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President Obama’s remarks at the White House on Monday celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act were eloquent, passionate and memorable. Speaking after performances by Patti Labelle and Marlee Matlin, Obama thanked the champions of the original ADA — signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 — for passing what he calls one of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in the history of this country. After giving a nod to those who have died while working to advance the disability cause, namely Senator Ted Kennedy and Justin Dart, known as the the father of the ADA, Obama commemorated what the ADA has accomplished so far. “It was about the young girl in Washington State who just wanted to see a movie at her hometown theater, but was turned away because she had cerebral palsy; or the young man in Indiana who showed up at a ... keep reading »
Working with the Department of Justice, President Obama announced two final rules that will amend Americans with Disabilities Act regulations that relate to Title II and Title III of the law. The changes will improve access to programs and services for people with disabilities, such as at baseball games and public swimming pools. Under the rule, recreational facilities, including swimming pools, playgrounds, golf courses, amusement rides, recreational boating facilities, exercise machines and equipment, miniature golf courses and fishing piers will have to adopt accessible design standards. Buildings that already comply with the 1991 ADA standards for accessible design would not be required to be brought into compliance with the new rules until the facility undergoes a planned alteration. Additionally, wheelchairs and scooters must be permitted in all areas open to pedestrian use. The department also has added provisions that provide guidance on the sale of tickets for accessible seating at stadiums and theaters. ... keep reading »
I’m watching the healthcare debate on T.V., with President Obama taking a very CEO-roundtable-like style to try to bring together a roomful of lawmakers to agree on a comprehensive $950 billion healthcare bill. Obama sits at the head of a square conference table, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Lamar Alexander, John McCain and other Republican senators sit to Obama’s left. “We want a discussion, not talking points,” Obama says. The GOP discussion is namely centered on reducing costs through program spending cuts and holding more doctors and hospitals accountable. The Democrats talk about expanding the system to cover all Americans, including low-income families and people with disabilities. Also in the room is Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who leads the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee and is an ardent supporter of people with disabilities. Harkin, a Democrat, is working to pass the Community Choice Act, which ... keep reading »
President Obama says the government can do more to be a model to society, and has tasked several agencies with developing new plans and policies that will promote the hiring of disabled people for federal jobs in Washington. The move comes as the White House continues to recognize Disability Employment Awareness Month in October. “Across this country, millions of people with disabilities are working or want to work, and they should have access to the support and services they need to succeed. As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government and its contractors can lead the way,” Obama says. The Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, led by Assistant Secretary Kathy Martinez, will collaborate to sponsor and organize a day-long federal government-wide job fair for people with disabilities, which will take place in early spring 2010. These two agencies, along with the Equal Employment ... keep reading »
President Obama marked the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which he said resulted from a movement carried out by people who “refused to accept a second-class status in America.” In remarks at the White House, where he signed the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Obama said the ADA “began when they not only refused to accept the way the world saw them, but also the way they had seen themselves,” according to UPI. Obama praised several officials who helped get the ADA enacted, including Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh. Former President George H.W. Bush, who signed the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990, gave some praise to Obama on the eve of the act’s anniversary: “I congratulate President Obama for taking some time today to remember the 19th ... keep reading »
Speaking before a crowd on Capitol Hill, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said expanding federal benefits for people with disabilities is “a civil rights issue.” The senator, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is also the sponsor of the Community Choice Act, one of two proposals introduced this year that that would significantly expand federal assistance for people in need of long-term care. Harkin and other advocates of the measures are folding their efforts into President Obama’s push for health-care reform. At issue is the government-funded Medicaid program, which serve the disabled and elderly. The Community Choice Act would reform Medicaid to give recipients eligible for institutional-level care the choice of receiving in-home or community-based assistance rather than nursing home care. Currently, individuals seeking in-home care must apply through a waiver program — but there’s a long waiting line. HELP Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) has sponsored a ... keep reading »
President Obama’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2010 includes increased funds for employment assistance for people with disabilities as well as autism research and awareness, among other programs. The budget proposal includes $11.5 billion for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This is in addition to the nearly $5 billion already set aside for IDEA in 2010. Another $11.6 billion would be applied to decrease the backlog of disability claims at the Social Security Administration. Other disability-related programs would also benefit from the proposal. On the health front, Obama will seek more than $140 million for autism research funded through the National Institutes of Health, and $125 million to provide mental health care to kids and teens with emotional disorders. For employment, Obama will ask for an increase of $10 million for the Office of Disability Employment Policy at the U.S. Department of Labor. Separately, the budget includes $145 million ... keep reading »
Veterans may see expanded programs and services if President Obama’s 2010 budget plan passes, which includes $112.8 billion for the Veterans Affairs department, an increase of 15 percent. Calling it “veteran-centric,” the VA says Obama’s proposed budget represents the largest percentage increase sought by a president in more than 30 years. “Our 2010 budget represents the President’s vision for how VA will transform into a 21st-century organization that is veteran-centric, results-driven and forward-looking,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. The centerpiece of the VA budget proposal is a dramatic increase in veteran healthcare funding, with an 11 percent increase over the current year’s funding (excluding one-time Recovery Act funds). At the forefront: Helping the VA to remove the backlog in processing compensation and pension claims. Funding will go to building an online system, making processes more efficient, adding staff, and increasing training. The proposal also places a high priority on ... keep reading »
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is managing a new video-enabled Web site that is designed to be accessible to people with disabilities. The site, HealthReform.gov, features video messages from President Barack Obama and others on the healthcare reforms being proposed by the Obama administration. The video are streamed with a FeedRoom Access online video player, a new service by The Feedroom, a provider of online video and live streaming video. With the addition of FeedRoom Access, the site is fully compliant with Section 508, which requires federal agencies to make their electronic communications and information technology accessible to Americans with disabilities. For example, audio files have captions or transcripts for those with hearing disabilities. The site is compatible with screen readers, which are used by some people with vision impairments. Additionally the site supports alternative input devices and speech recognition technology. HealthReform.gov is serving as a model to other federal ... keep reading »
According to the New York Times, more companies are advertising to the disabled market as the weakened economy has brought about a “shift in attitudes [that] represents an opportunity to connect with the public on less mercenary — and more altruistic — levels.” For example, On Sunday, American Airlines and the American Association of People With Disabilities announced plans to honor the best television commercials featuring what are deemed positive portrayals of the disabled. The winning spot will get free air time during the airline’s in-flight entertainment programming. The Special Olympics is also being assisted in its pro bono campaign by BBDO Worldwide in New York, part of the Omnicom Group, and Perfect Sense Digital in Reston, Va. Their work includes posters and a Web site where computer users can pledge their support to eliminate the demeaning use of the r-word. Perhaps instead of marketing to people with disabilities for altruistic reasons, companies ... keep reading »

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