Disability Rights Arkansas is a non-profit organization funded by a federal grants. For a complete list of funders, visit our Funding Page.
Disability rights are civil rights.
Throughout a challenging year, this statement has been our mantra here at Disability Rights Arkansas.
Fiscal Year 2021 was a challenging one, to be sure. The global pandemic presented no shortage of barriers to Arkansans with disabilities, and rather than addressing these barriers, the 93rd Arkansas General Assembly waged a full-on assault against the civil rights of Arkansans, including those with disabilities.
While DRA staff transitioned to working from home, the calls for advocacy did not stop. In fact, they increased. Whether seeking secure employment, trying to get special education services for their children, or simply seeking needed support to live independently, many Arkansans were left feeling isolated as providers reduced services for lack of adequate staff or funding.
Yet, we persevered! As advocacy responsiveness shifted to a virtual environment, DRA staff responded to every challenge without missing a beat.
The Board of Directors, Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council, and agency staff came together to redefine how we provide advocacy to Arkansans with disabilities. The traditional monitoring activities, never more important, shifted to virtual monitoring. Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings were conducted virtually. Meetings with coalition partners shifted from the conference table to the Zoom room.
Refusing to let a virtual environment create even more barriers, DRA held its first-ever statewide conference virtually in April 2021. It presented a Herculean effort for our staff, but it was a success.
Once we had our first virtual convening under our belts, we planned more: We will be holding quarterly webinars throughout Fiscal Year 2022 on a variety of topics. The webinars will allow individuals who are unable to attend in person to participate virtually, and later, the webinars will be available to view on our YouTube channel. There’s no substitute for convening in person, but it is our hope that virtual training opportunities will allow us to reach even more people throughout the state.
While no one knows what challenges Fiscal Year 2022 will bring, you can count on DRA to advocate for the civil and legal rights of Arkansans with disabilities. Whether it’s in person or over Zoom, in the courtroom or at the Capitol, DRA is more committed than ever to providing the tireless and vigorous advocacy Arkansans need and deserve.
With your continued support, we can do great things in the coming year.