Happy Holidays from NCD!

JonathanYoung

On behalf of NCD’s Council Members and Staff, Happy Holidays!

It’s been a full year for us at NCD and as a community. As we take stock of the year now behind us, we are shifting our focus to the opportunities that lie ahead. 

All of us were deeply disappointed with the U.S. Senate’s failure to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This was a notable setback for us as a community, but we are already working to advance the Convention in a new Congress. A mainstream cable networked shined an unprecedented spotlight on the history of disability in cinema during the entire month of October, recognizing disability not solely as subject matter but also as a diverse, coveted audience. In July, the celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act included an event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where the late Justin Dart’s wheelchair was unveiled as a part of the museum’s permanent collection of nationally relevant historical items. Each of these three events generated media attention and piqued and engaged the interest of the broader public about people with disabilities.

Over the course of the year, NCD made good on its mission to promote the goals of the ADA – equality of opportunity, economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and full participation – through release of several important policy reports that call for:

  • The phase out of the subminimum wages program for people with disabilities within the Fair Labor Standards Act;
  • Better integration of systems and statutes within and beyond the scope of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act;
  • Redirection of funds from large, state-run institutions to less-restrictive environments in the community;
  • Involvement of stakeholders, including people with disabilities, at the state level in the design and review of the performance of managed care programs; and
  • State and/or federal legislation to address and correct pervasive discrimination in the child welfare system that allows courts to determine a parent is unfit to parent solely on the basis of a parent’s disability.

Our work and team was featured on CNN, by ABC News, and written up as a full-length feature article by the Associated Press with coverage that spanned the globe. NCD staff and parents with disabilities profiled in our parenting rights report were interviewed by 21 radio stations in 16 markets and reached over 6.4 million listeners, before being capped off with an interview on 975 public radio stations nationwide on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” In 2012, our impact continued to beguile our modest size as a Council and staff! 

As we look ahead, we are particularly mindful of the debates about the nation’s “fiscal cliff.” Even as it appears that a deal may be at hand, we know that the any deal could have a far-reaching impact on each of us, our loved ones, and the systems of services and supports on which many of us daily rely to maintain our health, our jobs, and our independence. We also know that any deal reached in the near-term will not put to rest debates about our nation’s fiscal future. Those deliberations will continue, and the outcomes of these discussions will continue to have an impact on our community.

As negotiations about the fiscal cliff, debt ceiling, and federal budget proceed, the most relevant news isn’t which proposal wins favor over the other or who concedes what point, but rather what the elements of the ultimate solution or series of solutions will indicate about how we view and value segments of the American population. Who will bear responsibility for increased tax burdens and on what grounds? Who will absorb the most pain from spending cuts and why those populations of people?

We in the disability community are all too aware of the danger that lurks amidst talk of massive spending cuts. But our budget debates present opportunities. Instead of being consumed by the anxiety associated with inevitable change, we must shift our focus to ensuring that the inevitable changes to systems of services reflect the evolution of higher expectations of and for people with disabilities for our own lives, while honoring the nation’s social contract to all citizens, including people with disabilities. The opportunity in these daunting times is the occasion to influence a redirection of investment from outmoded and expensive policy models built on low societal and personal expectations for and of people with disabilities that trap us in cycles of poverty and dependency to systems that create opportunities for Americans with disabilities to contribute to the nation’s collective economic, social, and civic well-being, while moreover often delivering cost savings.

The timing is critical not only as it pertains to the nation’s debt but to a burgeoning aging population as well as veterans with disabilities, all of whom want and rightfully expect independence and options and for whom much of the existing systems are incompatible with contemporary values and expectations.

As a community, we should confront the crisis that our nation faces as an opportunity to lay the groundwork and create the change we want to see in the world, so that we are able to one day look back on this time as the unlikely moment of change in how policymakers viewed people with disabilities within critical policy discussions – rather than talking about us as an expensive and complicated population to serve; talking to and with us as contributors of solutions to the nation’s problems and in recognition of the pursuit of happiness that we share with all Americans – to live free and full lives in communities of our choosing; to learn in ways that enrich our lives and enable us to reach our full potential; and to provide for themselves and their families.

As we move into 2013 and beyond, let us take this moment to embrace and acknowledge our commonality and rededicate ourselves to our common purpose: promoting equality of opportunity, economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration of every American – including those with disabilities – into all aspects of society.

Finally, let me close by saying, on behalf of the entire National Council on Disability, how much we appreciate the opportunity to be a national voice for the 56 million Americans with disabilities. I also want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to my fellow Council members and the extraordinary NCD staff who work tirelessly day after day to further the causes we all share. We look forward to working together in the New Year!

In solidarity,

Jonathan Young
Chairman, National Council on Disability

National Council on Disability • 1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850 • Washington, DC 20004