explicitly including domestic violence – as nuisances. If a tenant calls the police when nuisance-classified issues are happening at their home, they can be punished, regardless of whether the tenant was victim to criminal activity, and regardless of whether the tenant was in legitimate fear or need. When this happens, the property owner is often issued a citation, forcing them to diminish the nuisance or face consequences.
To “diminish” these “nuisances,” many landlords evict tenants, refuse to renew their leases, or instruct them not to call 911. Thus, many victims of domestic violence and other crime, and individuals with disabilities are forced to prioritize calling 911 in a crisis or having a place to live. In this way, the laws discourage people from calling 911 in an emergency. Calling a suicide hotline, reporting domestic abuse, or notifying the police of a crime should not be cause for eviction. Nuisance ordinances not only force landlords and tenants to make unfair and dangerous choices, but they disproportionately target minorities and low-income populations. These counter-productive policies continue to fail and undermine public safety.
Disability Rights Ohio and the ACLU of Ohio are continuing to work for out-of-cell time for programming and other activities. Ending solitary confinement is a disability rights issue since people with disabilities are more likely to be put in solitary, and because psychological damage from solitary confinement can occur after days.
Updated 11.28.16: Over 500 Ohioans wrote to Ohio’s prisons director, Gary Mohr, demanding expansive reforms to Ohio’s use of solitary confinement, and protections for people with mental illness who are particularly vulnerable to its destructive impact. Thanks to your advocacy, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) has been removing individuals with serious mental illnesses from solitary confinement, and has continued to depopulate the most extreme levels of solitary confinement.
The ACLU of Ohio will continue working with Disability Rights Ohio to ensure that ODRC institutes further reforms and adopts formal policies that keep people with a mental illness of any kind out of solitary confinement.
Ohio is putting people in solitary confinement. Although the state doesn’t call it that.
In reality, it doesn’t matter what name is used. Whether it’s local control, disciplinary control, administrative segregation, or restrictive housing, it’s extreme isolation.
Learn more about ACLU of Ohio’s campaign to end solitary confinement in Ohio.
Semantics mean little when your life is essentially lived in a cage with no opportunity for human interaction.
The U.S. Supreme Court and almost all international human rights groups and medical professionals say solitary confinement is akin to physical and mental torture, yet the state continues the practice.
People with mental illness are routinely being placed in long-term solitary conditions in Ohio prisons with little opportunity for rehabilitation. Learn more about ACLU of Ohio’s campaign to end solitary confinement in Ohio prisons.
The ACLU created this informational guide to assist Ohioans in having productive conversations with their United States Senators and Representatives at Town Hall meetings. We highlighted some of the most pressing issues of 2017, including but not limited to the Muslim Ban, Sanctuary Cities, and Border Protection. We also included sample questions that may be of use to constituents and grass roots organizations. Please feel free to share with other members in your community!
The ACLU of Ohio has launched a new webpage to answer the voting questions of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Our instructional videos and links to the ACLU of Ohio Vote Center answer common questions about updating and checking a voter’s registration, submitting a vote by mail ballot, or seeking accommodations at a local board of elections.
Although there are published materials to walk voters through the process of registering, these tools are not always accessible for Deaf individuals. Accessibility is difficult because many deaf or hard of hearing people have reading comprehension challenges resulting from public schools lacking the funding or political will to hire certified American Sign Language interpreters to enhance Deaf students’ educations. Many students languish in classrooms or remedial classes that do not match their intellectual abilities or capacity to learn. They also exit secondary school without understanding certain civic ideas necessary to vote on the issues affecting their communities.
The ACLU of Ohio has created ASL videos to help address some of these barriers and challenges. We hope that by sharing this resource, more deaf voters will sense the urgency of going out to the polls and making their voice heard this November.
Go to the ACLU of Ohio’s Deaf Voting Rights page.
The online voter registration bill that passed the Ohio Senate by a landslide 31-to-1 vote on June 24 demonstrates that online voter registration might finally have some momentum in our legislature.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has strongly supported online voter registration, especially as it benefits those with disabilities. Registering to vote online can save time, improve election accuracy and efficacy, increase participation in the electoral process, and reduce costs to Ohio boards of elections.
For more information on this important initiative, please read these articles:
- Online for All: ACLU Ohio’s Online Registration Page
- Access Denied: Barriers to Online Voter Registration
- SB 63 – ACLU Ohio Supports Online Registration
- Karla M. Lortz: Advocating for Online Registration
- Online Voter Registration on its Way to Reality!
- One Pastor Moves Voter Registration Mountains
- Katie’s Story, Online for All
- Voter Registration: Joining the 21st Century
- “Online For All” Makes All the Sense in the World
- Ohio’s Voting Record: Ready to Hit a Grand Slam?
For years, Ohio children have been brought into juvenile courts wearing shackles, leg irons, or handcuffs.
Children as young as nine years old appear in court with restraints before they have even seen a judge and without any determination as to whether the restraint is needed.
Restraint practices vary throughout Ohio. No uniform rules exist to guide juvenile courts. No uniform requirement for hearings exists either.
In 2008 and 2011, the ACLU of Ohio issued a Juvenile Justice Report Card and gave Ohio a grade of F for its juvenile shackling practices.
Courts around the country have ruled that the use of restraints in adult judicial proceedings violates a defendant’s due process rights, and restraints can only be used for those who pose a safety risk or have a documented history of escape. Courts should also make a record to support their reason for using restraints. While adults who appear in Ohio courts have all of these rights, children do not.
Many states have come to realize that indiscriminately shackling or restraining children is barbaric and undermines the constitutional rights of children. Many states have ended the practice of indiscriminate or routine shackling without sacrificing court safety.
As a result of legislation, regulation, or Supreme Court rulings, children in the following states do not routinely appear in court with restraints: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Washington D.C., and Washington.
In 2011, at the request of the ACLU of Ohio, Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez released a policy report, “Unchain the Children: Five Years Later in Florida.” The report provides a detailed account of Florida’s successful and safe court management following their ban on indiscriminate shackling.
In 2010, Massachusetts enacted a court policy that presumes against the use of restraints and provides guidelines if it is determined that restraints are needed. In 2012, Associate Clinical Professor of Law of Suffolk University, Kim M. McLaurin released “Children in Chains: Indiscriminate Shackling of Juveniles,” which examines shackling practices, harms, and reforms.
In a report, “HEALING INVISIBLE WOUNDS: Why Investing in Trauma-Informed Care for Children Makes Sense,” the Justice Policy Institute indicates that the use of restraints can “exacerbate the symptoms of mental disorders, including PTSD” in justice-involved children.
Mental health professionals have weighed in by highlighting the negative impact restraints can have on children. Dr. Marty Beyer, a nationally recognized clinical psychologist with expertise in juvenile justice and child welfare, provided a sworn affidavit detailing these effects.
Ohio is considered a national model in reducing its juvenile detention population without sacrificing safety.
Twenty three states and Washington D.C. have managed to maintain court order and safety without violating the due process and constitutional rights of children appearing in juvenile court.
Ohio can do the same.
All Ohio youth with disabilities, including those in detention facilities, are entitled to special education services. The ACLU of Ohio filed a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education alleging that children in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center were routinely denied these services. The ODE launched a full investigation that confirmed our allegation. The agency has now issued corrective actions for 14 Ohio school districts to protect all children’s right to an education.
For more information:
Read the press release ACLU Files Complaint with ODE, Requests Independent Investigation of School Districts.
Review our legal analysis Denial of IEP Services to Children in Detention Center.
Update: As a result of vocal opposition from the ACLU of Ohio, our coalition partners, and disability rights advocates from across the state, H.B. 333 has been improved. The amended bill makes voluntary a notification process that would have been required in the original bill.
Though the notification process is now voluntary, it still introduces the possibility of increased barriers for Ohioans with disabilities. For this reason, the ACLU of Ohio maintains opposition to H.B. 333.
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and state law require that buildings, sidewalks and other public areas be accessible to Ohioans with disabilities.
But H.B. 333, which has a hearing in the Ohio House Judiciary Committee the week of January 20, 2014, would make it harder for individuals with disabilities to challenge barriers to access in court.
H.B. 333 radically undercuts current law to favor big businesses with deep pockets over Ohioans with disabilities who struggle for accessibility.
It also violates the spirit of the ADA, which seeks to enable all people to participate in and contribute to our society by removing barriers that unfairly exclude some of us.
UPDATED: On December 17, 2014, an important loophole was closed. Regulations holding charter schools accountable for the use of seclusion and restraints were amended to HB 178 and passed unanimously out of the Ohio House. The passage of this legislation extends seclusion and/or restraint provisions of rule 3301-35-15 to public charter schools. Now, all of Ohio’s public school children will now have the same protections.
For years, Ohio schoolchildren — many of them with disabilities — have been routinely isolated in cell-like seclusion rooms or physically restrained by educators with little or no oversight from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).
On April 9, 2013 the State Board of Education finally passed rule 3301-35-15, governing the use of seclusion and restraints practices in Ohio schools. This rule is an important step for the many Ohio schools that secluded and restrained children without guidelines for years and adds extra protections like parental notification and oversight when a child is secluded or restrained.
Currently, the new rule only applies to traditional public schools and not public charter schools, leaving over 115,000 Ohio school children unprotected. However, Ohio Senate Bill 266 has been just been introduced that would require public charter schools to comply with the ODE’s policies and standards for limiting the use of physical restraint and seclusion on students.
The ACLU of Ohio will continue working to ensure that all of Ohio’s public school children are given the same opportunities and protections.
We will keep you posted on opportunities to take action.
There are still many barriers to full participation in the political process, including the physical layout of the poll center, language options, and early voting. A voter with a disability faces a nearly 75 percent chance that he or she will not be able to use the assigned polling precinct to vote. Democracy works best when everyone has equal opportunity to participate.
The ACLU of Ohio has a complete guide to voting for people with disabilities. In addition to our advocacy ensuring polling place accessibility, the ACLU of Ohio has created a Let Me Vote card that outlines voting rights for Ohioans with disabilities.
Various legislation has been proposed and passed through the years that would disincentivize or prevent people with disabilities from voting. On June 29, 2011, the Ohio legislature passed House Bill 194, which makes a variety of misguided changes to Ohio’s voting system. The bill includes a provision that poll workers are no longer required to assist voters. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act still requires poll workers to assist voters with disabilities if they need help completing their ballot.