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

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