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President's New Freedom Initiative on disability

From: Robert Neff <rneff@bbnow.net>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2001 22:50:07 -0600
To: "W3c-Wai-Ig" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <AHENJNNCANEHAIIBJNDGKEFOCEAA.rneff@bbnow.net>
Has everyone seen the President's New Freedom Initiative on disability? I'm
attaching it in case you have missed it. Here is one comment I heard, "Some
feel it is terrific and also some feel we should back it as if President
Bush will do for disability rights what Nixon did with China."  

<start text>

Forward by President George W. Bush

The story of America, it has often been said, is the story of the
ever-widening circle of inclusion. Welcoming immigrants.  Freeing slaves.
Women winning the right to vote.  Ending segregation.  

That circle was widened ten years ago, when Congress passed the Americans
with Disabilities Act.  Because of the ADA, discrimination against a person
with a disability is not just unkind or cruel or wrong: It is an
infringement of federal law, and a violation of civil rights.

I am proud my father signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.

But the banning of discrimination is just the beginning of full
participation in our society.  Though progress has been made in the last
decade, too many barriers remain.  Too many Americans with disabilities
remain trapped in bureaucracies of dependence and are denied the tools and
access necessary for success.

My Administration is committed to tearing down these barriers.

In that spirit, I am sending to Congress my "New Freedom Initiative" -- an
important step forward in disability rights.  These proposals will help
ensure that all Americans with disabilities have the tools to use their
skills, and make more of their own choices.  The New Freedom Initiative will
increase investment in and access to assistive technologies and a quality
education, and help integrate Americans with disabilities into the workforce
and into community life. 

I look forward to working together with Congress to enact these proposals,
and to ensure that every American with a disability has access to the
American dream.  
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Increasing Access to Assistive and Universally Designed Technologies

Expanding Educational Opportunities for Americans with Disabilities

Promoting Homeownership

Integrating Americans with Disabilities into the Workforce

Expanding Transportation Options

Promoting Full Access to Community Life


 
Executive Summary

Fulfilling America's Promise to Americans with Disabilities

Disability is not the experience of a minority of Americans.  Rather, it is
an experience that will touch most Americans at some point during their
lives, either themselves or within their families.  

Today, there are over 54 million Americans with disabilities, a full 20
percent of the U.S. population.  Almost half of these individuals have a
severe disability, affecting their ability to see, hear, walk, or perform
other basic functions of life.  In addition, there are over 25 million
family caregivers and millions more who provide aid and assistance to people
with disabilities.

Ten years ago, Congress passed and President George H.W. Bush signed one of
the most significant civil rights laws since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -
the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In doing so, the nation opened
its door to a new age for people with disabilities.

Although progress has been made over the years to improve access to
employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, telecommunications
services, housing, schools, and polling places, significant challenges
remain for Americans with disabilities in realizing the dream of equal
access to full participation in American society.  

Specifically:

Americans with disabilities have a lower level of educational attainment
than those without disabilities:

*	One out of five adults with disabilities has not graduated from high
school, compared to less than one of ten adults without disabilities.
*	National diploma graduation rates for students who receive special
education and related services have stagnated at 27 percent for the past
three years, while rates are 75 percent for students who do not rely on
special education.

Americans with disabilities are poorer and more likely to be unemployed than
those without disabilities:

*	In 1997, over one-third of adults with disabilities lived in a
household with an annual income of less than $15,000, compared to only 12
percent of those without disabilities.
*	Unemployment rates for working-age adults with disabilities have
hovered at the 70 percent level for at least the past 12 years, while rates
are in the low single digits for working-age adults without disabilities.

Too many Americans with disabilities remain outside the economic and social
mainstream of American life:

*	Home ownership rates for people with disabilities are in the single
digits, while rates for people without disabilities are about 71 percent.
*	Computer usage and Internet access for people with disabilities is
half that of people without disabilities.
*	People with disabilities vote at a rate that is 20 percent below
non-disabled voters.  In local areas, disability issues seldom surface in
election campaigns, and inaccessible polling places often discourage
citizens with disabilities from voting.

People with disabilities want to be employed, educated, participating,
tax-paying citizens living in the community and contributing to the economic
and social fabric of American life.   And, in today's global new economy,
America must be able to draw on the talents and creativity of all its
citizens. 

The Administration will work to ensure that all Americans have the
opportunity to learn and develop skills, engage in productive work, choose
where to live and participate in community life.  President Bush's "New
Freedom Initiative" represents an important step in achieving this goal.  It
will invest $1.025 billion to expand research in and access to assistive and
universally designed technologies, further integrate Americans with
Disabilities into the workforce, and remove barriers to full participation
in community life. 

The Policy

The "New Freedom Initiative" is composed of the following key components:

Increasing Access to Assistive and Universally Designed Technology:

*	Federal Investment in Assistive Technology Research and Development.
The Administration will triple the Rehabilitative Engineering Research
Centers' budget for assistive technologies, create a new fund to help bring
assistive technologies to market, and better coordinate the federal effort
in prioritizing immediate assistive and universally designed technology
needs in the disability community.


*	Access to Assistive Technology.  Assistive technology is often
prohibitively expensive. In order to increase access, funding for
low-interest loan programs to purchase assistive technologies will increase
tenfold.



Expanding Educational Opportunities for Americans with Disabilities:


*	Fully Fund the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  The
federal government has not been providing sufficient funding for IDEA.  By
not providing the necessary funding, IDEA has become a large unfunded
mandate on state and local governments and is failing to meet the needs of
disabled children. The Administration will work with Congress to increase
funding for special education with the goal of meeting the federal
obligations under IDEA.

*	Early Detection of Needs.  To emphasize preventative efforts to
identify children with special needs, Title I funds will focus on students
in the elementary grades, where math and reading difficulties can be
corrected before children are diagnosed as needing special education
services.

*	Focus on Reading in Early Grades.  States that establish a
comprehensive reading program for students, including those with
disabilities, from kindergarten through second grade will be eligible for
grants under President Bush's Reading First Initiative.



Integrating Americans with Disabilities into the Workforce:


*	Expand the Avenue of Telecommuting.  The Administration will provide
$20 million in federal matching funds to states to guarantee low-interest
loans for individuals with disabilities to purchase computers and other
equipment necessary to telework from home.  In addition, legislation will be
proposed to make a company's contribution of computer and Internet access
for home use by employees with disabilities a tax-free benefit.

*	Swift Implementation of "Ticket to Work."  On February 1, 2001,
President Bush signed an Executive Order that directs federal agencies to
swiftly implement the law giving Americans with disabilities the ability to
choose their own support services and maintain their health benefits when
they return to work.


*	Full Enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Resources will be provided to promote ADA compliance and to help small
businesses hire more people with disabilities.  The Administration will also
promote the Disabled Access Credit, an incentive program created in 1990 to
assist small businesses comply with the Act.


Promoting Full Access to Community Life:

*	Promote Homeownership for People with Disabilities.  HUD's Section 8
rental voucher program for people with disabilities will be reformed to
permit recipients to use up to a year's worth of vouchers to finance the
down payment on a home.

*	Swift Implementation of the Olmstead Decision.  On February 1, 2001,
President Bush signed an Executive Order supporting the most integrated
community-based settings for individuals with disabilities and calling for
identification and removal of barriers to community placement.

*	National Commission on Mental Health Services.  The National
Commission, established by President Bush on February 1, 2001, will study
and make recommendations for improving America's mental health service
delivery system, including making recommendations on the availability and
delivery of new treatments and technologies for individuals with severe
mental illness.

*	Improving Access.  $10 million in matching funds will be provided
annually to increase the accessibility of organizations that are currently
exempt from Title III of the ADA, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and
civic organizations.  The Administration also supports improving access to
polling places and ballot secrecy for people with disabilities.

Increasing Access to Assistive and Universally Designed Technologies

Title I

Overview

The Administration's commitment to increase access to assistive and
universally designed technologies is based upon the principle that every
American must have the opportunity to fully participate in society.  In the
global new economy, America must draw on the talents and creativity of all
its citizens.  

Assistive and universally designed technologies can be a powerful tool for
millions of Americans with disabilities, dramatically improving one's
quality of life and ability to engage in productive work.  New technologies
are opening opportunities for even those with the most severe disabilities.
For example, individuals with quadriplegia can now operate computers by the
glance of an eye.    As the National Council on Disability (NCD) has stated,
"for Americans without disabilities, technology makes things easier.  For
Americans with disabilities, technology makes things possible."

Unfortunately, assistive and universally designed technologies are often
prohibitively expensive.  In addition, innovation is being hampered by
insufficient federal funding for and coordination of assistive technology
research and development programs.

The New Freedom Initiative will help ensure that Americans with Disabilities
can access the best technologies of today, and that even better technologies
will be available in the future.   At the core of this effort are proposals
that reinvigorate the federal investment in assistive technologies; improve
federal collaboration and promote private-public partnerships; and increase
access to this technology for people with disabilities.

Summary of Proposals

Increases Federal Investment in Assistive Technology Research and
Development.  Rehabilitative Engineering Research Centers (RERCs) are
recognized as conducting some of the most innovative and high impact
assistive technology research in the federal government. The 15 RERCs are
housed in universities and other non-profit institutions around the country
and focus on a specific area of research - for example, information
technology access, prosthetics and orthotics, and technology for children
with orthopedic disabilities.  To advance research specifically targeted to
the disabilities community, the Administration will triple funding for the
RERCs from $11 million to $33 million. 

Improves Coordination of the Federal Assistive Technology Research and
Development Program.  There is no effective coordinating body for assistive
technology research and development within the federal government.  While
the Interagency Committee on Disabilities Research was designed to
coordinate the federal effort, it has no real authority and has no budget.
The Administration will provide new funding annually to the ICDR so that it
can prioritize the immediate assistive and universally designed technology
needs in the disability community, as well as foster collaborative projects
between the federal laboratories and the private sector.

Promotes Private-Public Partnerships.  There are nearly 2,500 companies
working to bring new assistive technologies to market.  Many small
businesses, however, cannot make the necessary capital investments until
they have information concerning the market for a particular assistive
technology.   To help these businesses bring assistive technologies to
market, the Administration will establish a new annual "Assistive Technology
Development Fund."  Housed under the ICDR, the fund will help underwrite
technology demonstration, testing, validation and market assessment to meet
specific needs of small businesses so that they can better serve the needs
of people with disabilities. 

Increases Access to Assistive Technology. Assistive technology is often
prohibitively expensive.  For example, personal computers configured with
assistive technology can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000.  The
Administration will increase federal funding tenfold for low-interest loans
to purchase assistive technology.  These grants will go to a state agency in
collaboration with a bank or non-profit groups to guarantee loans and lower
interest rates. Micro-loan programs for interest rate buy-downs or loan
guarantees are powerful tools to enable people with disabilities to buy the
technology they need to be independent and productive.  In a recent national
survey, 61% of respondents who participated in such programs said they could
not have otherwise afforded the product. 


 

Expanding Educational Opportunities for Americans with Disabilities

Title II

Overview

Education is the key to independent living and a high quality of life.
Unfortunately, one in five adults with disabilities has not graduated from
high school, compared to less than one of ten adults without disabilities.
The Administration will expand access to quality education for Americans
with disabilities. 

Originally passed by Congress in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities
Act, or IDEA, ensures that children with disabilities would have a free
public education that would meet their unique needs.  The federal government
has not been providing sufficient funding for the IDEA.  By not providing
the necessary federal IDEA funds, the program has become a large unfunded
mandate on state and local governments and is failing to meet the needs of
disabled children. 

The Administration will increase educational opportunity for children with
disabilities by working with Congress to give states increased IDEA funds.
This will free up additional resources for education at the local level and
help in meeting the special needs of students with disabilities.  In
addition, the Administration will emphasize preventative efforts to identify
children with special needs. Early detection of needs will greatly benefit
children by giving students the necessary help early, while reducing costs
to local, state and the federal government as fewer children are diagnosed
as needing IDEA services.  


Summary of Proposals

Sets the Goal of Increased Funding for Special Education.  The
Administration will set the goal of meeting the federal obligation under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to reduce the unfunded mandate
on the states and increase educational assistance to disabled students.


Focuses Title I Funds on Earlier Grades.  To emphasize preventative efforts
to identify children with special needs, Title I funds will focus on
students in the elementary grades, where math and reading difficulties can
be corrected before children are diagnosed as needing special education
services.

Establishes the $5 billion "Reading First" Program.  President Bush will
increase federal funding to students, including those with disabilities, by
creating a $5 billion incentive fund for states to teach every child to read
by third grade. States that choose to draw from this fund will be required
to initiate, among other requirements: a reading diagnostic test for
students in K-2 to determine where students need help; a research-based
reading curriculum; training for K-2 teachers in reading preparation; and
intervention for students who are not reading at grade level in K-2.
 

Promoting Homeownership for People with Disabilities

Title III

Overview

Homeownership has always been at the heart of the American dream.  The
Administration will reform federal rental assistance to give individuals who
qualify the opportunity to purchase a home.  Individuals with disabilities
should not be bound to a government program that only allows them to rent.

Rental assistance for Americans with disabilities is provided by a program
known as Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937, administered by the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Residents are provided
Section 8 vouchers so they can afford rental payments for public housing.
Nearly one-quarter of all Section 8 vouchers are given to individuals with
disabilities under the age of 62.

In addition to increasing independence, homeownership also promotes savings.
Mortgage payments, unlike rental payments, help build net worth because a
portion of the payment goes toward building equity.  In turn, as one's home
equity increases, it becomes easier to finance larger purchases such as a
computer or further education.


Summary of Proposal

Reforms Section 8 to Allow Recipients who are Disabled to Apply Their Rental
Vouchers to Homeownership.  The Administration will support legislation
allowing local Public Housing Authorities to provide recipients of Section 8
vouchers who are disabled with up to a year's worth of vouchers in a
lump-sum payment to finance the down payment and closing costs on a home.
Section 8 recipients who are disabled will also be permitted to use vouchers
to subsidize their monthly mortgage payments.  Individuals and families that
receive down payment assistance will be required to complete a
homeownership/financial management program, such as that offered by Habitat
for Humanity and other non-profit groups.






Integrating Americans with Disabilities into the Workforce

Title IV
(Part A:  Promoting Telework)

Overview

Americans with disabilities should have every freedom to pursue careers,
integrate into the workforce, and participate as full members in the
economic marketplace.

The New Freedom Initiative will help tear down barriers to the workplace,
and help promote full access and integration. 

Computer technology and the Internet have tremendous potential to broaden
the lives and increase the independence of people with disabilities. Nearly
half of people with disabilities say the Internet has significantly improved
their quality of life, compared to 27 percent of people without
disabilities. 

The computer and Internet revolution has not reached as many people with
disabilities as the population without disabilities.  Only 25% of people
with disabilities own a computer, compared with 66% of U.S. adults.  And
only 10% of people with disabilities have access to the Internet, compared
to over 40% of U.S. adults.  

The primary barrier to wider access is cost.  Computers with adaptive
technology can cost as much as $20,000, which is prohibitively expensive for
many individuals.  And the median income of Americans with disabilities is
far below the national average. 

The New Freedom Initiative will expand the avenue of teleworking, so
individuals with mobility impairments can work from their homes if they
choose.  




Summary of Proposals

Creates the "Access to Telework" Fund.  $20 million in federal matching
funds will be provided annually to states to guarantee low-income loans for
people with disabilities to purchase equipment to telecommute from home.  

Makes a Company's Contribution of Computer and Internet Access for Home Use
by Employees with Disabilities a Tax-Free Benefit.  The Administration will
encourage businesses to give computers and internet access to employees with
disabilities by making it explicit that this provision is a tax-free
benefit.  By making this benefit tax free to employees, the proposal will
encourage more employers to provide computer equipment and Internet access,
and employees will have greater options to take advantage of this
flexibility for teleworking.  For individuals with disabilities, this
flexibility will expand the universe of potential and accessible employment.


Prohibits OSHA from Regulating "Home Office" Standards.  In January 1999,
the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) issued a 5-page advisory asserting that it had the power to regulate
home office standards and hold employers responsible if those standards were
not met.  This proposal would have had a chilling effect on teleworking, as
employers would seek to avoid potential liabilities.  Although OSHA has
since withdrawn the advisory, it has not yet foreclosed future action.  The
proposal will amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to
prohibit OSHA from being applied to employees who work at home through the
use of "telephone, computer or electronic device."
 

Integrating Americans with Disabilities into the Workforce

 (Part B:  Ticket-to-Work)

Overview

Last year, Congress passed the "Ticket-to-Work and Work Incentives
Improvement Act of 1999," which will give Americans with disabilities both
the incentive and the means to seek employment. 

As part of the New Freedom Initiative, the Administration will ensure the
Act's swift implementation. 

Today, there are more than 7.5 million Americans with disabilities receiving
benefits under federal disability programs.  According to a recent Harris
Survey, 72 percent of the disabled want to work. However, because of
perverse disincentives in federal law, less than 1 percent of those
receiving disability benefits enter the workforce. 

Prior to the "Ticket to Work" law, in order to continue to receive
disability payments and health coverage, recipients could not engage in any
substantial work.  The Ticket to Work law, however, provides incentives for
people with disabilities to return to work by:

*	Providing disabled Americans with a voucher-like "ticket" that
allows them to choose their own support services, including vocational
education programs and rehabilitation services.
*	Extending Medicare coverage for SSDI beneficiaries so they can
return to work without the fear of losing health benefits.
*	Expanding Medicaid eligibility categories for SSI recipients so that
they can continue to receive benefits after their income or condition
improves.

 Summary of Action

On February 1, 2001, the President signed an Executive Order to Support
Effective and Swift Implementation of "Ticket to Work".  The Executive Order
directs federal agencies to swiftly implement the law giving Americans with
disabilities the ability to choose their own support services and to
maintain their health benefits when they return to work.
Integrating Americans with Disabilities into the Workforce

 (Part C:  Compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act)

Overview

When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July
26, 1990, it was the most far reaching law advancing disabled individuals'
access, workforce integration, and independence.  The law, signed by
President George H. W. Bush, gives civil rights protections to individuals
with disabilities that are like those provided to individuals on the basis
of race, sex, national origin, and religion.  

In the ten years since it was signed, the ADA has worked to guarantee equal
opportunity for individuals with disabilities in employment, public
accommodations, transportation, State and local government services, and
telecommunications.  The law has been especially helpful in providing access
to jobs, especially in the small business sector, which has created
two-thirds of all net new jobs since the early 1970s.

To encourage small businesses to comply with the ADA, legislation was signed
into law in 1990 to provide a credit for 50 percent of eligible expenses up
to $5,000 a year.  Such eligible expenses include assistive technologies.
Unfortunately, many small businesses are not aware of this credit.

President Bush believes that the Americans with Disabilities Act has been an
integral component of the movement toward full integration of individuals
with disabilities, but recognizes that there is still much more to be done.
He also recognizes that to further integrate individuals with disabilities
into the workforce, more needs to be done to promote ADA compliance.  

 Summary of Proposals

Supports the ADA and Provides Technical Assistance to Small Businesses.  The
President will ensure full enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities
Act by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  In addition,
the New Freedom Initiative will provide $5 million annually for technical
assistance to help small businesses comply with the Act, serve customers,
and hire more people with disabilities.

Promotes the Awareness and Utilization of Disabled Access Credit (DAC).  The
DAC, created in 1990, is an incentive program to assist small businesses in
complying with the ADA.  DAC provides a credit for 50 percent of eligible
expenses up to $5,000 a year, including expenses associated with making
their facilities accessible and with purchasing assistive technologies.
Utilization of the credit has been limited because small businesses are
often not aware of it. 




Expanding Transportation Options

Title V

Overview

President Bush believes that every American should have the opportunity to
participate fully in society and engage in productive work.  Unfortunately,
millions of Americans with disabilities are locked out of the workplace
because they are denied the tools and access necessary for success.  

Transportation can be a particularly difficult barrier to work for Americans
with disabilities.  In 1997, the Director of Project Action stated that
"access to transportation is often the critical factor in obtaining
employment for the nation's 25 million transit dependent people with
disabilities."  Today, the lack of adequate transportation remains a primary
barrier to work for people with disabilities: one-third of people with
disabilities report that inadequate transportation is a significant problem.


Through formula grant programs and the enforcement of the ADA, the federal
government has helped make our mass transit systems more accessible.  More
must be done, however, to test new transportation ideas and to increase
access to alternate means of transportation, such as vans with specialty
lifts, modified automobiles, and ride-share programs for those who cannot
get to buses or other forms of mass transit.  

With important support from the Department of Education's Rehabilitation
Services Administration, many non-profit groups and businesses are working
hard to help people with disabilities live and work independently.  These
organizations often lack the funds to get people with disabilities to job
interviews, to job training, and to work.  

President Bush believes that the federal government should support the
development of innovative transportation initiatives and partner with local
organizations to promote access to alternate methods of transportation. 

 Summary of Proposals

Promotes innovative transportation solutions for people with disabilities by
funding pilot programs.  The proposal provides $45 million in funding for 10
pilot programs run by state or local governments in regional, urban, and
rural areas.  Administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration,
pilot programs will be funded at up to $1.5 million a year for three years
and will be selected on the basis of the use of innovative approaches to
developing transportation plans that serve people with disabilities.  At the
end of the three years, the Administration will work with Congress to
evaluate, through the General Accounting Office, the effectiveness of the
pilot programs and encourage the expansion of successful initiatives.

Helps create a network of alternate transportation through community-based
and other providers.  The proposal will establish a competitive, $100
million matching grant program to promote access to alternative methods of
transportation.  Administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration,
this dollar-for-dollar matching program will be open to Centers for
Independent Living, Assistive Technology Centers, vocational rehabilitation
centers, and other community-based organizations that seek to integrate
Americans with disabilities into the workforce.  The funds will go toward
the purchase and operation of specialty vans, assisting people with down
payments or costs associated with accessible vehicles, and extending the use
of existing transportation resources.

 

Promoting Full Access to Community Life 

Title VI 
(Part A:  Commitment to Community-Based Care)

Overview

On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court decided Olmstead v. L.C., ruling that
the ADA requires the placement of persons with mental disabilities in a
community setting wherever possible.  The Court concluded that "unjustified
isolation," e.g., institutionalization when a doctor deems community
treatment equally beneficial, "is properly regarded as discrimination based
on disability."

Olmstead has yet to be fully implemented.  President Bush believes that
community-based care is critically important to promoting maximum
independence and to integrating individuals with disabilities into community
life.  

Summary of Action

On February 1, 2001, President Bush signed an Executive Order Supporting
Swift Implementation of the Olmstead Decision.  The Order supports the most
integrated community-based settings for individuals with disabilities,
pursuant to the Olmstead decision, and calls for the identification and
removal of barriers to community placement.  To ensure that the states come
into compliance with Olmstead by instituting mental health reforms, the
Executive Order also directs the National Institute of Mental Health and the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to coordinate
research initiatives and innovative pilot projects to further support such
reforms and to make the mental health system more accountable through
outcome measures.  

Promoting Full Access to Community Life 

(Part B:  Better Coordination of Federal Resources to Address 
Mental Health Problems)

Overview

Currently, there are over 13 federal agencies that oversee mental health
policies, funding, laws and programs including:  the Substance Abuse and
Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Personnel and Management,
Social Security Administration, National Institute of Neurological Disorders
and Stroke, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of
Justice, and Department of Labor.

These federal agencies are doing valuable work, but they would be much more
effective, efficient, and less duplicative if they were better coordinated. 

With coordination, the competitive advantage of each agency could be
leveraged to provide the most needed and suitable service in the framework
of federal efforts to address mental health. 

Summary of Action

On February 1, 2001, President Bush signed an Executive Order creating a
National Commission on Mental Health Services.  The National Commission will
study and make recommendations for improving America's mental health service
delivery system, including making recommendations on the availability and
delivery of new treatments and technologies for individuals with severe
mental illness.  

 

Promoting Full Access to Community Life 

(Part C:  Access to the Political Process)

Overview

There are over 35 million voting-age persons with disabilities, but
currently people with disabilities register to vote at a rate that is 16
percentage points less than the rest of the population and vote at a rate 20
percent below non-disabled voters.  

According to the National Organization on Disability, low voter turnout
among people who are disabled is due to both accessibility problems at
voting locations and the lack of secrecy and independence when voting.  The
most recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) report states that at least
20,000 of the nation's more than 120,000 polling places are inaccessible to
people with disabilities.   

Governor Bush recognizes that full integration into society must include
access to and participation in the political process.  That is why, as
President, Governor Bush will:

Summary of Proposal

Supports Improving Accessibility to Voting for Americans with Disabilities.
President Bush will support improved access to polling places and ballot
secrecy.   He will work with Congress to address the barriers to voting for
Americans with Disabilities and to expanding suffrage for all Americans.


Promoting Full Access to Community Life 

(Part D:  Access to ADA-Exempt Organizations)

Overview

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 opened countless
businesses and public accommodations to people with disabilities by
mandating that they be made accessible.  For constitutional and other
concerns, however, Tile III exempts many civic organizations (such as Rotary
and Lions Clubs) and religious organizations from its requirements of full
access.

Americans with disabilities should be able to be fully integrated into their
communities, and civic and religious organizations are vital parts of those
communities.  Too many private clubs, churches, synagogues, and mosques are
inaccessible or unwelcoming to people with disabilities.  As a result,
people with disabilities are often unable to participate as fully in
community or religious events.

The National Organization on Disabilities has led a national effort to make
places of worship accessible and welcoming to all Americans.  Many
organizations and congregations want to be open to all, but have limited
resources to ensure accessibility.  

Every effort should be made to ensure that Americans with disabilities have
the opportunity to be integrated into their communities and welcomed into
communities of faith.  

Summary of Proposal

Establishes a National Fund to Provide $10 Million in Matching Grants for
Accessibility Renovations for ADA-Exempt Organizations:  To assist private
clubs and religious organizations in making sure their facilities are fully
accessible and to expand access for all, the proposal provides $10 million
in annual federal matching grants to ADA-exempt organizations making
renovations or accommodations to improve accessibility.  Because the grants
will go to all ADA-exempt organizations, irrespective of whether they are
religious or secular, they would comport with the Supreme Court's test for
constitutional neutrality.  




Received on Wednesday, 31 January 2001 23:48:10 GMT

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