Proposal: Disability Law Center of Alaska

Disability Law Center of Alaska

Your name: Meg Allison Zalatel

Short Project Description (50 words): 

Creation of the Tessandore Center for Self-Advocacy at the Disability Law Center of Alaska.  A computer station preloaded with forms, videos and resources to assist individuals in navigating disability-related legal issues.

The Big Why (300 words): 

The Tessandore Center for Self-Advocacy’s vision is that Alaskans with disabilities are empowered with opportunities and choices to participate as valuable members in all aspects of community life, with access to quality education, employment opportunities, and housing options, all while living free from abuse, neglect, and discrimination. 

The Tessandore Center for Self-Advocacy (the Center) is being developed under the umbrella of the Disability Law Center of Alaska (DLC), a statewide, nonprofit law firm designated as the federally mandated organization to advance and protect the rights of people with disabilities.  DLC provides a full range of services at no charge to people with disabilities.  These services range from education to legal representation.  However, the need is greater than the available resources.

On average, DLC receives 1600 requests for assistance every year, but can only assist with a quarter of those requests.  By far, the largest percentage of callers are asking for assistance with government benefits like Social Security and Medicaid, or Medicare.  While these programs are vital to the wellbeing of many individuals, navigating the system is near-impossible without assistance.  Sometimes that assistance needs to be legal representation, but often the gap could be filled by offering assistance with:

§  Learning the steps to advocate on one’s own behalf;

§  Finding the laws, statues, and regulations that apply to a particular legal issue;

§  Accessing forms and instructions;

§  Researching online and in a consumer law library; and,

§  Collecting and organizing documents.

One of the first steps in opening the Center is developing the infrastructure.  The physical office space has been secured.  We now need everything from tables, chairs, and bookshelves to computers and software.  While the Center is located in Anchorage, we will serve people with disabilities statewide.  A major part of that reach will be the computer systems.

The Bottom Line (Budget summary and what they’re asking for):

$1000 toward the purchase of the first computer and accessibility equipment for the Center.