Seattle Office for Civil Rights Newsletter

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Director’s Year-End Reflections

SOCR Director Derrick Wheeler-Smith

As 2023 comes to close, I’m looking back on the ways Seattle Office for Civil Rights worked in partnership with powerful communities to advance civil rights and foster shared healing. I'm grateful for all the ways we came together to bridge across differences and scale communities of practice that activate more people into the work of belonging. 


This year marked significant progress in accountable community investments, policy development, and civil rights enforcement that centers justice and healing for communities furthest from opportunity. Together, we led with compassion, integrity, and imagination to achieve our goals. Accomplishments include supporting the historic passage of an ordinance codifying the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative into law, overseeing the nation’s largest participatory budgeting process to date, and improvements in the delivery of civil rights enforcement services, which represent only a few of many highlights from our work this year.  

I’d like to share my appreciation for our Disability, Human Rights, LGBTQ, and Women’s commissions for their continued advocacy for the rights and wellbeing of our communities. I also want to thank our community partners and SOCR staff whose hard work, dedication, and collaboration propelled us to new heights this year.

Here’s to a fantastic year behind us, and the promise of an even brighter new year together.  

Derrick Wheeler-Smith 

Seattle Office for Civil Rights 

Commission Highlights

Disability Rights are Human Rights: Human Rights Day Event

Disability Rights are Human Rights: 2023 Human Rights Day Event 

December 14 at 5:00 p.m., hosted in-person and online 

Join us to hear a panel of experts share stories and insights centering disability rights and what the future looks like for the disability community. Hosted by the Human Rights, Disability, LGBTQ, Women’s commissions, Seattle Office for Civil Rights, UW Center on Human Rights, and Town Hall Seattle. The event will open with a reception and poster presentation by UW undergraduate students at 5:00 p.m., followed by the panel and awards at 6:30pm.  

Panelists include:  

  • Rep. Darya Farivar, 46th District 
  • Carrie Basas, Executive Director, Disability Rights Washington 
  • Andrea Dailey, Seattle Human Rights Commissioner 
  • Patricia Delgado, Parent-to-Parent Program Coordinator for the Arc of King County 

The following will be recognized for their impact toward human rights and disability rights:  

  • Marci Carpenter, Human Rights Leader Awardee
  • DeafBlind Service Center, Human Rights Organization Awardee
  • Arielo Belo, Human Rights Social Justice Awardee
  • Dr. Anat Caspi, Co-founding Professor of CREATE, Human Rights Educator Awardee
  • Bezawit Tesfaye, Human Rights Leader Awardee
  • Vadis, Disability Business Leader Awardee
  • Deaunte Damper, Disability Lifetime Dianne Laurine Achievement Awardee

The program will be available in braille in addition to CART and American Sign Language interpreters. 

Community Investments

Seattle Announces $27M in Winning Participatory Budgeting Projects 

Seattle's $27 Million Participatory Budgeting Process

Following a month-long voting period, Seattle’s $27 million participatory budgeting process resulted in six winning proposals to improve community safety through investments in education, housing, mental health, and economic development. Learn more about the winning projects on our blog. 

Stay Engaged with Next Steps

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights hosted two virtual information sessions about the $27 million participatory budgeting process and next steps toward implementation of winning projects on December 5 and 12, 2023. A recording of the presentation is available here.

2023 Collective Network Request for Proposals: Community-Owned Responses to Domestic Violence 

Support group

The Seattle Office for Civil Rights is accepting proposals from organizations and coalitions for community-owned strategies to respond to domestic violence. This funding opportunity was informed by the Seattle Community Responses to Domestic Violence Workgroup report.

Funds will increase access to community-owned programs that support and center survivors disproportionately harmed by the criminal legal system through holistic approaches to safety and healing. Visit our website to learn more and apply by January 12, 2023.


Civil Rights Enforcement

Service Animals in Seattle

Service Animals in Seattle

Service animals do work, perform tasks, or provide medically necessary support for people with disabilities. In Seattle, this includes therapy, emotional support, and companion animals and is not limited to dogs or miniature horses.  


Know Your Rights 

Service animal owners must have a disability-related need for a service animal. If that need is unclear, owners may be required to show proof for housing and employment—not in public places. Visit our website to learn more about under what circumstances employers or business owners are permitted to restrict service animal access or ask for proof of disability-related needs. 


Calendar of Events

Making Gigs Work: Art Exhibition—December 2 through January 15 

Making Gigs Work: Art Exhibition

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards has partnered with Seattle Center and community artists to highlight the important work of independent contractors and app-based workers (sometimes called gig workers), and the protections these workers have in Seattle. The art installation will run through January 15th, with a free event on January 13 from 3-6pm featuring live music, crafting, and speakers. Click here to learn more.

Celebrating Inclusion in Community: 50 Years of the Rehabilitation Act—January 20 

Big Day of Play 2019

Join Seattle Parks and the Seattle Disability Commission in Celebrating Inclusion in Community: 50 years of the Rehabilitation Act on Saturday January 20, 2024! This community event will take place from 12-4 pm at Magnuson Hangar, Building 30, 6310 NE 74th St., Seattle, WA, 98115. 


The keynote speaker will be Dr. Anjali J. Forber- Pratt, Activist, Paralympic Medalist, Director of the National Institute of Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research. 


Organized in part by the City of Seattle Parks and Recreation, ARC, University of Washington, The Seattle Public Library, Studio Pacifica, Age Friendly Seattle, Northwest ADA Center, and the National Federation of the Blind Washington. Learn more here.