2021 Legislative & Annual Report: Advocacy outside the Lege

Our advocacy work extends far beyond the Capitol and law-making process, through our work with (and sometimes against) state agencies, legal actions, and raising the profile of an issue with the general public.

Board of Social Workers

Last fall, the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners (TSBSWE), the board charged with oversight of the social work profession, proposed removing from the Code of Conduct the prohibition against discrimination based on disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Facing huge pushback from advocates for the civil rights of the disability and LGBTQ+ communities and social workers themselves, the proposed change was reversed within weeks. But in June this year, the Texas Attorney General issued a nonbinding opinion on the matter that the TSBSWE indeed may issue a Code of Conduct removing the prohibition of such discrimination.

According to the National Association of Social Workers-Texas Chapter (NASW TX), forfeiting the protections would prevent TSBSWE from taking disciplinary action against a social work professional for discriminating against a person with a disability. Instead, a person with a disability would need to utilize the court system to seek redress before the TSBSWE could act, resulting in a year(s) long process during which the social worker would remain in practice. Removing these protections could result in a devastating chilling effect on people in crisis seeking the help of a social work professional.

CTD organized with NASW TX to successfully prevent this change in the Code of Conduct and ensure protection from discrimination for LGBTQ+ Texans and Texans with disabilities. View the Stand with Texas Social Workers press conference from July 7.

“Having CTD as a part of the [Stand with Texas Social Workers] press conference was a huge asset to our message, and you all lead by example in ways that inspire our work." Will Francis, NASW TX Executive Director

Critical Care Guidelines

This is a difficult subject, literally deciding who may receive life-saving care when it is not possible to serve all. Mass Critical Care Guidelines (MCCG) are criteria for medical decision-making during crisis circumstances, like the COVID-19 public health emergency, though MCCG could apply in other crises.

In negotiations with Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, Texas Nurses Association, and Disability Rights Texas, CTD’s position was to prohibit discrimination based on disability and/or perceived value of life. We accept that having a disability is not a free pass to accessing scarce treatment. Rather, these excruciating decisions are based only on individualized clinical assessment of each patient. The final MCCG includes these protections, though we hope they are never activated.

Press coverage

Shot from a low angle, a woman kneels behind a phone on a tripod, recording a man gesturing from a manual wheelchair. The Texas Capitol building is in the background.Raising the profile of an issue through public awareness and media coverage is another non-legislative tactic that can bring policy results. Through interviews, quotes, opinion pieces, and more, media outlets covered CTD’s work and our staff 33 times in 2021 (left, Chase Bearden interviewed by LeAnn Wallace of Spectrum News).

Among this coverage, we are particularly proud of our sustained call to protect the rights of voters with disabilities as legislators battled through elections reform.

Lawsuits

When public pressure and direct advocacy fail to address unjust or harmful policy, legal action is our next recourse.

In 2021, CTD joined one lawsuit led by Disability Rights Texas against the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Our complaint is that TEA has refused to come into compliance for 14 years with federal laws concerning special education students older than 18. To summarize, TEA fails to provide a no-cost alternative to support these students in complaints about their education, creating an extra barrier to a free and appropriate education (FAPE), guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The suit against TEA remains pending, as do the five other suits we’ve been involved in prior to this year.

Filed in 2010, the Pre-Admission Screening and Resident Review or PASRR suit covers people with IDD in nursing homes to improve access to relocation to the community and/or receive treatment for IDD in the facility. Following a drawn out court battle that concluded in 2018, this suit is still awaiting the judge’s decision.

In 2020, CTD joined four lawsuits to protect the rights of voters with disabilities. Two, we won (regarding signage for curbside voting and drive-through voting). The others remain in progress.

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