Andrew J. Imparato, ImparatoA@aol.com, writes:
Top Ten Reasons to Renew the Pledge
Why is AAPD asking public officials, candidates and private citizens to renew their pledge to support equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities? Why are we emphasizing full implementation and enforcement of ADA and IDEA in this anniversary year?
Below are my personal top ten reasons to renew the pledge. I encourage AAPD's members and supporters to write me with you own reasons to renew the pledge.
No. 10: Because 10 years after ADA and 25 years after IDEA became law, millions of children, families, and adults who are the intended beneficiaries of these civil rights statutes have not learned about the laws, and/or are unable to access timely, fair and effective federal enforcement mechanisms when they experience discrimination.
No. 9: Because the percentage of people with significant disabilities who are working has not increased to any large extent in the last 10 years, notwithstanding that the national unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in decades.
No. 8: Because every State is out of compliance with core civil right requirements in IDEA, according to a January, 2000 report from the National Council on Disability (NCD), and the federal government's efforts to ensure compliance with IDEA over 25 years were found by NCD to be "inconsistent, ineffective, and lacking any real teeth."
No. 7: Because children with disabilities have almost twice the high school drop out rate of children without disabilities, and because children eligible for services under IDEA, particularly those from diverse cultural backgrounds, are over represented in the juvenile justice system in part due to the failure of their local schools to meet their educational needs in regular classrooms.
No. 6: Because our national leaders in both parties designed and passed welfare reform legislation that was intended to transition the "able-bodied" members of the welfare population into long-term employment, reinforcing the notion that people with disabilities are not expected to work.
No. 5: Because employers in the U.S. are still able to pay people with significant disabilities less than the federally-established minimum wage for all other workers.
No. 4: Because new homes, public and private buildings, transportation systems, passenger vehicles, and information technologies are designed and built every day in the U.S. and around the world that fail to ensure access for all potential users of the product or service.
No. 3: Because, thanks to the ongoing institutional bias in our Medicaid program, approximately two million U.S. residents with disabilities are living in nursing homes and other institutions, despite the overwhelming preference of these individuals to live in integrated, home and community-based settings and despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last term holding that unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities in institutions violates ADA's integration mandate.
No. 2: Because we are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on public and private benefit programs like Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Medicare, Workers' Compensation, and private long-term disability insurance, all of which routinely require people to swear to the government and/or their insurance carrier that their disability prevents them from working in order to establish and maintain their eligibility for basic subsistence benefits.
No. 1: Because the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that will be heard next term, have been asked by attorneys general in many States to rule that Title II of ADA, which covers state and local governments, is unconstitutional. In effect, the chief attorney in these States, often with the support of the Governor, is petitioning the federal courts to allow his or her client, the State, to discriminate against its own citizens with disabilities.
In light of these 10 reasons and countless more, I invite all of AAPD's members and supporters to join with me in petitioning our elected officials and candidates for public office to renew the pledge, making public their commitment to civil rights for all Americans.
Andrew J. Imparato
President and CEO
American Association of People with Disabilities
To join AAPD go to the AAPD web site http://www.aapd-dc.org for online membership enrollment.
Chair, Justice For All