Aug 26, 2009
Recalling the work of our greatest champion in the Senate.
We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
The importance of Senator Kennedy to the disability rights movement cannot be overstated. He has been our champion for decades. It will take volumes of scholarship to fully document his importance to our community and the nation as a whole, but let me give you a highly abbreviated taste of what he accomplished for us over the past 40 years.
1975: Cosponsored the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, which later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The law served to amend the Education of the Handicapped Act and to guarantee a free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities.
1975: Cosponsored legislation to create a “bill of rights” for people with developmental disabilities, providing funding for services for people with this type of disability, supplementing funding for affiliated university facilities and creating state-based systems of protection and advocacy groups in all 50 states.
1978: Cosponsored the Civil Rights Commission Act Amendments of 1978, which expanded the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission to protect people from discrimination on the basis of disability.
1978: Strongly supported the Rehabilitation, Comprehensive Services and Developmental Disabilities Amendments of 1978 establishing a functional definition of developmental disability, creating the National Council on the Handicapped and the National Institute of Handicapped Research, setting a funding minimum for protection and advocacy services and authorizing a grant for independent living services.
1980: Cosponsored the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act, which enforced the rights of people in government institutions such as the elderly, the disabled, the mental ill, and the incarcerated under the Constitution.
1982: Cosponsored the Job Training Partnership Act, designed to break down barriers facing “economically disadvantaged” individuals including people with disabilities and assuring that people could not be excluded from the training program based on a disability.
1982: Cosponsored legislation allowing states to cover home health care services for particular children with disabilities under their Medicaid plans. This was intended to allow parents “respite” or rest periods with a trained professional helping to care for their child’s needs.
1984: Cosponsored legislation requiring polling stations to provide physical accessibility and registration and voting aids for people with disabilities.
1986: Cosponsored the Air Carrier Access Act requiring facilities and services to be accessible to people with disabilities traveling by air.
1986: Cosponsored the Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act, which made work incentives for disabled individuals a permanent fixture of the Social Security Act.
1986: Cosponsored the Handicapped Children's Protection Act of 1986, which overturned a Supreme Court decision and allowed courts to award sensible attorneys fees to parents of children with disabilities winning in due process proceedings and other court actions under part B of the Education Act.
1986: Cosponsored amendments to the Education of the Handicapped Act, establishing a new grant program aimed at developing an early intervention system benefiting infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families and promoting preschool programs for children ages 3 to 5 with disabilities.
1988: Introduced the Fair Housing Act Amendments to extend the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to include people with disabilities and families with children.
1990: Cosponsored a bill that changed the name of the Education of the Handicapped Act to IDEA, changed the term from handicapped to disability, and added two categories to the amendment: autism and traumatic brain injury. It also reauthorized the programs under the previous act to provide improved support to students with disabilities particularly in the terms of computer access and assistive technology.
1990: Introduced (with Senator Harkin) the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
1990: Introduced the Ryan White CARE Act which provided emergency relief to thirteen cities hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic, and also provided substantial assistance to all states to develop effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs, aimed particularly at early diagnosis and home care.
1991: Sponsored legislation to reorganize the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration.
1997: Cosponsored amendments to IDEA directing inclusion of special education in state and district-wide assessments, promoting mediation as an option to disputes between teachers and parents of children with disabilities, providing that special education students be disciplined in the same way as other students, continuing services to adult inmates with disabilities who were eligible for IDEA prior to their incarceration, and requiring charter schools to meet the needs of children with disabilities and to receive IDEA funds from district schools.
1998: Cosponsored the Crime Victims and Disabilities Awareness Act of 1998 directing the Attorney General to conduct a study of crimes against people with disabilities.
1999: Cosponsored the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act. The law and its “ticket to work and self-sufficiency” program expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities through providing disabled Social Security beneficiaries greater support and more options. It also allowed for working people with disabilities to receive benefits from Medicaid and/or Medicare.
2004: Cosponsored the Assistive Technology Act which supports states in to sustain and strengthen the capacity to meet the assistive technology needs of individuals.
2004: Sponsored the reauthorization of the IDEA, with a new focus on promoting better alignment of special education with general education and having school districts be accountable for the educational outcome of all students, including students with all ranges of disabilities.
2006: Won a 5-year-long battle to pass the Family Opportunity Act. The law provides states the option of allowing families of disabled children to purchase health coverage through Medicaid. The bill passed as an amendment to the budget reconciliation bill.
2008: Championed mental health parity legislation assuring individuals living with mental health and substance abuse issues that their mental health benefit would be treated equally with the medical-surgical benefit regarding treatment limitations and financial requirements.
2009: Succeeded in having the CLASS Act included in the text of the Affordable Health Choices Act that was passed out of the HELP Committee. This bill aims to provide elderly and disabled individuals with a daily cash benefit to purchase services and supports they need to remain in and be a productive member of the community.
These accomplishments amount to a virtual history of the disability rights movement. For this and so much more, we salute and thank Senator Kennedy.
May 20, 2009
Moonlighting from 3000 miles away.
If you don't know, DRO is part of a national network of Protection and Advocacy organizations. Our national organization is appropriately called the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) and is based in Washington, DC. Every year, the directors of all 57 P&As are called to Washington for a conference. We hear from federal officials, talk shop, and see colleagues who, in some cases, we have known for decades.
Since Washington is on eastern time, it always turns out that I continue to do my west coast job when it's east coast quitting time. Today was no exception.
This morning, our group heard from Jeff Crowley who is the Senior Advisory on Disability Policy person in the White House. He said that part of his job is to create a new major AIDS policy and to assist in health care reform efforts. When asked what it was like to work in the Obama White House, he said that the President does not dictate to staff. He lets them grapple with issues. "Great leadership does not eliminate politics and money problems but this president is willing to follow the science in our areas."
After some other issue briefing, I headed off for "the hill" where I met with staff from the offices of Senator Merkley, Senator Wyden and Representatives Schrader and Wu. Besides talking health reform policy, my major points were the need for more P&A resources, Congressional action to address seclusion and restrain in schools, and blocking a bill that Barney Frank introduced to stop P&As from suing institutions to seek improved conditions. (I know that last one seems hard to believe, but it's true.)
Then it was moonlighting time. I went back to the hotel and wrote testimony for two bills that were heard today in the Oregon legislature. I sent them off via email and then was able to watch part of the hearings on my computer via the legislature's video service.
Finally, I attended a fundraiser for NDRN. The highlight of the evening was hearing remarks from special guest Lois Curtis. Ms. Curtis was one of the plaintiffs in the landmark case of L.C. v. Omstead. That's the case that found that the ADA provides a right to be free of unnecessary institutionalization. Ms. Curtis was clearly thrilled to be here.
Tomorrow, I have a 7:00 am flight back to Portland where more fun awaits.