Proposed bill would establish ‘Bill of Rights’ for people with disabilities
In a rare unanimous vote on March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a deaf Michigan student who sued his school system for giving him an inadequate education.
The decision allowed the student to pursue an Americans With Disabilities Act claim while simultaneously seeking assistance under another federal law that guarantees children with disabilities a free and appropriate public education.
Under a newly proposed law, Nevada lawmakers are looking to protect the rights of people with disabilities within state law, including students with disabilities.
Sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), SB315 would establish a ‘Bill of Rights’ for people with disabilities and people who are aged (65 years or older) receiving Medicaid-covered waiver services. It would also establish a ‘Bill of Rights’ for students with disabilities in Nevada’s K-12 education system.
Erik Jimenez, the chief policy deputy for state Treasurer Zach Conine, helped present the measure to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday and said the measure is in honor of the late Regent Sam Lieberman, a champion for the disability community in Nevada. He also said the measure would reflect a commitment from the state to keep the person in mind when providing Medicaid services.
“It will go a long way in improving services and telling people they don’t have to be institutionalized or they don’t have to settle for less,” Jimenez said. “They can choose what kind of care they get, they can voice grievances if that care is not what they think it is. And their families and themselves can rest assured that they can have a little more ownership in what that care looks like.”
Presenters of the bill said it would guarantee a person is treated with dignity and respect and ensure the right to bodily autonomy by protecting an individual’s ability to make decisions that affect their life, including decisions surrounding personal property and finances, location of residence and the development of a home and community-based care plan. An amendment to the bill notes that it would only apply to existing services provided through the Medicaid home and community-based services waiver.
The bill also contains a second part Jimenez referred to as a “transition Bill of Rights” that would apply those rights to students with disabilities and stipulate that older children with disabilities receiving transition services through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) have a right to receive assistance and counseling surrounding higher education, education opportunities and education in financial literacy, including information on Nevada’s ABLE Savings program, a tax-advantaged savings account for people with disabilities.
Jimenez referenced the recent Supreme Court decision, saying that the bill indicates that the state is keeping students’ needs in mind and working with families to ensure people with disabilities can live independently.
Member of the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities Santa Perez, who also helped present the bill in her capacity as an activist, said when people receive waivers through Medicaid, a lot is out of their control. The ‘Bill of Rights’ for people with disabilities would ensure they have a say in navigating their lives, she said.
“We want the same things as everyone else. We want the right to choose the way we live, love, play and work in our communities,” Perez said. “We want our students to be informed about the services that are in their communities so that when they are adults, they can be informed citizens and contribute to their society.”
The measure received no opposition and is set for a committee vote next Tuesday.
Editor’s Note: This story appears in Behind the Bar, The Nevada Independent’s newsletter dedicated to comprehensive coverage of the 2023 legislative session. Sign up for the newsletter here.
This story was updated on Friday, April 7, 2023, at 8:25 a.m. to reflect that Santa Perez was testifying in her capacity as an activist, and she is a member of the Nevada Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities.
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