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As we begin 2016, the Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD) would like to recap our Office’s activities over the last year and inform readers of how MOD continues to serve the people of the Commonwealth.

Public Outreach

2015 was a busy year for MOD.  One of our goals was to increase our transparency and communication with the public which we accomplished in part by launching our blog, Twitter account and Massachusetts Disability Quarterly newsletter.  We welcome you to follow or continue to follow us this year.

Another highlight of 2015 was that we  held our first Disability Summit, which brought together advocates and leaders in the community alike.  The event was free and open to the public and the audience heard from a panel of experts on various Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-related topics.  We are pleased to let you know that our 2016 Summit will be held on September 16th.  More details to follow.

MOD also hosted our first ever art contest in 2015 to engage the public and to raise awareness of MOD’s mission. We got a great response and look forward to holding similar events this year.

Trainings

MOD conducted numerous trainings in 2015 on the ADA, building accessibility, emergency preparedness, and community inclusion and integration. Training and technical assistance was provided to public agencies, private entities, municipal Commissions on Disability and the public.  Training and education has been vital to realizing MOD’s mission of ensuring the full and equal participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of life. You can find out more about our training programs here as we continue to educate the Commonwealth in 2016.

Advocacy

In 2015, MOD Client Services saw a significant increase in number of calls from the public compared to recent years.  The Client Services Unit operates a service where anyone can call or write and receive quality information and referral, technical assistance on reasonable accommodation requests, and or advocacy on disability-related discrimination and denial of service issues.  The Client Services Unit also houses the Client Assistance Program, which advises the public about Vocational Rehabilitation and Independent Living programs and assists clients of those programs when they have concerns regarding services. Last year, MOD expanded our intake hours to 9AM-4PM Monday through Friday and added this convenient Contact Form to our website.

Monitoring

MOD continued and strengthened efforts to monitor for state compliance with various disability rights and access laws and regulations. MOD assisted communities, businesses and advocates through plan review and site visits.  MOD is also a member of the Architectural Access Board.

One major function of MOD is to serve as the ADA Coordinator for state government by ensuring state agencies, programs and services comply with the ADA and related disability laws.  In 2015, MOD formalized the role of state agency ADA Coordinator in an effort to be proactive in ensuring every state agency is meeting its ADA obligations.  This year we plan to continue to provide training and technical assistance to fellow state agencies.

Resources

MOD produces various publications and materials on disability laws, resources, news and events and makes those available to the public free of charge.  Last year we revised our very popular and comprehensive guide, Disability Rights Laws in Massachusetts Booklet (PDF) (click here for Word version).  For Disability History Month in October 2015, MOD published a blog series on disability history which is among our most-viewed posts to date.  In 2016 MOD plans to continue to produce quality informational materials.

As you can see, MOD had a very productive 2015. We believe that these initiatives have led to increased access and opportunities as well as better outcomes for persons with disabilities. Most importantly, we have been able to do this in a manner that fosters dignity and self-determination.

MOD wishes you a happy and prosperous New Year and we look forward to serving you in 2016!

 

Collage of 7 photos. MOD logo- Massachusetts Office on Disability 2015, Jeff Dougan Assistant Director of Community Services speaks to audience, emergency preparedness go-pack with emergency supplies, photo of Director David D'Arcangelo in group photo at MOD 2015 Disability Summit, MOD Staff and volunteer photo at Summit registration table, MOD Staff at MOD table at ADA 25 celebration in Boston Common, MOD table with materials at 2015 Abilities Expo, Director D'Arcangelo speaks at podium at the State House surrounded by Governor Baker and other officials.

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