DisBeat Announces The Top 5 Most Important State of the Union Reactions from Disabled Americans

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DisBeat Announces The Top 5 Most Important State of the Union Reactions from Disabled Americans

After a surge of reaction surrounding President Barak Obama’s final State of the Union Address, DisBeat has worked with key thought leaders and allies to select The Top 5 Most Important State of the Union Reactions for Disabled Americans. DisBeat believes that these statements best reflect the overall concerns disabled Americans had.
President Obama delivers the 2016 State of the Union

Impressions from Disabled Americans After the State of the Union:

1) Ted Jackson 

Community Organizing Director at California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

As the President began his final chapter at the State of the Union Address this week, the disability community applauded the first time ever use of captions that allowed the speech to be witnessed in live-time by those who are Deaf. 

We celebrated several accomplishments of the Obama administration: the Affordable Care Act and protection from discrimination based on pre-existing health conditions, the Executive Order to increase disability employment Section 503, VEVRAA, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the establishment of the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and recognizing the intersectionality of diverse groups through the White House Champions of Change program.  This progress is a testament our community power through advocacy. However, after all of this success, when the President named the many communities in America, he forgot to say the word, "disability." 

Now it is time for our community to ensure we are in the first chapter of the next President’s book by organizing for electoral power. 
 
Electoral power is the sum of our votes and can be measured and used to hold our officials accountable to the community that elected them. Omission of disability during the State of the Union serves as a powerful call to action for citizens with disabilities to mobilize and demand that Presidential Candidates address our issues. 

Disability Rights are Civil Rights
 
On January 20, 2017 will the word “disability” echo through the Capitol mall from the podium? Despite the political headwinds of Architectural, Technology, and attitudinal barriers that preclude an independent and private vote by citizens with disabilities.     

The choice is ours, the vote is ours: #VoteDisability

2) Lawrence Carter-Long 

Nothing Without Us Media

It's 2016. "Disabled." It's way past time to dump the silly euphemisms and not be shy about getting good and righteously pissed off about being omitted. Until we're recognized as a community, as a constituency -- both within our community and outside of it -- how the hell are we supposed to organize? Change things? Come together to make a damn difference? One way we all can easily start, right now, is to simply #SayTheWord. What we talk about reflects what we care about, and foreshadows what we say and do. Politicians and real folks alike. So do that. Consciously. Intentionally. Often. "Disabled." Simply say it. Sing it. Own it. Please. If not for any other reason than until and unless we do, they won't. And, quite literally, when it comes to budgets, ballots or bandwagons we can't afford to be ignored.

3) Bob Kafka 

National Organizer, ADAPT Co-Director, Institute for Disability Access

Obviously GOTV (Get Out the Vote) is important however I strongly believe we need to market the concept that there is something called the DISABILITY VOTE! Candidates shape their messages based on getting certain constituencies to the polls.  We need to market that there is a DISABILITY VOTE! at the same time we outreach to register new folks and build the structure to GOTV. 

4) Ari Ne'eman

American autism rights activist, co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in 2006.

This past Tuesday, President Obama gave his last State of the Union address. As a policy wonk and a card carrying member of the politics fandom, I enjoyed it tremendously. As a disability rights advocate, I was underwhelmed. Except for a heartfelt section calling for more medical research on curing cancer, the President failed to bring up people with disabilities in his remarks. This is not altogether unusual. While President Obama will have many disability rights achievements as part of his legacy when he leaves office next year, he has rarely acknowledged the disability community in his remarks to the nation.

I have complicated feelings about that. After all, it isn’t as if President Obama has not done a tremendous amount for the disability community. The President’s Affordable Care Act is perhaps the single most important piece of disability rights legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) itself, though most people don’t see it as such. And yet, the benefits of the ACA are designed first and foremost for the general public, and it has been sold in those terms. Very few people think of Obamacare as a gift to the disabled. Perhaps that is as it should be. But the minimal attention paid to the disability community in President Obama’s public addresses does leave one with the impression that the White House does not view disabled Americans as a group worth pandering to. 

It is not as if Presidents addressing the disability community in their State of the Union remarks has no precedent in modern political history. George H.W. Bush, who championed and signed the ADA, made reference to the legislation in three of his four State of the Union addresses. Bill Clinton used his 1999 State of the Union to propose a modest long-term care tax credit as well as to call upon Congress to pass legislation making it easier for disabled people to remain in the workforce. In his 2000 address, he followed up to commend Congress for passing that bill into law. 

George W. Bush focused on a more specific part of the community, but still emphasized disability services in at least three State of the Unions, twice calling on Congress to re-authorize the Ryan White Act supporting individuals with HIV/AIDS, and held a legitimately impressive record regarding improving treatment for HIV/AIDS internationally. An earlier State of the Union referenced his New Freedom Initiative, a Presidential agenda for expanding disability equality (albeit one with rather limited outcomes). 

What’s galling is that President Obama has an extraordinarily strong disability rights record, arguably far more so than that of most or all of his predecessors. The Affordable Care Act’s ban on insurers discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions is a potentially game-changing step for disabled Americans. The Obama Administration’s Justice Department has engaged in unprecedented enforcement of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead v. L.C. decision, a 1999 court ruling requiring states to offer community services to seniors and people with disabilities that sat ignored for most of the Bush Administration. And thanks to an executive order signed by the President in 2010, the federal workforce has reached a record high in employing workers with disabilities.

So does it matter that President Obama doesn’t talk about people with disabilities, if his disability policy record is impressive? I think it does. During my time on the National Council on Disability and in my ongoing work with ASAN, I’ve seen the policy process up close and personal. Many of us in the advocacy community are aware of how many of the Administration’s most important disability policy outcomes came from the personal commitment and expertise of senior appointees. As Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Tom Perez made freeing people with disabilities from institutions and nursing homes a personal cause. Similarly, figures like Sharon Lewis, Sam Bagenstos and Patricia Shiu made aggressive enforcement of disability rights law a priority across every area they had responsibility. Much of the disability policy legacy of the Obama Administration can be attributed to the energy and vision they and others like them brought to their roles.

No doubt the President approved of those initiatives, and he deserves credit for appointing people who sincerely care about the community to important positions. Personnel is policy, after all. But not every political appointee comes with a personal connection to the disability community. Most take their cue from the White House as to which constituencies and projects should be prioritized on an agenda that can not possibly encompass every worthy cause. When people with disabilities are mentioned as a priority in a State of the Union, it lights a fire under every government employee. We need that kind of attention and focus.

5) Alice Wong 

Founder and Project Coordinator, Disability Visibility Project

January 12, 2016 was President Obama's last State of the Union address to the nation. Here are some live-tweets by the disability community on issues and themes raised in the speech. Alice Wong put together a very compelling Storify that captured YOUR thoughts! #SOTU4PWD tweets!

 

BIOGRAPHIES

Bob Kafka 

National Organizer ADAPT Co-Director, Institute for Disability Access--Having served with the Army from 1966-67, Bob graduated the University of Houston with a BBA in Economics in 1974.  He went on to earn his M.Ed. in Special Education in 1977. From 1974 to 1980 he was the Director of Handicapped Student Services at the University of Houston. He served as Executive Director of the Texas Paralyzed Veterans Association, TPVA, in 1978, and as TPVA President from 1987 to 1991. Bob was also involved with Houston's Coalition for Barrier Free Living, CBFL, serving as Chair of the Architectural Barriers Committee and then as president in 1979. During his presidency of CBFL the group received the grant to start one of he first independent living centers in the country, Houston Center for Independent Living.

 Ari Ne'eman

Ari Ne’eman is the President and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, an advocacy organization run by and for Autistic adults seeking to increase the representation of Autistic people across society. In 2009, President Obama nominated Ari to the National Council on Disability, a federal agency charged with advising Congress and the President on disability policy issues. He was confirmed by the Senate in July 2010 and served until 2015, during which time he chaired the Council’s Committee on Entitlements Policy. From 2010 to 2012, he served as a public member to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a Federal advisory committee that coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism. Ari also served as an adviser to the DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Disorders Workgroup convened by the American Psychiatric Association. He is also a member of the National Quality Forum’s Workgroup on Measuring Home and Community Based Services Quality.

Alice Wong, MS, is a Staff Research Associate at the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF. Alice works on various research projects for the Community Living Policy Center, a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) and the Administration for Community Living. She is an author of online curricula for home care providers and caregivers for Elsevier’s College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving.Currently, she is the Founder and Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to recording, amplifying, and sharing disability stories and culture. Alice is also an Advisory Board member of APIDC (Asian Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California) and a former Presidential appointee to the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies on disability policy.  

Lawrence Carter-Long:

Lawrence Carter-Long is one of the world’s foremost authorities on media representation of disability. His unique blend of the arts, media and public policy has been awarded by such diverse entities as former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the American Association of People with Disabilities. He founded the internationally-acclaimed disTHIS! Film Series which ran from 2006-2010 and was one of the pioneering performers in dance choreographer Heidi Latsky's provocatively named GIMP. In 2012, he programmed and cohosted THE PROJECTED IMAGE: A HISTORY OF DISABILITY IN FILM on Turner Classic Movies reaching 87 million people. Lawrence has two decades of experience working with regional, national, and international media outlets earning coverage in respected outlets like the Associated Press, the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Al Jazeera, and Diversity, Inc., among others.  He lives and works in Washington, DC. Click here to follow Lawrence on Twitter.

Ted Jackson:

Ted Jackson is the Community Organizing Director at California Foundation for  Independent Living  Centers. At CFILC he leads the Disability Organizing  Network (DOnetwork), a statewide  network of over  1700 members  who  advocate to  increase access  for  people with disabilities.   Recent DOnetwork successes include: increasing access for California’s online voter  registration – the  only ADA compliant system of  its  kind nationwide  according to an  ACLU study; increasing  availability to voter education materials  in  alternate formats; accessible  redesign of the Bay Area Rapid  Transit train cars; and implementation of accessibility policy at Covered California, the state’s healthcare  benefits exchange.

He has nearly 30 years of organizing experience including local, state and national levels in  artistic, political, LGBT  and disability communities.  Ted first received national attention for  the successful 2004 campaign to repeal Article  XII in Cincinnati, OH. His policy experience has involved working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people and now people with disabilities as well as coalition building with diverse social justice communities. Working on campaigns  he has  served as  a campaign manager, political and  field director, coalitions director, communications  and  media  consultant  and volunteer  coordinator. Ted  serves  on the California Secretary of State’s Voter Accessibility Advisory Committee. He is also a member of the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL) he is on their Voting Rights Subcommittee and is Chair of the (NCIL) Disability-Queer Caucus.  In 2015  Ted was awarded the  NCIL Region 9 Advocate of the  Year Award.