(DRO News) A 2018 legislative win for children who experience hearing loss will now impact adults too.

News from a weekly email by Disability Rights Oregon (DRO)

[A young girl leaning on a desk talking with Governor Kate Brown as people stand behind them smiling.]

2018 Legislative Victory Has Ripple Effect

The 2018 legislative session delivered a big win for children who experience hearing loss. Now that victory is having a ripple effect. It was expanded to include adults by the state's Department of Consumer and Business Services under rules required through the Affordable Care Act barring discrimination based on age.  

Hearing services come with a steep price tag and private insurance companies have often refused to cover them. Last year, Governor Brown signed into law HB 4104, which requires insurance companies in Oregon to cover evaluations, fittings, and hearing equipment for children. The law also mandates that insurance companies help parents navigate their complex systems, and expands access to pediatric audiologists.

[A group of adults standing behind Governor Brown's desk smiling. A young girl leans on the desk beside Governor Brown who is seated.]

This new law helps children like Anya. Her family struggled for years to get insurance coverage for hearing aids. Now she has better access to hearing aids, FM microphone systems, and other accessories that she uses in her classroom. You can read more about HB 4104 in this OPB News story (February 2018).  

The State of California is pursuing similar legislation because of Oregon's success. 

This Week in the Legislature: Individual Choice & Self-Direction

The ADA, signed into law in 1990, says that one reason the law is needed is to combat persistent, negative stereotypes about people with disabilities. Much of the work that DRO does in the Oregon legislature is to point out how some of our laws may be based upon such false assumptions.

One of these is the belief that people who need help in making decisions about their lives are completely incapable of expressing choices or having valid preferences. In fact, all people benefit by having more self-direction in their lives, regardless of disability.

Four bills that will have hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday seek, in their own ways, to have Oregon law encourage individual choice and self-direction.

Read about them below.

[One woman's hands holding another woman's.]

Guardianship: Greater Transparency & Scrutiny

One of the most restrictive things that can happen to a person with a disability or anyone is having a guardian appointed. Guardianship intrudes on a person's civil rights and self-determination, stripping them of their right to control their own residence, healthcare, and spending.

Massive changes to a person's life can be made while they have little to no voice in the process or the chance to object. And once guardianships are in place, there is very little monitoring. 

SB 376 is a DRO bill that promotes more sharing of information with people who have guardians and requires ongoing review of the continued need for a guardian. The bill would:

Expand awareness of guardian appointments and rights of an adult to appeal or try to terminate the guardianship: This bill would require that everyone is informed when a court appoints a guardian for an individual and that the individual is made aware of her/his right to appeal or to try to terminate the guardianship.  
 
Strengthen the process to assure that guardianships are used only in cases where absolutely necessary: Under this bill, if a guardian reports that the guardianship should not continue, the court must schedule a hearing to determine if guardianship should continue. This will make it easier for courts to scrutinize and terminate guardianships.

There will be a public hearing for this bill on Tuesday at 8:15 a.m. in the Senate Committee on Judiciary. Disability Rights Oregon staff will testify. 

Other Hearings This Tuesday

Public hearings for the following bills impacting Oregonians with disability are  scheduled for 8:15 am on Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Judiciary:

SB 681 sets out an optional form for a person to designate another person to help them with decision-making. This bill promotes self-determination through the use of supported decision-making.
 
SB 682 requires courts to appoint legal counsel for a respondent or protected person in a protective proceeding in three pilot counties.
 
SB 683 limits a guardian's authority to keep a protected person from seeing friends and family.

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