We get a lot of calls here at Disability Rights Arkansas, from people experiencing all kinds of challenges. Some of those challenges are big – they impact a lot of people, and they’re the kinds of stories you read about in the papers. But the majority of our clients don’t need to go to court. They just need someone to listen and help them navigate complicated systems or ensure their voices are heard. A little advocacy can go a long way – and while these stories rarely make the front page, they do change lives for the better.

One of our clients, a PASSE beneficiary, contacted us after the PASSE failed to complete a home ramp installation. The PASSE paid a local business to build the ramp last fall, but the ramp never got built, even though the business had accepted payment. One of our attorneys filed a grievance with the PASSE on behalf of the client. The PASSE, in turn, connected our attorney with a senior investigator from their fraud investigations unit. Together, our attorney and the investigator contacted the local business to get them to start construction on the ramp, but the business refused to begin construction. Finally, the PASSE agreed to pay another local contractor to build the ramp – and he completed the ramp in April of this year.

Recently, another client called seeking help getting accommodations for his job at a grocery store, where he was in charge of the frozen foods section. He has Autism, among other disabilities. He typically worked alone and was the only employee in his department. This kept him busy enough – but then the pandemic hit. Suddenly the inventory increased dramatically, and his stress levels with it. He wanted accommodations so that he could stay mentally healthy and perform his job effectively, but he was afraid that speaking up might be used as an excuse to terminate him. Our attorney explained the laws and the process for requesting accommodations from an employer. We helped him draft an effective letter. He gave that letter to his manager, who was more than happy to grant his accommodation. He starts in a new department next week.

We’re in the business of protecting and advocating for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities. Sometimes that means making sure a client gets a ramp. Or helping someone request accommodations that help him or her stay in a job they love and depend on.

So we celebrate all of our wins. Because when we win, it means that someone with a disability gets something they need to live life on their own terms.