Tuesday, November 1, 2011

National Council on Disabilities Releases Progress Report

Letter of Transmittal

October 31, 2011

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the National Council on Disability (NCD), I am pleased to submit the enclosed report, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report. In this report, NCD assesses the current state of people with disabilities in America and how emerging trends and government policies are impacting the quality of their lives. The report offers a broad range of recommendations for reforms designed to enhance the independence and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities.

Over the past year, NCD has been actively engaged with our stakeholders across the country. NCD sponsored a variety of opportunities to bring stakeholders and other partners together to exchange information, build collaborations, and develop solutions to long-standing and emerging challenges. Based on what we learned from this extensive community engagement, as well as a review of the most recent national disability data, we found that vast disparities exist between people with and without disabilities in the United States. Overall, people with disabilities have lower rates of employment, lower annual earnings, lower educational attainment and achievement; lack adequate access to housing, transportation, technology, and health care; and are more likely to live in poverty. Furthermore, the current economic downturn is having a disproportionate negative impact on people with disabilities, and national trend data indicate a decline in many aspects of their quality of life.

NCD also identified a number of recent advances in public policy that, when fully implemented, will have the potential to improve aspects of quality of life for people with disabilities. Some examples include:

  • Improved access to health care and health insurance under the Affordable Care Act;
  • Increased access to federal employment opportunities as a result of the Executive Order on increasing federal employment of people with disabilities;
  • Increased public awareness of the need for home- and community-based care instead of institutional care that has resulted from advocacy efforts by the disability community; and
  • Increased community participation as a result of upcoming regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to improve access to leisure and recreation facilities and public rights-of-way, as well as upcoming regulations from the Federal Communications Commission to improve access to television and video programming.

A strong federal commitment to the implementation and enforcement of these efforts will be critical to their success. Still, we acknowledge that these are difficult economic times. As a result, we have taken care to include both short- and long-term priorities within our report. Some of our recommendations-such as ending the institutional bias in Medicaid-are long-standing priorities of the disability community, which we urge the federal government to recommit itself to in the years to come. Others-such as ensuring that people with disabilities are included in federal programs related to health disparities-are policy measures that can be addressed in the very near term through swift and effective executive action. Even during a time of economic hardship, we must continue to strive to keep our promises to Americans with disabilities. Furthermore, given that spending on working-age people with disabilities constitutes 12 percent of federal spending, the quality and effectiveness of disability programs must remain a critical area of emphasis for the federal government.

Much more is needed to reverse the downward trends in the indicators of quality of life for people with disabilities and to eliminate the many disparities between people with and without disabilities. First, in addition to the changes recommended in this report, safeguards are needed to ensure that, as our nation's leaders consider ways to further reduce the federal deficit and to stimulate the economy, any adopted changes do not leave people with disabilities even further behind. Second, coordination and collaboration must be emphasized greater across federal disability programs to ensure uniform application of the overarching goals of the ADA-full participation, equal opportunity, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.

NCD stands ready to work with the administration and Congress to identify opportunities to improve our nation's disability policy and to enhance the quality of life, independence, and full inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of society.


Dr. Jonathan M. Young, Ph.D.

The full report can be found here. Jennifer

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