February The Honorable Denise Moreno Ducheny Chair Senate Budget by nastynas


									February 25, 2008

The Honorable Denise Moreno Ducheny                          Via Facsimile (916) 327-3522
Chair, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
California State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable John Laird                                     Via Facsimile (916) 319-2127
Chair, Assembly Budget Committee
California State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re:    Opposition to DSS Mid-Year Budget Proposals for State Hearings Division

Dear Senator Ducheny and Assemblymember Laird:

       I write on behalf of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF) and
other organizations funded by the California State Bar Legal Services Trust Fund Program with
missions focused on advancing and protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities, including
the California Center for Law and the Deaf (CalCLAD), the Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC),
and Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (PAI). We appreciate your time in reviewing this letter, and request
that you share it with all the members of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, and the Assembly
Budget Committee.

      This letter expresses our strong opposition to the proposed impact of the Governor’s 2008-
2009 budget reductions on the State Hearings Division (SHD), particularly the Department of Social
Services’s (DDS’s) plan to eliminate in-person hearings and to impose other inappropriate limitations on due
process rights. The signatories to this letter join in the dues process concerns articulated in the
contemporaneously submitted letter from the Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC) on behalf of legal
services offices throughout the state. However, we also take this opportunity to write separately, so that we
may emphasize to the Legislature the disturbing implications of this proposal as far as access for people with

        As you know, all governmental entities and agencies within the state of California are subject to state
and federal disability civil rights law mandates. See, e.g. Cal. Gov. Code 11135; Title II of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 et seq.; and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. § 794. Pursuant to these laws, individuals with disabilities are entitled to nondiscriminatory access to
governmental programs and activities, defined to include (among other things) reasonable modifications to
policies, practices and procedures, and adjustments necessary to ensure equally effective communication for
those with disabilities that affect communication.

       In addition to general implications for due process, we are very concerned that elimination of in-
person hearing opportunities will have a profound and adverse affect on the ability of DSS to meet its
To: Senator Ducheny and Assemblymember Laird
Disability Advocates Opposition to DSS Proposed Limitations for SHD Hearings
February 25, 2008
Page 2

disability nondiscrimination obligations. The use of video conferencing and telephonic hearings can in some
circumstances improve access for people with disabilities, thus serving as an appropriate (indeed mandated)
form of reasonable modification and effective communication. However, sole reliance on these technologies
also creates access barriers for some individuals with disabilities. This includes persons who may need in-
person contact with hearing personnel in order to fully understand proceedings, or who have sensory
disabilities that prevent them from using technologies such as voice telephones.

       We thus urge the Legislature to recognize California’s disability rights obligations, and to fully
consider the disability access implications of any proposed restructuring of the DHS system. Thank you for
your time and attention.


Linda D. Kilb, Esq.
Director, DREDF California Legal Services Support Center Program
For DREDF and the following co-signing IOLTA Offices:

                   California Center for Law & the Deaf (CalCLAD)
                   Attn: Jennifer E. Pesek, Esq.
                   14895 East 14th Street, Suite 220
                   San Leandro, CA 94578-2926
                   Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC)
                   Attn: Paula D. Pearlman, Esq.
                   919 Albany Street
                   Los Angeles, CA 90015
                   Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI)
                   Legislative Office
                   Attn: Evelyn M. Abouhassan, Esq.
                   100 Howe Avenue, Suite 185-N
                   Sacramento, CA 95825

cc:      Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, Via Facsimile (916) 319-2146
         Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, Via Facsimile (916) 327-1997
         Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Via Facsimile (916) 558-3160
F:\LDK\SUPPORT.LTR\Disability Advocates Opposition to DSS Proposed Limitations for SHD Hearings

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