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Jul. 21st, 2011

Events and Articles – Olmstead, WHO Report, NIDRR, & Disability Affirmative Action

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

Whew!  It has been a busy year which unfortunately has lead to some dust collecting on Day in Washington.  My apologies to regular readers.  Today I just want to post a few items that may be of interest.  Special thanks to “P” for collecting the information for this update.

New NIDRR Director Chosen

K. Charlie Lakin has been selected to serve as the Director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) starting August 29, 2011.  Currently the Director of the University of Minnesota’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Living, Institute on Community Integration, Dr. Lakin will bring more than 40 years of experience as a teacher, researcher, consultant and advocate in services for people with disabilities. Over the course of his career, he has directed numerous research and training projects, co-authored over 200 publications, and has advised state, federal, and international agencies in matters of policy, research, and evaluation.  Dr. Lakin holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota, M.A. and M.Ed. degrees in Special Education from the Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Northern Iowa. 

On Anniversary of Olmstead, Obama Administration Recommits to Assist Americans with Disabilities

On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court ruled in Olmstead v. L.C. that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the unjustified institutional isolation of people with disabilities was a form of unlawful discrimination.  Since taking office, the Obama Administration has taken many steps to uphold both the letter and the spirit of the ADA.

“The landmark Olmstead case affirmed the rights of Americans with disabilities to live independently,” said President Obama. “On this anniversary, let’s recommit ourselves to building on the promise of Olmstead by working to end all forms of discrimination, and uphold the rights of Americans with disabilities and all Americans.”  

Since the Olmstead ruling, much progress has been made. Many individuals have successfully transitioned to community settings, but waiting lists for community services have grown considerably and many individuals who would like to receive community services are not able to obtain them.

 On Monday, the President met with Lois Curtis, one of the original plaintiffs of the Olmstead case. In March 2011, Ms. Curtis who lives with mental and developmental disabilities, finally began living in the community – 11 years after the initial decision. She now sells her artwork and serves as a prime example of how persons can become more productive members of society once they are able to live in community based settings. 

The Department of Justice also continues to enforce the ADA and Olmstead.  In October of last year, the Department entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement with the state of Georgia’s mental health and developmental disability system, resolving a lawsuit the United States had brought against the state.  The lawsuit alleged unlawful segregation of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the state’s psychiatric hospitals in violation of the ADA and Olmstead.  In the last two years, the Department has joined or initiated litigation to ensure community-based services in over 25 cases in 17 states.

In 2009, the President launched the “The Year of Community Living,” a new effort to assist Americans with disabilities.  In the time since then, the Department Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Health and Human Services released $40 million in Housing Choice vouchers for 5,300 people over 12 months, As part of the “Year of Community Living”, HHS Secretary Sebelius created the “Community Living Initiative” to coordinate the efforts of Federal agencies and underscored the importance of the ADA and Olmstead and affirmed the Administration’s commitment to addressing isolation and discrimination against people with disabilities across the age span. The Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration Program, through funding awards to States has also helped almost 12,000 individuals transition from institutions to the community.

President meets Lois Curtis - photo by Pete Souza

President meets Lois Curtis - photo by Pete Souza

President Barack Obama looks at a painting presented to him by artist Lois Curtis, center, during their meeting in the Oval Office, June 20, 2011. Joining them are, from left, Janet Hill and Jessica Long, from the Georgia Department of Labor, and Lee Sanders, of Briggs and Associates. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

U.S. Labor Department Restores and Updates Functional Affirmative Action Program Process for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has released a new directive to outline the process by which federal supply and service contractors can apply for Functional Affirmative Action Program agreements, which can be viewed at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/directives/dir296.htm.

WHO/World Bank World Report on Disability

On Thursday, June 9, 2011 the World Report on Disability was released in New York. The numbers were staggering. Over 1 billion people worldwide are believed to have disabilities, a full 15% of the world population. In 1970, the estimate was 10%. The increase is credited to improved reporting and information gathering techniques, as well as an aging population and an increase in chronic diseases. But perhaps more significant than the new statistics is the report’s emphasis on identifying physical, financial and attitudinal barriers that people with disabilities face, and offering best practices from around the world on how to overcome those barriers. It does an extensive job of identifying access to healthcare, rehabilitation, support and assistive services, education, and employment, as key issues that all countries must address.

USICD Executive Director was in New York for the Launch, and posted a blog post on his reactions to the report and the event on USICD’s blog at: http://usicd.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/who-world-report-on-disability/ 

Read the full report on  the WHO website at: http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/en/index.html

May. 17th, 2011

CMS Stakeholder Call Today at 1:30pm!

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

CMS Innovation Center LogoI just received a notice from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Disability for a CMS Stakeholder/Advocate Call about Accountable Care Organizations that is scheduled for 1:30 pm TODAY. 

I have to admit, I’m a bit disappointed that this notice didn’t come in until 7:30am this morning.  That doesn’t give people very much notice to attend.  Considering how important some of the new changes in health care over all have been over the last year or so, I would have liked more notice.  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Dr. Don Berwick and Center for Mdcare andMedicaid Innovation (CMMI) Acting Director Dr. Richard Gilfillan will discuss new efforts to improve care for Medicare beneficiaries through Accountable Care Organizations.  Details below:
WHO:        Dr. Donald Berwick, Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
                 Dr. Richard Gilfillan, Acting Director, CMS Innovation Center
                 Peter Lee, Deputy Director, CMS Innovation Center
WHEN:   Tuesday, May 17, 2011,  1:30 PM EDT
DIAL:     1-800-837-1935           

PASSCODE:    68658167

DAY’S NOTE:  Considering the email was addressed towards CMS Stakeholders/Advocates, I am also concerned that I cannot see if there are any accommodations made for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

May. 12th, 2011

Upcoming News

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

There is  lot going on right now so stay tuned for updates soon!

  • National Council on Disability Seeking Testimony on “The Budget and People with Disabilities”
  • Efforts to stop the shifting of Medicaid to block grants
  • Introduction of the Autism Services and Workforce Acceleration Act of 2011
  • What’s right and what’s not-so-right with the Medicaid Community First Choice Options regulations

Mar. 23rd, 2011

White House Disability Conference Call – March 31

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

Conference Call Large Phone ImageYes, it is that time of the month again.  The White House is putting out their notice for their monthly Disability group conference call.  If you haven’t participated in one yet, this is your chance.  You get to hear directly what is the Administration’s plans for disability and what has been accomplished.  This isn’t just for Washington insiders, this is for YOU.  Whether you’re a professional, a parent, an advocate, a teacher, or a person with a disability, this is an opportunity you should take advantage of.  Below is the information for the next upcoming call.  I hope you’ll join me in attending!


White House Disability Group Monthly Conference Call – March 31

In order to keep Americans with disabilities and other interested parties informed about the Obama Administration’s disability-related efforts, the White House Disability Group is hosting monthly calls to provide updates on issues such as key political appointments, employment, civil rights, health care and transportation, as well as introduce staff who work on disability issues in the federal government.

The next call will be held on Thursday, March 31 at 5:00 PM Eastern Time. It will feature remarks from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and include introductions to other Obama Administration personnel.

Details for the call are as follows:

Dial in for listeners: United States: (800) 230-1059              

Title: White House Disability Call (use instead of code)

For live captioning during the call, go to http://www.fedrcc.us//Enter.aspx?EventID=1734047&CustomerID=321.

 Those interested in participating in the call are encouraged to call in at least five minutes prior to its start. This call is off the record and not for press purposes.

 If you would like to be added to the White House Disability Group email distribution list, please email sfeuerstein@who.eop.gov and provide your name, email address, city, state and organization (if applicable).

Please let others know about this call so that they may participate.  

Mar. 10th, 2011

White House Statement on a United Effort to Address Bullying

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

Bullying Image from Absar AhmedI know, I know…it is a forwarded note but considering all of the recent attention on the issue of bullying I thought this might be pertinent. There are a lot of resources and groups mentioned and considering the number of children and youth with disabilities who have been bullied (and some who have been bullies) this is an important issue and in addition to the many public and private efforts, there has been strong lobbying for legislation that more directly addresses the concern.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
March 10, 2011

President and First Lady Call For a United Effort to Address Bullying

The White House Highlights Private, Non-Profit, and Federal Commitments to Bullying Prevention

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the President and First Lady called for a united effort to address bullying at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.   Approximately 150 students, parents, teachers, non-profit leaders, advocates, and policymakers came together to discuss how they can work together to make our schools and communities safe for all students.

“If there’s one goal of this conference, it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up.  It’s not,” said President Obama.  “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people.  And it’s not something we have to accept. As parents and students; teachers and communities, we can take steps that will help prevent bullying and create a climate in our schools in which all of our children can feel safe.”

“As parents, this issue really hits home for us. It breaks our hearts to think that any child feels afraid every day in the classroom, on the playground, or even online,” First Lady Michelle Obama said. “I hope that all of you – and everyone watching online – will walk away from this conference with new ideas and solutions that you can take back to your own schools and communities.”

Every day, thousands of children, teens, and young adults around the country are bullied. Estimates are that nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year – upwards of 13 million students. Students involved in bullying are more likely to have challenges in school, to abuse drugs and alcohol, and to have health and mental health issues. If we fail to address bullying we put ourselves at a disadvantage for increasing academic achievement and making sure all of our students are college and career ready.

The conference encouraged schools, communities, and the private sector to join together to combat bullying.  Today the White House also highlighted private, non-profit, and federal commitments to bullying prevention.

Public-Private Partnerships, Commitments and Activities

Formspring and Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Formspring is a social network with over 22 million members, and is working with The MIT Media Lab, to develop new approaches to detect online bullying, and designing interfaces which help prevent it or mitigate it when it does occur. This approach uses a collection of common sense knowledge and reasoning techniques from artificial intelligence to understand online bullying at a deeper level than just words. MIT Media Lab and Formspring hope to build self-reflective interfaces that encourage social network participants to think sensibly about their behavior and suggest alternatives and coping strategies. Unlike spam filters, which work by collecting statistics on occurrences of particular words, the new MIT Media Lab and Formspring approach seeks to understand the intent behind the words. In addition, Formspring will discuss their corporate commitment to discovering & supporting the most advanced and meaningful technological innovations that can identify and curb online bullying and harassment.

MTV Networks: “A THIN LINE”

As part of MTV’s multi-year, award-winning A THIN LINE campaign, the network will launch a new anti-digital discrimination coalition, which will work with MTV to fight bullying and intolerance online (in partnership with the National Council of La Raza, Anti-Defamation League, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and GLAAD).  MTV  will also announce the forthcoming premiere of a poignant new feature film inspired by the true, tragic tale of Abraham Biggs – a 19-year-old who battled bipolar disorder and ultimately webcast his suicide after being egged on by a digital mob. The film will illustrate what can happen when we forget there’s a person on the other side of the screen, and serve as a powerful call to action to fight the spread of digital abuse.  The network plans six new cyberbullying and digital discrimination public service announcements, encouraging bullying bystanders to support their friends, connect victims of digital abuse to resources, and drive home the serious impact typewritten words can have.


 Facebook will unveil two new safety features in the coming weeks: a revamped multimedia Safety Center to incorporate multimedia, external resources from renowned experts, and downloadable information for teens.  Additionally, they will create a new “Social Reporting” system to enable people to report content that violates Facebook policies so that it can be removed as soon as possible, while notifying parents or teachers of the content so that the reasons for its posting can be addressed.  

 SurveyMonkey: www.surveymonkey.com/bullying

 SurveyMonkey—a “do-it-yourself” survey tool—allows anyone to survey people quickly and easily. More than 100 million people are interviewed in the education space each. The familiarity with the application, combined with its ease of use, create an opportunity to help students and administrators alike to use SurveyMonkey to collect information about the prevalence of bullying in schools.  To facilitate data collection, SurveyMonkey has created a dedicated page for bullying detection which includes a 10 question survey that students can adopt in order to distribute and disseminate via email, on fliers, through Facebook, and elsewhere. The application is free to use.

National Education Association: “Bully-Free: It Starts with Me.”

The National Education Association (NEA) is launching a nationwide anti-bullying campaign entitled Bully-Free: It Starts with Me.  Through this new online campaign, the NEA will identify and support caring adults in each school who will listen and act on behalf of bullied students in schools across America.  The NEA will invite its members to join the campaign and will work to extend the campaign to the broader community.  NEA will also release a new study on bullying in schools – based on a survey of more than 5,000 educators.  Findings from the National Education Association’s Nationwide Study of Bullying: Teachers’ and Education Support Professionals’ Perspectives represents the first nationwide study of teachers’ and education support professionals’ perspectives on bullying and bullying prevention efforts.

 American Federation of Teachers: “See a Bully, Stop a Bully, Make a Difference”

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is launching a national bullying campaign, See a Bully, Stop a Bully. Make a Difference, focused on raising bullying awareness and providing resources, training, and technical assistance for leaders and members. AFT will be hosting regional summits, holding a series of topical webinars, and developing new materials for the campaign, and incorporating it into their Back to School efforts. AFT is also working with various organizations including America’s Promise Alliance, the national PTA, AASA, GLAAD, NASP, ASCA, NEA, and GLSEN to amplify an anti-bullying message. The AFT has accelerated their efforts during the fall of 2010 in response to heightened awareness of bullying as well as the federal guidance issued by the Department of Education detailing the obligations of local school districts and state education departments to address bullying.

National PTA: “Connect for Respect”

National PTA is launching a campaign called Connect for Respect, asking PTAs nationwide to host a Connect for Respect event in their communities and to share resources with parents about bullying in the schools they serve. The campaign will also encourage parents to talk to their child about bullying and to advocate for policies and practices that create a safe school climate for all children. PTA will launch a communications campaign to promote Connect for Respect with PTA leaders and members across the country. PTA will issue five tip sheets for PTAs and for parents to increase their understanding of bullying, how to prevent it, and how to recognize if your child is the bully; create tools to share how to create a Connect for Respect event; and re-launch PTA.org/bullying, which will house all of the PTA resources.

National Association of Student Councils: “Raising Student Voice and Participation Bullying Challenge”

The National Association of Student Councils (NASC) declares its commitment to foster a national student-led conversation and call to action utilizing its Raising Student Voice & Participation (RSVP) process.  Through RSVP, student councils can lead student summits to identify strategies and projects that address the problem of bullying. NASC will also involve its sister organizations, the National Honor Society (NHS) and National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) expanding its outreach to some 33,000 student groups in middle level and high schools around the nation. The NASC Raising Student Voice and Participation (RSVP) process was launched during the 2006-2007 school year.  

National School Boards Association: “Students on Board for Bullying Prevention”

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) will launch a series of student conversations between boards of education and students in middle and high school. The conversations will be about the climate in their schools, and will be guided by questions from the research-based school climate surveys developed by the Council of Urban Boards of Education and by the Pearson Foundation’s Million Voices project. 

The Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention

Early in the Obama Administration, six federal agencies (Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Justice, Defense, Agriculture, and Interior) joined together to establish the Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Steering Committee to explore ways to provide guidance for individuals and organizations in combating bullying. This interagency group was recently joined by the National Council on Disability and the Federal Trade Commission.  In August of last year, the Steering Committee brought together non-profit leaders, researchers, parents, and youth to begin the national discussion and identify issues requiring additional guidance and clarification.  Since that convening, the Steering Committee has focused on the following activities:

•         StopBullying.gov:  This website will launch at today’s Conference to provide  information from various government agencies on how children, teens, young adults, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.  The website will provide information on what bullying is, its risk factors, its warning signs and its effects.  It will also provide details on how to get help for those that have been victimized by bullying. 

•         Enforcing Civil Rights Laws:  Last October, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights issued guidance as a “Dear Colleague” letter to clarify issues of bullying and violation of federal education anti-discrimination laws.  The guidance explains educators’ legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment.

•         Shaping State Laws and Policies:  In December of last year, Secretary Duncan issued a memo to Governors and Chief State School Officers in each state providing technical assistance and outlining key components of comprehensive and effective state anti-bullying laws and policies.

In addition to the Steering Committee’s work, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has also created the Stop Bullying Now! Campaign to raise awareness about bullying; prevent and reduce bullying behaviors; identify interventions and strategies; and encourage and strengthen partnerships.  SBN was developed by a steering committee and implementation work group that included  more than seventy organizations from in and out of government.  The campaign covers ages five to eighteen years old, and includes tool kits to encourage and empower youth to mentor younger children to take action again bullying.   

The Department of Education’s  Safe and Supportive Schools competitive grant program requires recipient states to measure school safety, which includes issues of bullying and harassment, at the building level by surveying students.   Federal funds are available for interventions in those schools identified as having the greatest need.   The Department of Education has awarded grants to 11 States for activities under this program.

Feb. 23rd, 2011

February Disability Issues – Budget, Delta Settlement and FCC

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

Februarie Image of Two Men from Alex BellosJust a quick February update.  There’s been quite  lot going on.  Below are a few areas I’d like to lightly touch on (with some informational links) before going into them in more depth during the next few weeks.  I also have on my upcoming blog-list a note to look at the Medicaid issues we’re seeing in state after state for people with disabilities and how they’re tied to fiscal activities here in Washington.

1.  The President’s Budget and how it Impacts Disability

As some of you may know, every month, the White House hosts a call on disability issues.  It is free and open although it is firmly off the record and not open to press.  However, one of the positive elements that came out of the most recent February 15th call was the creation of a quick-and-dirty budget fact sheet.  I have to admit, that I think there really is more detailed information (both positive and negative) that is NOT in this summary.  But it is a good place to start.  You can check it out here:  http://content.govdelivery.com/attachments/USEOPWHPO/2011/02/15/file_attachments/16878/2012_Disability_Fact_Sheet.pdf

2.  Department of Transportation and Delta Airlines – The Dust-up, the Settlement and the End of an Era?  Maybe not.

Although it didn’t make as big a splash in the mainstream media as many folks with disabilities would have liked to have seen, the result of DOT action against Delta Airlines for disability discrimination has been very visible in the disability blogosphere.  I hope to do my own analysis but in the interim, Scott Rains has a great article collecting a variety of sources that you can read here:  http://www.rollingrains.com/2011/02/end-of-story-summary-sailing-through-the-blogoshere-with-delta-airlines.html.  And if you have a moment, check out the rest of his site.  He is probably one of the best authorities you will ever meet on the concept of accessible tourism and has a wealth of knowledge on accessible travel.  If he doesn’t know it, he knows someone who does.

3.  The Federal Communications Commisson (FCC) and their very busy February.

Due by the middle of the month, the FCC had sought comments on rules relating to the hearing aid compatibility of wireless handsets and evaluating the 2010 hearing aid compatibility rules.  They were also recruiting members for its Consumer Advisory Committee. This Committee makes recommendations on issues including telecommunications relay services, hearing aid compatibility, video description, closed captioning and other accessibility issues.   Other issues are still open and pending including:  The February 17, 2011, FCC call for information about new and off-the-shelf technologies that can be used to access Video Relay Service (VRS), such as Skype, Apple Facetime, etc.  Which I think is really exciting.  And on March 3, 2011, FCC Open Meeting to discuss two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) pertaining to the recently passed 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act (“21stCVAA”). The Advanced Communications Services NPRM requiring providers and manufacturers of advanced communications services/equipment to make their products accessible to people with disabilities and my personal favorite and something I had worked on several years ago, the Video Description NPRM to reinstate the video description rules adopted by the Commission in 2000.

Feb. 11th, 2011

Federal Hiring of People with Disabilities? Looking Critically

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

ManinWheelchairatDesk - DJ Schimmel by everyplace (from flickr)It has been great these last few weeks as more and more guest bloggers are choosing to offer their insights and experience through Day in Washington to  ensure YOU get the best information possible.  These are Washington DC insiders with unique knowledge and expertise and I’m proud to be able to offer this blog as a resource and a way for those “inside the Beltway” to engage with the rest of the disability nation.  Today’s post comes from Jason Olsen, a colleague with many years experience within the Federal sector.  He has worked in several agencies including the Department of Labor and Social Security.  The post below is his breakdown of the President’s  Executive Order 13548 (EO) and call for the hiring of 100,000 new employees with disabilities.  After examining the language of the EO, his goal is to tell us what is REALLY going on and what this means to people with disabilities.

On July 26, 2010, when the White House issued a Press Release that the Federal Government was going to be hiring 100,000 people with disabilities, many people with significant disabilities rejoiced. The belief was that the government was finally going to become the model employer; that it would break down some of the highest walls of discrimination that still exist – barriers to equal employment for people with disabilities.

However,  implementation of these plans may be harder than you might think. In the new Executive Order 13548, the President gave the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) the lead role in “designing model recruitment and hiring strategies for agencies seeking to increase their employment of people with disabilities” and to “develop mandatory training programs for both human resources personnel and hiring managers on the employment of individuals with disabilities.” Although this language sounds neutral, human resources personnel and hiring managers are often relegated to simply handling the paperwork of bringing a person on board after that person has been selected.

Let me explain.  Most people with disabilities obtain their Federal jobs through Schedule A (properly called “Schedule A Appointment Authority).  When Schedule A is being used, the talented individual with a disability can be (and usually is) identified by the staff they regularly work with (supervisors, support staff, team teaders, executive officers etc.).  HR personnel and hiring managers (Remember, the ones who would be receiving all the specialized training?) may not be close enough to ever be able to identify a good intern (who may also have a disability) or be integrated enough into the local disability community to identify potential qualified staff.  With this in mind, training only HR Personnel may leave out other personnel who are critical in the process of finding and developing the talent pool of potential employees with disabilities.

Now, let me also point out one of the other major benefits of utilizing Schedule A – the federal agency can hire an individual without having to place a job posting on USAJOBS.gov. Thus, Schedule A eliminates the time it takes to create the posting, the time for people to apply for the positions, and the time it takes to sort through hundreds of resumes. It is designed to eliminate the delays that standard methods of hiring impose.  Let’s remember that it isn’t that people with disabilities can’t compete with their non-disabled counterparts, most often the skill sets and knowledge are equal. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that when an HR professional or hiring manager has the choice between a qualified individual with a disability and a qualified individual without a disability theywill more often choose the individual without the disability.

The second portion of the Executive Order states that within 120 days guidelines would be issued to agencies for them to develop their agency specific plans for recruiting people with disabilities and then send them to OPM for review (if you are keeping track that means March 8, 2011). OPM quickly created a rather impressive Memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies which lays out exactly what each agency’s plans need to contain.  This guidance plainly and unequivocally states that it is to be used “to design model recruitment and hiring strategies for agencies to facilitate their employment of people with disabilities” and that “it provides recruitment, hiring, and retention strategies…” But before we get too far into this guidance lets finish the evaluation of Executive Order 13548 itself  .

The next portion of the EO is particularly interesting and one that is actually beneficial for the disability community as a whole.  This section states that agency plans will be “subject to approval by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget” and that it must, must, must, (okay, the actually EO doesn’t repeat “must” quite as much but the emphasis is very clear): “include performance targets and numerical goals for employment of individuals with disabilities and sub-goals for employment of individuals with targeted disabilities.”

Why is this  important? For the first time, agencies are going to be held accountable for the targets that they propose and the plans that they submit must be of good enough quality to pass review by OPM. There  will also be a Senior Official named for each agency;  this person will be held responsible if the agencies attempts succeed or fail. However, let me add a caution – OPM does not state clearly what will happen if the plans are unsatisfactory, or if the plans will still be accepted if not all portions of the guidance that were issued are fully addressed in an agency’s plans.  Something to watch for in the future.

Another positive point of this Executive Order is that it urges agencies to “increase use of the Federal Government’s Schedule A excepted service hiring authority for persons with disabilities and increase participation of individuals with disabilities in internships, fellowships, and training and mentoring programs.”   In addition to greater use of Schedule A, plainly put, this language focuses on inclusion of people with disabilities into already established programs instead of setting up some sort of “special” training program. OPM will track whether or not these efforts are successful and a report will be made to the President. A much better plan that just issuing guidance and moving on.

The final portion of the EO focuses on retention. OPM will “identify and assist agencies in implementing strategies for retaining Federal workers with disabilities in Federal employment including, but not limited to, training, the use of centralized funds to provide reasonable accommodations, increasing access to appropriate accessible technologies, and ensuring the accessibility of physical and virtual workspaces.”

In some ways, though,  what bothers me the most is that it doesn’t focus nearly enough on retention. In almost any job there are two things that keep people committed to their work. Promotions and money. Everyone wants to be valued as an employee and those two elements are the primary ways our contributions can be measured.  However, neither of those is fully addressed by this EO. This is somewhat disappointing when you take into account the report from the National Council on Disabilities entitled Federal Employment of People with Disabilities from March 31, 2009 that states that;

 • Supervisors. In FY 2007, employees with targeted disabilities made up:
                              0.49 percent of the 50,038 first-level managers (GS-12 level or below);
                              0.49 percent of the 65,792 mid-level managers (GS-13 or GS-14); and
                              0.43 percent of the 38,837 senior-level managers (GS-15 or Senior Executive Service).6

Senior Executive Service. The Senior Executive Service (SES) is a separate personnel system covering a majority of the top managerial, supervisory, and policymaking positions in the executive branch. In FY 2007, the SES had 7,720 members; only 35 (0.45 percent) were people with targeted disabilities.7 Government-wide, the representation of career SES members reporting targeted disabilities actually declined from 0.52 percent in FY 2000 to 0.44 percent in FY 2007.8

Yet, EO 13548 does not address these compensations. When you consider that fact that less than one half of 1% of people with targeted disabilities are welcomed into the upper echelon of the management structure, the omission of a method to improve this is disheartening. Without the conglomeration of these and other issues being addressed there is the fear that EO 13548 will go the same way as EO 13613 (issued July 26, 2000) by then-President Bill Clinton, calling for an additional 100,000 individuals with disabilities to be employed by the Federal Government over 5 years.

Is this a new beginning or history repeating itself?

-Jason Olsen

And as usual, Day in Washington encourages you to take a look for yourself.  Links are provided in the text.

Jan. 26th, 2011

Wordle – Graphical Images of #Obama’s #SOTU and Rep. Ryan’s #GOP Response

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

Last night was the President’s State of the Union (SOTU) speech. Obviously, those interested in policy and politics not only listened to the event, but almost instantaneously began working to analyze it; break it down into its components in an attempt to discover areas of emphasis and look for signs as to the Administration’s future priorities. And I am just as guilty as the next person.

Within minutes the Washington Post put up a graphic that broke up the President’s speech based on the amount of time he gave to specific issues – economy, education etc.   Day In Washington, although not the Post, is not without it’s own resources. Below, please find a visual representation of the SOTU based on the frequency of words used.

Wordle SOTU

 Wordle is a free application that generates word clouds based on text provided. The clouds give greater visual prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Obviously, this doesn’t capture context or other forms of emphasis, but it is a fun and unique way to review what was said, after all haven’t we all been taught that an important part of speeches is repetition?

As some of you may know, the owner of Day in Washington is visually impaired, so access to this tool is limited. In the interest of full accessibility, also included is the same speech run through WordCounter which parses text in a way similar to Wordle without the graphical representation. Basically, Wordcounter ranks the most frequently used words in any given body of text – in this case the SOTU.

Word Frequency
year 39
new 36
people 31
job 31
american 29
work 27
make 26
that’ 21
come 21
just 21
it’ 20
govern 19
last 18
america 18
because 17
nation 17
tonight 16
want 16
one 16
future 15
company 15
country 15
get 15
know 15
world 15

As many of you know, Day in Washington is very firmly a bipartisan blog and supports careful discussion of all policies and politics both Democratic and Republican (and other). Therefore, in all fairness, below is the Republican response as delivered by Representative Paul Ryan, run through the exact same applications.

GOP Response to SOTU

And here is the same speech run through WordCounter.

Word Frequency
govern 22
spend 13
president 13
debt 12
limit 8
budget 7
house 7
year 7
nation 7
many 6
act 6
believe 6
people 6
american 6
new 6
law 6
economy 6
one 6
time 5
much 5
create 5
work 5
increase 5
tax 5
job 5


And finally, for those of you who may be curious, you can take a look at various inaugural speeches here: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/tag_clouds_of_obamas_inaugural_speech_compared_to_bushs.php Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan and Lincoln. Yes, I said Lincoln.

Jan. 16th, 2011

Best Wheelchairs, Oracle and @GailSimone – Suggestions Welcome

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

Or what to look for in a wheelchair (for a comic book character).

Those of you who know me, know I am a huge fan of comic books.  What could be better, it is a medium that in many ways highlights ordinary people doing extraordinary things because it is the RIGHT thing to do.  I think people are drawn to comic books because of their inherent optimism – we all have our personal struggles and relationships, our battles and nemeses but in the end, (I’d like to believe) we do want to make the world a better place and in our own way, in our work, our play and our lives, we strive to do that.

With regard to specifics, I have to admit my series preference (ok, ok it is my favorite) that encapsulates that is the Birds of PreyBirds of Prey (or BoP) is a DC Comics series that features the adventures of a group of superheroines led by Barbara Gordon codenamed Oracle, a woman who uses a wheelchair.  Kim Yale and John Ostrander, created Oracle by asking what happens to someone (specifically a superheroine – Batgirl) after a traumatic spinal cord injury.  John Ostrander has spoken about the value of Oracle to both DC Comics and to the public:

“We wanted her to cope with what had happened to her and becoming, in many ways, more effective as Oracle than she ever was as Batgirl. And we knew that others with disabilities might look at her and feel good reading about her…I don’t think people ‘dance around’ her disabilities as they don’t want to focus on them but on her character. These shouldn’t be stories about a disabled person; they are stories about a compelling fascinating character who HAPPENS to be in a wheelchair and I think that’s correct. Barbara isn’t her handicap; there’s more to her than that.”

And now, current BoP writer Gail Simone is going a step further.  She wants this to be reflective of real people.  What would a real wheelchair for Oracle look like? And she’s asking you.

I  can imagine some of DIW readers asking why we should care?  Isn’t this a blog about disability policy and politics?  And I would remind you about the power of media and the power of image.  How people are seen has an unbelievable impact on how they are treated, perhaps even more than sometimes than the law can provide.  Media has changed the way we view the world – Vietnam, is probably one of the most vivid examples for our parent’s generation, the Challenger explosion for mine and September, 11 for so many young people today.  Granted, they were all horrific events, but it was the media – seeing it on television that changed the way we felt and still feel today.  And yes, even comic books can change the way people see individuals with disabilities.

People with disabilities demand equality, demand respect and here is someone who writes a character with a disability in fiction and is saying, “I want to get this right.”  This is where I say, if we are going to talk the talk, then we need to walk the walk. 

You can provide your comments, links, advice and information at:  http://gailsimone.tumblr.com/post/2776494800/about-oracles-chair

She can also be found on Twitter @GailSimone

For those of you interested in the full history behind the Oracle character, please check out http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/02/15/a-perhaps-unnecessary-guide-to-oracles-formative-years/

AND just as a small note and tip of the hat to my current office, Batgirl actually has a long-time relationship with the U.S. Department of Labor.  Video below.  Hmm, I wonder if we could get Oracle to represent the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.  It’d be a great continuation.

If the video doesn’t play, you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0e1wo8f8mT4&playnext=1&list=PL1F0824C988FF8ED9&index=50

Jan. 10th, 2011

DIW Guest Post – Job Resources for Disabled Vets

Originally published at Day In Washington. Please leave any comments there.

Army Amputee with FlagLadies and Gentlemen,
Today’s blog post is from guests Drew and Christina at Job-Applications.com.  As many of you know, Day in Washington doesn’t have a direct links page, so in response to an initial query, I asked them to provide their information in the form of a blog post.  I tend to eschew advertizing-style posts, however, the information provided is an important as a resource and I think it is good to perhaps highlight that in additional to all of the government-based and Washington D.C.-initiated resources, there are folks out there in the private sector who are interested in and working for people with disabilities.


Dear Reader,

In this economy, a job search can be hard on anyone.  We’re still struggling from an economic recession and there are many financial, emotional , and environmental stressors related to the hunt for employment.  Veterans with disabilities can face even more challenges.  According to statistics used by the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC), between October 2001 and February, 2008, more than 30,000 veterans returned home with service-connected disabilities (e.g., amputations, burns, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injuries (TBI)).

Nancy Schiliro is one of these veterans.  A Marine Corps Logistics Specialist, she thought she was lucky when, while serving in Iraq, a mortar hit nearby and she was able to walk away with only a few scratches and a headache.  But the headache turned out to be something much more.  When she returned to California and got in to see a specialist, she discovered that she had a torn retina and massive eye infection resulting in the loss of her eye; and a Traumatic Brain Injury impacting her vision, memory and leading to constant headaches.    

“I had nothing to come home to,” says Schiliro. “I had a really good family that supported me through some really hard times when I first came home, but I was really miserable.”  Schiliro didn’t know what she was going to do.  She didn’t think she could do anything and was afraid that she would fail at anything she tried, and that no one would understand why. 

Luckily, there are employment resources available to hopeful applicants; some are even dedicated specifically to disabled military veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers the Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment Service (VR&E) VetSuccess Program.  To quote from their website, “The VetSuccess program assists Veterans with service-connected disabilities to prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For Veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, VetSuccess offers services to improve their ability to live as independently as possible.” 

From returning disabled veteran Richard Nero, “I can say without hesitation that my wife, Corliss [his VR&E counselor] and my job truly saved my life.” He believes employment to be a crucial part of an injured veteran’s recovery process. “If I weren’t employed, I’d probably have a headstone,” he said.

Job training and resources may also be provided to disabled veterans through the U.S. Department of Labor in accordance with the Jobs for Veterans Act. Under this act, provisions are given to establish career training centers and job placement services for all military veterans. There are over 3,000 job training centers across the country. You can find plenty of extra information via the Career OneStop Service Locator sponsored by the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.  In addition, another initiatve, America’s Heroes at Work, provides information and support to employers on hiring returning veterans with hidden disabilities, such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which may have an impact on work performance. Resources include fact sheets, web-based training tools, information on accommodations, and more.
Disabled veterans are able to enter a variety of training programs and may be granted apprenticeships with leading companies. Participating companies are able to find qualified veterans to fill open positions. These businesses are compensated with salary reimbursement and other benefits. While helping veterans find work, companies can also help themselves both financially and by obtaining qualified, new employees.  The training provided through both of these federal agencies help disabled veterans settle into a job with one of the participating companies. This experience will also increase a veteran’s job skill set and improve the chances of finding employment in the future.

We’ve talked about the federal government job-finding resources for veterans with disabilities, but this is also an issue close to the heart of some of us in the private sector.   We work for Job-Applications.com.  This is a resource for all job seekers, providing useful information, like company descriptions, along with printable or online applications for top companies.  But it is more than that.  We believe that we have a responsibility to those who serve, and that’s why we’re writing this blog post.  We want to show that as the people on the “other side of the screen” we want to help.

Richard Martin, a veteran with a TBI and PTSD said it best, “I kept thinking to myself that when I got out of Iraq, I had to go back to work,” said Martin. “So I had to use all the resources at my disposal to recover as best I could so that I could ultimately take a job and provide for my family.”

And that’s what we’re doing, adding resources – information and applications for companies in many industries.  From retail and restaurants to service and armed forces work, we’ve got you covered.  And this isn’t about money – we’ve set up Job-Applications to be free and hope that our efforts just may be the resource you need to end your job search. Good luck out there.

Drew and Christina

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