Wood honored for bill protecting against discrimination of individuals with disabilities

Published 8:30 am Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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After sponsoring Exton’s Law, a bill that protects children and adults with disabilities from discrimination during medical review, Representative Debbie Wood was honored with the Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities Public Service Award. 

Wood said after years of working on the bill, she felt relieved to see it passed into law. 

“​​Families were depending on me to get this done,” Wood said. “And I wanted to ensure that it was handled and that they knew that when they went to sleep that night, that this is one issue they no longer had to worry about.”

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The award from the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) recognized the hard work and dedication that Wood put into getting the bill to the governor’s desk. 

Wood first sponsored House Bill 122, also known as “Exton’s Law,” after meeting Savannah Black and her family, constituents from Lee County. Her son, Exton, was born with Down Syndrome and has numerous disabilities that have impacted his young life. 

Wood said she was inspired by the passion that she saw in Black, which opened her eyes to the different obstacles of a family unlike her own. 

“She was very passionate about making sure that her child was seen the same way that other children are viewed, and it was something that I had never thought about,” Wood said. “It really wasn’t on my radar because I have two children that were not born with any type of disability.”

Exton’s Law prohibits the denial of an organ transplant for an individual with disabilities based solely on those disabilities. Black said many families in other states have fought for similar bills to protect their children from being looked over in medical review solely because of a disability.

“I know that decisions are made sometimes based purely upon facts — black and white — but there’s a lot of gray area,” Wood said. “And we need to allow those people to have the same pathway, the same opportunity to get through medical review and to get on that organ transplant list.”

The Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities award is meant to distinguish contributions that provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities.