January 23, 2018

A White House Disabillty Agenda


“We must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination…. policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities.” — Barack Obama, April 11, 2008

Below are key points from a White House disability progress report:

  1. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included a number of provisions of particular concern to people with disabilities.
    • The Act included $500 million to help the Social Security Administration reduce its backlog in processing disability applications.
    • The Act supplied $12.2 billion in funding to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
    • The Act also provided $87 billion to states to bolster their Medicaid programs during the downturn; and,
    • The Act provided over $500 million in funding for vocational rehabilitation services to help with job training, education and placement.
  2. The President signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first piece of comprehensive legislation aimed at improving the lives of Americans living with paralysis. The Stem Cell Executive Order, March 9, 2009: (read the remarks) (read the executive order)
  3. Strengthen Access to and Improving the Quality of Health Care President Obama has placed comprehensive health reform at the top of his domestic policy agenda. This means providing all Americans with stable and reliable access to quality and affordable health care. He will work with Congress to build on what works—including strengthening Medicaid and Medicare, programs that are of particular importance to people with disabilities.
  4. Promote Access to Community Living Services Too many people who need assistance with activities of every day life are faced with a difficult choice. They can move into a nursing home and face safety and quality of care problems or risk injury or death by staying in the community without adequate services to take care of personal needs. The President believes that more can be done to encourage states to shift more of their services away from institutions and into the community, which is both cost effective and humane.
  5. Protect Civil Rights The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark law that has done much to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. However, President Obama will push for more consistent and effective enforcement of ADA, which can do more to prevent discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and telecommunications.
  6. Expand Educational Opportunities President Obama supports educational opportunities for people with disabilities and will expand funding for programs like the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) that ensure all Americans have access to the tools to succeed.
  7. Increase Access to Employment President Obama is committed to expanding access to employment by having the federal government lead by example in hiring people with disabilities; enforcing existing laws; providing technical assistance and information on accommodations for people with disabilities; removing barriers to work; and increasing employment opportunities for people receiving public benefits.

My own comments? PHEW! The historical trajectory shows that disability rights are the access point for a wider discussion on universal design to come in the future as our population faces the first impacts of an aging society. The dialogue, shut down by Obama’s predecessor, is once again open. Did I say, phew!

Konrad Kaletsch
Universal Design Resource
Universal Design Network at Facebook and LinkedIn