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Heads Of Disability Groups Meet With Bush Administration Officials
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 7, 2004

WASHINGTON, DC--Leaders from the nation's largest disability groups urged the Bush Administration Friday to work with disability advocates and policy experts more closely in order to meet the President's stated commitments to people with disabilities and their families, a statement by the American Association of People with Disabilities said.

The heads of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, The Arc of the United States, National Council on Independent Living, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and the American Association of People with Disabilities met with Margaret Spellings, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, Tracy Justesen from the Office of Policy Development within the Domestic Policy Council and Steve Lineberry from the Office of Public Liaison.

Andrew Imparato, President and CEO of AAPD, said that while the President's goals outlined in his New Freedom Initiative were right for Americans with disabilities, the administration had missed many opportunities to collaborate with disability groups in developing and implementing policies that would support those goals. Imparato cited examples of individuals and agencies within the administration that were working well with disability advocates, and some that were not, including those in the Department of Education and Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The representatives discussed several opportunities for the White House to score immediate legislative victories for people with disabilities, including enacting the Family Opportunity Act, the Money Follows the Person legislation, Mental Health Parity legislation, and Assistive Technology Act. They also urged the Administration to move away from supporting the House version of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act reauthorization because it would harm children with disabilities.

The advocates also brought up concerns about how states were handling Medicare drug legislation, how the Administration has failed to monitor and enforce the most integrated setting provisions resulting from the Olmstead decision; and how the proposed FY 2006 budget process and budget cuts could affect the programs people with disabilities and their families rely upon.

Imparato said that new weapons systems used in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are resulting in a high rate of undiagnosed brain injuries in U.S. soldiers and veterans, creating significant long-term disability issues. The advocates also called for bipartisan legislation to restore civil rights protections to people with epilepsy, diabetes, and other "controlled" conditions who have been losing discrimination cases on the grounds that they are not "disabled" for under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The advocates ended the meeting by asking for a meeting with the President to follow up on their concerns. Spellings committed to help arrange meetings with the Secretaries of Education and Housing and Urban Development.

Related statement:
"Disability Advocates Meet with White House Staff" (AAPD)

http://www.dimenet.com/hotnews/cgi/getlink.cgi?3899R

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