RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1107

New Mexico
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Native American Disability Law Center
905 W. Apache
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Farmington
New Mexico
87401
5055665880
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8008627271
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
Native American Disability Law Center
905 W. Apache Street
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Farmington
87401
New Mexico
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5056359288
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8008627271
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Additional Information
Therese Yanan
505-566-5880
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tyanan@nativedisabilitylaw.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
31
0
31
0
50
31
143
B. Training Activities
4
191
Staff presented to three tribal groups in community centers and chapter houses. The audience included agencies, parents and caregivers. One presentation was facilitated by staff at a tribal technical college with 65 employees, students and faculty members present.
50 CAP brochures were distributed at these events. Topics covered the legal rights for people with disabilities and the overlap of tribal policy and law. Staff highlight vocational rehabilitation services and educational supports.

Arizona Parent Training
In June 2020, the Law Center, in collaboration with the Arizona Center for Disability Law, was invited to present on the unique legal issues facing Native American students with disabilities attending Bureau of Indian Education schools in Arizona during the COVID-19 school closures. The three-part Webinar series was designed to address the questions and concerns of Arizona families, including those living in tribal communities, during the pandemic. The Law Center provided a brief presentation on the unique challenges facing tribal communities and Native American students with disabilities during the public school closures. In addition, the Law Center confirmed that Native American students with disabilities attending BIE schools had the same right to a free, appropriate public education and compensatory education services as their similarly situated peers in the Arizona public school system. The Law Center also raised awareness of the equity of access to resources (technology ad Internet) and support during distance learning in addition to the importance of meeting the mental health and wellness supports of students living in tribal and rural communities that were particularly hard hit by the coronavirus. Over 150 people participated in the Webinar. The Law Center was recognized for being a leader in addressing the needs of students with disabilities attending BIE schools. It was important for the Law Center to participate in this statewide conversation to ensure that all students were being taken into account during a critical time in statewide educational planning. The Law Center also shared specific resources for students with disabilities, and their families, to address questions or concerns with the BIE directly including how and where to file a State Complaint under the IDEA. In addition to the Law Center, other presenters on the panel included representatives from the Arizona Department of Education’s Exceptions Student Services team, the Arizona ACLU, Raising Special Kids and ACDL.

Many Farms Parent Training
In October 2019, the Law Center filed a systemic State Complaint against the Many Farms Community School (School), a Bureau of Indian Education-operated school in Many Farms, AZ on behalf of transition aged students with disabilities alleging violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Specifically, the Law Center alleged that the School had impermissibly and unilaterally changed the diploma pathways of students with disabilities from a standard high school diploma to a certificate of completion without properly convening the students’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Teams or providing the students with appropriate notice. The Law Center obtained an excellent result on behalf of the students including findings that the BIE had violated the students’ rights by changing the students’ diploma pathways. The State Complaint decision prompted a community training to share the results of the decision and share general information about graduation options, transition planning and diploma pathways with the community and those potentially impacted by the corrective action that was required by the BIE to remedy the violations. In January 2020, the Law Center partnered with Raising Special Kids, the Arizona PTI, to provide a community-wide training focusing on age of majority and legal options for students who may need support post-18 with education decisions, transition planning for students over 14 years of age, the impact of diploma pathways on a student’s long term education and employment goals, and advocacy strategies to ensure a student with a disability is afforded the same opportunity to attempt a standard high school diploma where appropriate. The Law Center also provided information on tribal and state vocational rehabilitation services as well as applicable tribal and federal employment laws like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. RSK focused on parent-school collaboration and shared tips on effective advocacy. Six families attended the community training and the material presented was well received. Families were particularly appreciative of the information about transition planning and how to ensure a student had a comprehensive plan in place ensuring a smooth transition from high school graduation to post-secondary education, employment or job training programs. Some families weren’t aware that schools had any obligation to provide transition services for students over 14. In addition to the training, the Law Center distributed the following materials: 27 Parent’s Guides to Special Education; 50 general brochures; 50 “Know Your Rights” brochures on school discipline; 50 brochures on Social Security for Children; and 25 CAP brochures.
C. Agency Outreach
The Law Center only serves Native Americans with disabilities and the service area is rural and includes isolated areas of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. Collaboration with other agencies and staff who are familiar with rural tribal communities, and bi-lingual, add to successful outreach.

D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
12
5
0
50
4
0
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E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
Tribal and non-tribal radio air regular informational segments on the Native American Disability Law Center and services offered include CAP - 12 completed for this fiscal year. The Law Center recorded 5,391 hits to our website.


Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
0
1
1
1
0
B. Problem areas
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
1
0
0
0
0
0
1
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
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E. Results achieved for individuals
0
0
0
0
1
1
0
0
0
0
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Part III. Program Data
A. Age
0
0
1
0
0
1
B. Gender
0
1
1
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
E. Types of Individuals Served
1
0
0
0
0
0
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
1
The Client Assistance Program was discussed and brochures shared at 4 presentations over the last fiscal year, with a total of 191 participants.
50 brochures on CAP were distributed. Presentations included one technical university one parent training and two tribal community centers.
Navajo Technical College is in negotiations over policy changes.

Employment Project

The Navajo Nation government is one of the main employers on the Navajo Nation, an area with an extremely high unemployment rate. In 2019, the Navajo Nation updated their personnel policies and procedures, including provisions about hiring and promoting employees. Unfortunately, these policies did not include required accessibility issues, such as reasonable accommodations and non-discriminatory hiring guidelines, or provisions about how to navigate an employee’s request for reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Hoskie Benally, Community-Government Liaison, and Steve Tarnowski, Staff Attorney, met with Dr. Perfelia Fowler, the Director of the Human Resources Division, to discuss these issues twice in late 2019. The second meeting on November 11, 2019, was with the group responsible for creating the 2020 update to the Navajo Nation Personnel Policies. In this meeting, Hoskie Benally and Steve Tarnowski gave an overview of disability rights, including Navajo Nation law, and the specific deficiencies of the Navajo Personnel Policies at the time. In this meeting, we specifically addressed a discriminatory question in the Navajo Nation Employment Application, and highlighted the need for reasonable accommodation. In late March, 2020, Law Center staff reviewed the draft policies and added a few more comments on the provision for reasonable accommodations. This draft included a section on requesting reasonable accommodations, and clarified that a person with a disability “cannot be denied selection for or retention in employment because of his or her disability, so long as reasonable accommodations can be made that will allow that person to perform his or her employment duties.” Unfortunately, these sections were missing from the June 2020 Personnel Policies Manual that was approved by the Navajo Nation Council. The discriminatory question in the application was also not removed, but merely altered to be less offensive.
In November 2020, the Law Center approached Dr. Fowler about the discrepancy in the June 2020 version of the Personnel Policies, and the draft material we collaborated on in November 2019. Dr. Fowler clarified that the June 2020 personnel policies were an emergency COVID-19-specific update. The draft changes are still pending as part of a later personnel policies update.
B. Litigation
0
0
0
n/a
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Native American Disability Law Center
No
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B. Staff Employed
CAP Staff:
Hoskie Benally is the Community and Government Liaison and has been with the Law Center for over 11 years. Mr. Benally is a seasoned advocate for Native Americans with disabilities and sits on the Navajo Nation Council on Disabilities. Steve Tarnowski is an attorney that has been with the Law Center for over 3 years. Steve works closely with two additional advocates with combined 4 years of experience. Other staff are involved with Administrative Support. The Law Center's Executive Director is an attorney and has been with the Law Center since its inception (25 yrs).
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
The Law Center's one CAP direct service case was referred to an appropriate provider for employment and educational opportunities and closed in the clients favor.
T.Y. is a twenty one year old Navajo man diagnosed with mental illness; Schizophrenia, TBI and Tourette's Syndrome. T.Y. was experiencing difficulty in getting assistance with San Juan Center for Independence (SJCI) in Farmington, New Mexico after his advocate left employment at SJCI. With the Navajo Nation spanning four states and T.Y. changing addresses, it caused communication breakdowns and the Law Center acted as the intermediary. T.Y. was directed by an advocate with the Law Center reach out to VR services in both New Mexico and Arizona to have them assist with his transition to a new advocate at SJCI. Case was closed successfully.

Systemic work:
In March 2020, Steve Tarnowski, Staff Attorney, and Hoskie Benally, Community-Government Liaison, gave a presentation at Navajo Technical University, to a mix of faculty, administrators and students with disabilities. This training was requested by the administration after a student with a disability was improperly denied accommodations and vilified by a faculty member. The presentation lasted about two hours. Hoskie Benally spoke about the traditional Navajo perspective of disability, and Steve Tarnowski discussed disability ‘etiquette’, how to work with people with disabilities, and the substantive requirements of postsecondary educational institutions regarding reasonable accommodations under the ADA and Navajo law. There were 65 members of the audience, of which approximately five were students with disabilities.

Second example:
The Law Center works with high school students in the Exceptional Student Services (ESS) at Greyhills Academy High School (Greyhills) in Tuba City, Arizona, located on the Navajo reservation. Throughout Fall 2019, Spring 2020, and beginning of Fall 2020 semester, the Law Center presented to a total of thirty-three high school students, grades ninth through twelfth. The Law Center focuses its self-advocacy project to help high school students with disabilities increase their understanding of their legal rights and make their own future decisions. In Fall 2019, the Law Center presented nine sessions covering topics of identifying their career path, accessing vocational rehabilitation services and the client assistance program, understanding disability disclosure and accommodations in the work and school settings, and recognizing their transition services. The sessions included activities such as role playing, instructional videos, guest speakers and student presentations to increase their self-advocacy skills. Due to COVID-19, the Law Center completed only five sessions for Spring 2020 semester and currently provides virtual sessions by Zoom for Fall 2020. The Greyhills students attended the meetings of the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disability to understand the council members activities as advocates and policy level mentors and to engage in native community issues effecting people with disabilities. The Law Center arranged for an Arizona VR counselor to present to students in Fall 2020. In addition, the Law Center is collaborating with Northern Arizona University’s Institute for Human Development to provide opportunities for higher education and employment services to Greyhills students. The Law Center continues the self-advocacy project with Greyhills to ensure students with disabilities are aware of their transition services and self-advocate for their future choices.

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When the Law Center first received the CAP program, an Advocate created an informational brochure and visited all of the Navajo VR Offices intruducing the program and the Law Center as the CAP for the American Indian Consortium. While the Law Center has been actively providing information & training on VR our individual clients remain extremely low. The Law Center recently learned that the Navajo VR program does not recognize the Law Center as the CAP for the Navajo people and it refuses to provide notice to its clients that they can access the Law Center for assistance if necessary. We believe this is a significant reason for our low number of individual cases. The Law Center is still trying to address this issue locally but may request RSA's assistance if the Navajo VR program continues to maintain its position.
Certification
Approved
Therese Yanan
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