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National Council on Disability Monthly Bulletin for August, 2007
Aug 10, 2007 (10:08 AM EDT)

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following is the National Council on Disability's monthly bulletin for December 2006:

The "Bulletin," which is free of charge and at NCD's award-winning Web site ( (, brings you the latest issues and news affecting people with disabilities. To subscribe to the NCD listserv, go to , click on "Online mailing list archives," select "NCD-NEWS-L," click on "Join or leave the list," then complete the short subscription form. Please send your editorial comments to "Bulletin" editor Mark S. Quigley .

New Freedom Initiative Progress Report

On July 26, the 17th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), President George W. Bush released the 2007 New Freedom Initiative Progress Report ( ), which outlines many of the achievements that have taken place since the last such report was issued in 2004. The new report is the most comprehensive document of its kind in the history of this Administration, literally almost double the size of the last report. The New Freedom Initiative, launched in February 2001, is the President's agenda for advancing equality of opportunity and access for more than 51 million Americans with disabilities.

NCD Chicago Quarterly Meeting

NCD's Chicago quarterly meeting took place July 24-26 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro. As part of its ongoing mission to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability, and to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society, NCD conducted panel discussions on emergency preparedness and livable communities/best practices for mental health. NCD also conducted several public comment sessions to get feedback from the public on a variety of disability-related topics.

On July 24, NCD continued its focus on emergency preparedness with a panel that focused on state, local, and consumer perspectives and the needs of people with a variety of disabilities in both urban and rural environments.

Laurie J. Dittman, Senior Policy Analyst in the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD), discussed an emergency evacuation ordinance passed in Chicago after 9/11 so that high-rise buildings of 80 feet or more must develop evacuation plans. The ordinance requires evacuation assistance for each building occupant needing assistance who has voluntarily self-identified. Each plan must identify places of refuge for all occupants who need assistance. Ms. Dittman detailed the importance of having the MOPD involved from the beginning on the evacuation ordinance and many additional parameters contained in the law. She also outlined a new project that will create a voluntary emergency assistance registry in Chicago. This project grew out of town meetings held with the Chicago Police Department and other initiatives that emanated from encouraging community participation in community emergency response teams.

Paul H. Rasch, Regional Coordinator for the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, began by noting that everyone in attendance at the meeting understood how much remains to be done in the emergency management community to address the needs of persons with special needs. He spoke about emergency management challenges statewide that include both urban and rural communities. He noted that rural areas often have very limited funding and resources but may have residents with special needs who require services. He discussed the initiative of working with the Red Cross and others to ensure that shelters are accessible to people with disabilities, a need that became clear post-Katrina. Mr. Rasch also outlined the work of the Public Education Committee of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force in setting up a Special Needs Subcommittee. This group will solicit input from a cross section of agencies, organizations, and persons with disabilities.

Sarah Triano, Director of Programs for Access Living, opened her comments by noting that she was a person with a couple of hidden disabilities and helped expand the discussion to remember that others may also have hidden disabilities. She described the elevator at the new Access Living headquarters in Chicago as the only elevator in the country right now that has a TTY for use in emergencies by people who are deaf. Ms. Triano also noted the building has evacuation chairs on all floors. She discussed that Chicago had only two shelters post-Katrina and that led to many people who use wheelchairs being separated from their families and unnecessarily sent to nursing homes. She mentioned the ongoing challenge of people with disabilities in the local community who may wait years for accessible housing, but when disaster evacuees arrive accessible housing becomes available for them.

On July 25, NCD conducted a livable communities/best practices in mental health panel discussion.

Carol Wozniewski, Director of Mental Health America of Illinois, described many serious problems in the Illinois public mental health system. These include limited access to treatment, lack of affordable housing, premature discharge from hospitalization, inadequate discharge planning, too much investment in hospitals, lack of emphasis on employment for consumers, poor jail diversion, lack of coordination among human service agencies, and scarcity of psychiatrists, with a special dearth of child and adolescent psychiatrists. Lack of early intervention that results from mandates to serve only the most seriously ill actually causes unnecessary disability. Carol called for Congress to pass, and the president to sign, parity legislation to increase housing options, and to increase federal funding for criminal justice diversion, services for youth, and research.

Pamela Charles, from the Growing Place, said she has been in recovery

for 28 years. She described the successes that result from peer support,

self-advocacy, and Copeland's Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). She

called for removal of Medicare's 120-day limit on mental health days.

Lucy Sajdais, Director of the Growing Place, said the need for affordable housing is at a crisis point. People are inappropriately housed in nursing homes. She called for the Federal Government to implement the recommendations from NCD's 2000 report, From Privileges to Rights, specifically citing the recommendation that involuntary treatment be avoided. She asked for help protecting civil rights and described Senate Bill 234, which was passed by the Illinois legislature and is currently on the governor's desk. If signed, it will expand the criteria for involuntary treatment to include "likely to deteriorate." She said that Olmstead should be applied to private nursing homes, as well as publicly funded institutions.

On July 24, former NCD Chairperson Marca Bristo invited NCD to a presentation on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (see NCD paper on the Convention at ) by Gerard Quinn of Ireland. The presentation took place at the new, fully-accessible headquarters of Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, a nonresidential Center for Independent Living for people with all types of disabilities. The center received Paralyzed Veterans of America's 2007 Barrier-Free America Award, which honors and promotes leadership, innovation and action in the architectural and design communities in advancing accessibility.

After Mr. Quinn's presentation, Ms. Bristo introduced Jim Ward of ADA Watch, who discussed their national ADA bus tour, Road To Freedom: Keeping the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The tour, a national awareness campaign inspired by the historic journey of Justin and Yoshiko Dart to mobilize support for passage of the ADA, features historical ADA photos by Tom Olin.

At the conclusion of the program, NCD hosted a reception at Access Living for the disability community.

NCD Makes ADA Recommendations

On July 26 during a news conference at its quarterly meeting in Chicago, NCD released two reports that show that the ADA is working but more needs to be done.

The first, The Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Assessing the Progress toward Achieving the Goals of the ADA, describes a retrospective study and review of the ADA's impact on the lives of Americans with disabilities during its first 16 years. The report focuses on the four major goals of the ADA-equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency. Progress toward the goal of economic self-sufficiency appears to be the goal having the least success.

The second report, Implementation of the ADA: Challenges, Best Practices, and New Opportunities for Success, highlights many successful strategies for ADA implementation, as well as obstacles that are preventing ADA implementation. This report reflects the experiences and ideas of ADA stakeholders from around the country, including small and large businesses, employers, judges and legal professionals, government entities, and individuals with disabilities.

Both reports can be found at .

News conference participants included: John R. Vaughn, NCD Chairperson; Linda Wetters, NCD Board Member; Peter Blanck, Ph.D, J.D., University Professor, Chair, Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University; Silvia Yee, Staff Attorney, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund; Roy Flora, Chief Operating Officer, US Franchise Systems, Inc.; Rene Luna, Chicago Consumer; and John Catlin, FAIA, Partner, LCM Architects.

ADA Restoration Act Introduced

On July 26, the ADA Restoration Act was introduced in both the House and the Senate. The House bill, H.R. 3195, introduced by Representative Steny Hoyer (MD) and Representative James Sensenbrenner (WI), has 153 cosponsors as of August 1, 2007. The Senate bill, S. 1881, was sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (IA) and Senator Arlen Specter (PA). The ADA Restoration Act addresses many of the suggestions put forward in Righting the ADA ( ), NCD's 2004 report that offers legislative proposals designed to restore the ADA to its original intent.

CONTACT: Mark S. Quigley of the National Council on Disability,

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