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At the core of what we do – in our work all across Ohio – two themes are found throughout: Equity and Empowerment.

Equity is at the center of our mission to advocate for an equitable Ohio for people with disabilities.

Empowerment is the movement within our vision: Voices Elevated. People Empowered. Equity Achieved.

Throughout 2023, our team of nearly 50 professionals worked in communities across Ohio to bring our vision a bit closer to reality. Informed and inspired by the lived experiences of Ohioans with disabilities, we’re proud to share with you all that we accomplished last year.

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Our Intake team serves as our front door, connecting Ohio's community of people with disabilities to the resources that will empower them on the path towards equity.

Through our intake process, people with disabilities can speak one-on-one with an intake specialist who will help target their specific needs for assistance. Our short term assistance team provides people with disabilities the information and practical resources they need to advocate for themselves and helping to develop self-advocacy skills for the future. These attorneys and paralegals also provide direct legal assistance and representation to help individuals resolve the disability related legal issues they encounter. Having direct communication with the disability community is key in ensuring that needed legal information and resources are accessible to Ohioans with disabilities.

“In the past fiscal year, our Intake Team provided information, referrals and resources to more than 800 individuals who requested assistance. The Short Term Assistance team provided limited legal assistance, advice, representation or individualized practical legal resources to over 600 individuals with disabilities and their families.”

-Ginger Wilson, Intake and Short Term Assistance Team Leader.

By assisting individuals all across Ohio and providing needed legal information, resources, and direct legal assistance to hundreds of Ohioans with disabilities and their families, our Intake and Short Term Assistance teams play a substantial role in bringing us closer to our mission of an equitable society for people with disabilities.

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In our work at DRO, every team advocates for Ohioans with disabilities to live, work, and grow independently in their communities. While the vision is to see disabled Ohioans thriving in the same way as their peers, too often our team sees isolation, the threat of institutionalization, and lack of access to HCBS (Home and Community-Based Services).

“The direct care workforce crisis has exacerbated this situation, but oftentimes even when there are willing service providers, Ohioans with disabilities are inappropriately found ineligible or otherwise improperly denied access to services and supports that would allow them to remain in the community.”

-Chris Camboni, Civil Rights & Integration Team Leader (“CR&I”)

Every team, from CR&I who sees this work daily to our Education, Policy, and Abuse & Neglect teams, keep the goal of independence at the center of their work. Advocating for HCBS is work that touches the lives of every Ohioan with a disability and their care team. Access to increased HCBS is something DRO is proud to have pushed further forward in 2023.

This past year, our CR&I and Abuse & Neglect teams collaborated at the Franklin Medical Center on a specific project to improve facility conditions for people incarcerated by the state. This collaboration set out to make an already stressful environment where disabled and incarcerated Ohioans were being kept as healthy and comfortable as possible.

This project taught us that even where HCBS is not possible or practical due to the constraints of the situation, dignity of life and care is still demanded and should be evaluated. Our CR&I leader sums this up perfectly in connection with his professional and personal philosophy.

“I believe we will achieve equity for Ohioans with disabilities when they have meaningful access to appropriate services and supports allowing them to live in whatever community-based setting they wish to live in.”

-Chris Camboni, CR&I Team Leader

AR24 Education

At the root of their work, our Education and Employment Team advocates for students in every corner of our state have access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”) and strives to see people with disabilities receive the support needed to achieve competitive employment. 

The word "access" can mean a lot of different things to different people, but at DRO our Education/Employment Team strives to make sure that this definition includes individualized decision-making about services and supports for both students and employees with disabilities. This means that educational providers and employers in Ohio are working to support the unique needs of people with disabilities, not simply offering a one-size-fits-all approach.

This past year, we are most proud of our ongoing work to assist students at the Warren County Educational Service Center (“ESC”) in receiving individualized supports and an appropriate education that meets their needs. While this work began in 2022, a reversal of the remedy we achieved for students at the ESC meant our Education Team spent the better part of this year preparing court filings, fighting for the rights of students and parents, and educating the public on the matter.

“In spite of politics, significant changes at ODE, and the potential ramifications to our partners, we will continue to fight to get justice for those students and families.”

-Kristin Hildebrant, Education Team Leader

While our Education advocates have been working for access on behalf of students with disabilities across the state, our employment advocates have been helping people with disabilities get the access they need to get or keep a job. Our team supports people in understanding how reasonable accommodations on the job can provide meaningful access to employment. We do this important work to reduce the physical, social, and other barriers that prevent people with disabilities from getting and keeping a job of their choice. We will continue this work to ensure that Ohioans with disabilities have the access they need to contribute their unique talents to employers across Ohio and enrich the diversity of our workplaces.

AR24 Communities

Our mission of elevating and empowering means meeting people where they are. Throughout 2023, we worked to reach directly into communities across Ohio to connect with those most in need of our resources and advocacy. We met people where they were... hosting events, staffing information tables, and providing virtual seminars about our mission and all the work we do.

On a sunny September day, hundreds of pink, yellow, and blue rubber ducks raced down the mighty Muskingum River in Marietta, raising funds to grow our work and increasing awareness to expand our reach. Assisted by the Marietta High School Tiger Navy and supported by onlookers dotting the riverbank, this third annual edition of the event helped us connect directly with southeast Ohio in a fun, colorful way.

“It allows rural communities such as Marietta to know about our services,” Bill Bauer, former DRO Board Chair told The Marietta Times. “We are here to provide services for people with disabilities and mental health conditions.”

Late in 2023, we took a monumental first step in connecting with and supporting underserved communities throughout Ohio. Our team partnered with Cleveland's U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants - Uniting for Ukraine to host a hybrid in-person and virtual listening session, covering a range of topics like language and cultural needs, the barriers faced by community members with disabilities, and the best way the engage with them. This event was the first in a planned series of sessions with underserved communities all across Ohio.

AR24 Suzanne

In April of 2023, Suzanne Musleh was welcomed into her new role as Disability Rights Ohio's Legal Advocacy Director, marking the next chapter in her journey to support others as part of her career.

“I have always been a passionate advocate and love working alongside DRO team members who are also wholeheartedly committed to advancing the rights of people with disabilities. What I enjoy most about the Legal Advocacy Director position is that I get to incorporate aspects of my legal background and experience when thinking through various advocacy tools and strategies to help achieve impactful outcome for Ohioans with disabilities.”

Suzanne has a wealth of experience in both the public and private sectors. While working previously as a DRO Attorney Team Leader, she used her knowledge of education and employment laws to advocate for integrated, community-based services that can foster equity for people with disabilities.

“It is extremely important that individuals with disabilities are given the right to live independently and in the least restrictive setting as possible. I will always advocate for our clients to have their voices heard and autonomy respected.”

In her new position, Suzanne values collaborating closely with the various teams at DRO to help make systemic change for Ohioans with disabilities. She particularly enjoys that DRO has a plethora of advocacy tools for her and other members to utilize when making these changes.

Moving forward, Suzanne plans to continue being a fierce advocate both through her position as Legal Advocacy Director and through volunteering in her community. For her, this looks like providing outreach, pushing for accessibility, and overall, spreading awareness of the resources that are available within the disability network.

“With our current annual goals and objectives, we have a lot of exciting work on the horizon that I am really eager to see come to fruition.”

AR24 Watching

Working to protect disabled Ohioans from Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation may be our most crucial responsibility at DRO. Throughout this work, our Abuse and Neglect team (“A&N”) and Rep Payee team work collaboratively to help promote the safety of disabled Ohioans. In tandem, these teams find a light in a very dark tunnel that affords disabled Ohioans opportunities for self-determination, choice, safety, and personal growth.

Our Rep Payee Team is most successful at monitoring financial abuse. Together with their Team Leader, Kara Myers, this team works with individuals receiving SSA disability benefits to ensure they are informed and have financial support that best serves their needs and resources. For Kara, the volume of the work that was accomplished last year by this team is what brings her the most pride.

“The Rep Payee team managed to work on over 200 reviews last grant year speaking with an average of eight beneficiaries per review in order to ensure their needs are being met.”

-Kara Myers, Rep Payee Team Leader

Our A&N Team has been equally committed and successful in their efforts and accomplishments. This past year alone, the A&N Team monitored 46 different facilities, engaged in cross-team projects to monitor for the presence of probable abuse and promote advocacy, investigated abuse and neglect in 14 facilities, and worked directly to assist 39 individuals who reported allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

“Children and the aging population are frequently the most vulnerable people we serve. They have the added vulnerability of having little to no sense of autonomy and choice afforded to them.”

-Amy Price, A&N Team Leader

The work in Youth Mental Health Residential Treatment Facilities also contributed to better treatment for LGBQTIA+ youth. As a result of DRO recommendations, some facilities implemented more formalized client and staff education plans, staff training curriculum, and anti-bullying programs inclusive of the use of gender-affirming pronouns.

In Nursing Homes, the A&N team focused its monitoring activties on locked behavioral health units. These units are designed to meet the comprehensive care needs of individuals with mental illness. While this work is ongoing, the A&N Team was able to raise awareness about the varied and significant barriers that prevent people with serious mental illness from transitioning from these locked units to the community or into the general nursing home population and received guidance and suggestions on resources that may help with such transitions. The A&N team will continue of its work in locked behavioral health units in nursing homes across our state.

“We approach our work in a way that ensures the dignity of our clients. It means getting to advocate and assist our clients with barriers or problems that they encounter on an individual level, to elevate their voices and their choices and to work on systemic issues that impact our clients across all systems of care."

-Amy Price, A&N Team Leader

AR24 Engagement

In 2023, our Policy and Community Engagement team worked to connect Ohioans with disabilities with positions of power, elevating their voices and empowering their advocacy. This centering of policy on the lived experiences of disabled advocates was prevalent throughout our work, much of which focused on the state’s biennial budget process and advocating for increased wages for direct care workers.

We partnered with advocate Alicia Hopkins to organize an Art Advocacy project that brought together advocates who painted their stories on canvass and turned them into post cards. These postcards were taken to centers for independent living where advocates would write on the back to their legislators’ reasons why direct care workers needed an increase in their wage.

“The art was amazing, the stories beautiful, and the impact insurmountable.”

-Jordan Ballinger, DRO Policy Director

We hosted trainings, webinars, and information sessions to keep advocates informed throughout the process, culminating in over 150 advocates submitting or providing in-person testimony throughout the budget process and the legislature investing over $1B in the HCBS system to increase direct care worker wages to $18 an hour by 2025.

“As a disabled person who is a sibling of a disabled person, all I have ever wanted to do is make the world an accessible place for disabled people where they don’t have to fight for basic services, where they are treated as equals, and where their voices are centered as the most important in discussions about their lives.”

-Jordan Ballinger, Policy Director

AR24 Board

Leading, guiding, and informing an organization with a mission as broad and impactful as ours requires unique lived experiences and a focus on advocacy. Our Board of Directors is unique in that each of its 15 members has life experience as a person with a disability, as the relative of someone with a disability, or as a professional in the disability space. This perspective informs and shapes our strategic vision and guides every initiative we take. In facing each challenge that comes along with leading a non-profit organization like ours, each board member’s unique story and background helps ensure that the core of our mission – advocating for the rights of Ohioans with disabilities – never slips from view.

  • Susan Koller, Chair
  • Matt O'Nesti, Vice Chair & Secretary
  • Mykal Leslie, Treasurer
  • Kristina Kapp, PAIMI Advisory Council Chair
  • Tia Braun
  • Kelly Byrne
  • Georgie Elson
  • James Fetter
  • Leigh Hollins
  • Anders Miller
  • Ron Patton
  • Norma Ramos-Prater
  • Kelsi Weaver
  • Amelia Whorton
  • TyKiah Wright
  • Adriana Kranyecz, Board Fellow

AR24 Kerstin

Voices Elevated. People Empowered. Equity Achieved.

In late 2022, we adopted these powerful words as the guiding vision statement for our organization. 2023 marked the first full year under this rallying cry, and its impact is impossible to ignore. While the past year brought with it new challenges and additional barriers, our team carried on undeterred.

Though complex in practice, the motivation for our work is simple: Advocating for an equitable Ohio for people with disabilities. Please join us in making a greater and more meaningful impact across our state. By amplifying our advocacy and supporting our work, you can have a direct effect on bringing this bold vision into focus.

With your support and encouragement behind us, we’re poised to do even more in the coming year.

Kerstin Sjoberg
President and CEO, Disability Rights Ohio


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AR24 Financials

Core Federal Grants

  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (PADD)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI)
  • Client Assistance Program (CAP)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights (PAIR)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Assistive Technology (PAAT)
  • Protection and Advocacy under the Help America Vote Act (PAVA)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PABSS)
  • Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program (WIPA)
  • Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries with Representative Payees (PABRP)

Other Resources

  • Ingram-White Castle Fellowship
  • The Columbus Foundation
  • The Ohio State Bar Foundation
  • The Ohio Access to Justice Grant
  • Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council
  • Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council

Disability Rights Ohio is authorized by federal law to protect the human, legal, and civil rights of people with disabilities in Ohio.

DRO and this publication are made possible through funds received from federal programs.

For a complete list of programs, visit:

The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of Disability Rights Ohio and do not reflect the official views of the entities listed above and you should not assume Federal Government endorsement. This publication is printed, published, or produced and disseminated at U.S. taxpayer expense.

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