#AdvocacyMatters: Glancing Back, Charging Forward

December 23, 2020 / #AdvocacyMatters

As we prepare to turn our calendars to a new year next week, we’d be remiss not to look back at the rollercoaster that was 2020 within our organization, our communities, our state, and our nation. There’s little doubt that this past year was the most challenging most of us have lived through. From the first days of 2020, however, we had much to celebrate as we stepped ever closer towards our vision of a truly equal society.

Our 2020 began with the settlement of two landmark lawsuits. Our belief that Ohioans with disabilities should be able to live and receive care within their communities was upheld in Ball vs. DeWine. This settlement empowers hundreds of Ohioans to live and receive care where they choose. We also saw the settlement of Doe vs. DeWine, which further opened the door for Ohio students with a disability to receive the free and appropriate public education required by law. We welcomed a familiar face, former DRO Director of Advocacy and Assistant Executive Director Kerstin Sjoberg, as DRO’s Executive Director in March, kicking off a strategic direction of empowerment and a reorganization that better aligned with our organizational goals. As COVID-19 reached our communities, we quickly adapted our intake, monitoring, and investigation work to perform these necessary functions in the midst of a pandemic. In the weeks and months since, our team has developed resources, fact sheets, and FAQs helping Ohioans with disabilities understand their rights in education, healthcare, employment, and voting amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

While 2020 presented challenges, it also brought us opportunities to better understand the obstacles facing our communities and to refine our systems, methods, and focus. We recently outlined our 2021 priorities, examining all of the work we do through the lens of this ongoing pandemic. By engaging directly with the communities we serve in establishing these priorities, we were able to tailor our annual objectives to specifically address the challenges Ohioans with disabilities are facing in the current COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Perhaps most importantly within these priorities is a commitment to listening: Listening to our communities, listening to our clients, and listening to our allies. We are striving to understand and adapt to these challenges in real time as the most effective way to move our vision towards reality.

The devastating impacts of a global pandemic moved far beyond health concerns surrounding the deadly virus. From that first moment when classrooms were shuttered, jobs were lost, and Americans faced greater uncertainty than they have in generations, our team fought to refine our work, our systems, and ourselves. These challenges presented the hot fire of refinement from which something better can emerge. As we turn the page to 2021, we look forward to living out our mission in whatever comes next. In the face of victories or in the face of challenges, it’s always true that #AdvocacyMatters.

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