State of the Union Word Cloud #SOTU #SOTU4PWD

Every year Day in Washington has been proud to provide a word cloud of the State of the Union speech.  Repetition is often a major rhetorical strategy used for emphasis. Word it Out generates word clouds based on the text input to the system. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. It is a an easy visual way to illustrate that emphasis. Of course, emphasis can also be obtained by word choice, order, or other rhetorical tools so this is by no means the ONLY way to view the SOTU speech. But it is fun. :)


For a more accessible format, WordCounter offers similar information in a more specific structure:

Word Frequency
american 53
job 41
year 37
america 32
tax 31
right 27
new 27
work 26
one 26
get 25


(#DIW Podcast) #Youth with #Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice System and Access to #Education

Day in Washington #Disability #Policy Podcast. #Youth with Disabilities in the Juvenile Justice (#JJ) System and Access to #Education



Hello and welcome to Day in Washington, your disability policy podcast. Together, we will explore and analyze issues of interest to the disability community.  I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed.  Today, I want to talk about young people with disabilities in the Juvenile Justice system and what the Department of Education is doing to ensure they get their Educational needs met.

On December 5th The U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services sent out a letter focusing on the educational needs of students with disabilities who are in correctional facilities and highlighting that the requirements of Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) do apply to these students and it is the responsibility of States, State educational agencies and public agencies (including local educational agencies (LEAs), and responsible noneducational public agencies to make sure students are getting appropriate accommodations.

“The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice recently stated, the fact that a student has been charged with or convicted of a crime does not diminish his or her substantive rights or the procedural safeguards and remedies provided under the IDEA to students with disabilities and their parents.”


The letter also provides information regarding technical assistance and other relevant resources to help with these students’ reintegration into the school setting or participation in programs.

Now let me pause and say that students with disabilities represent a large portion of students in correctional facilities. National reports put it at about 1/3 of the population of students in juvenile facilities with some having as few as 9% and others as high as 78%.

Let me give you my top 7 key points made in this letter regarding IDEA, Part B requirements, as they pertain to students with disabilities:

  1. Absent a specific exception, all IDEA protections apply to students with disabilities in correctional facilities and their parents
  2. Every agency at any level of government that is involved in the provision of special education and related services to students in correctional facilities must ensure the provision of a Free Appropriate Public Education, even if other agencies share that responsibility.
  3. States must have interagency agreements or other methods for ensuring coordination so that it is clear which agency or agencies are responsible for providing or paying for services necessary for these students with disabilities in correctional facilities.
  4. State Education Agencies must exercise general supervision over all educational programs for students with disabilities in correctional facilities (unless covered by an exception) to ensure that their educational programs meet State education standards and IDEA, Part B requirements (and that also means ensuring that those same students are included in general State and district assessments.
  5. States and their public agencies must have procedures in place to identify, locate, and evaluate students who are in correctional facilities who may have a disability under the IDEA and are in need of special education and related services. Remember that wide variance in percentages of students with disabilities in correctional facilities I mentioned earlier 9% to 78%. Part of the reason for that maybe be related to the question of how much has been invested in identifying and assessing students for disabilities versus assumptions that it is behavioral or that they’re problem kids…just a bit of opinion there.
  6. Unless there is a specific exception, all IEP content requirements apply to students with disabilities in correctional facilities, including the special education and related services and supplementary aids and services.
  7. And of course, and I really like that this is spelled out: They cannot routinely place all students with disabilities in correctional facilities in classes that include only students with disabilities, and that any exclusion from the classroom is particularly harmful for students with disabilities in correctional facilities.

As always, I encourage you to read and come to your own opinion.  Links are available in the comments. This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed. Thank you for listening.


Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright.  Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty Twelve Records.


Joint letter from the Departments of Education and Justice –…/guid/correctional-educ…/idea-letter.pdf


(#DIW Podcast) National Disability #Employment Awareness Month (#NDEAM) 2015 – A Reminder from Jim Langevin about the Value of People with #Disabilities

Day in Washington Disability #Policy Podcast. National #Disability #Employment Awareness Month (#NDEAM)

Audio file:

NDEAM Poster 2014 - Expect, Employ, Empower



Hello and welcome to Day in Washington. DIW is your disability policy podcast exploring and discussing issues and articles of interest to the community. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month or NDEAM.

Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.

NDEAM’s roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.”

Whereas Public Resolution No. 176, 79th Congress, approved August 11, 1945, provides in part:

“That hereafter the first week in October of each year shall be designated as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. During said week, appropriate ceremonies are to be held throughout the Nation, the purpose of which will be to enlist public support for and interest in the employment of otherwise qualified but physically handicapped workers”:

Now, Therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby call upon the people of the United States to observe the week of October 7-13, 1945 as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. I ask the governors of States, mayors of cities, heads of the various agencies of the Government, and other public officials, as well as leaders in industry, education, religion, and every other aspect of our common life, during this week and at all other suitable times, to exercise every appropriate effort to enlist public support of a sustained program for the employment and development of the abilities and capacities of those who are physically handicapped.”

In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.”

I struggled a bit with what more to say for this podcast and thought that it might make more sense to have someone else speak. So, Congressman Jim Langevin, perhaps one of the most visible Congress members with a disability spoke at the Library of Congress for NDEAM a few years ago.

I want to begin by sharing a bit of my personal story – what led me to Congress and why the issues of empowerment and accessibility are so important to me.

Growing up in Rhode Island, I dreamed of a career in law enforcement. That hasn’t worked out exactly as I had planned, but life seldom does. When I was sixteen, I was accidentally shot while working as a police cadet Explorer Scout. An officer, thinking the gun he was handling wasn’t loaded, pulled the trigger to test it. It turned out there was a bullet in the chamber, and that bullet severed my spinal cord. I’ve been paralyzed ever since.

At first, I was convinced that that gun, and this chair, had ruined my dreams.

But I learned that a badge and a gun aren’t the only ways to make a difference. You can also change the world with a ballot… a pen… a creative mind. .

My work in government has flowed from the fundamental idea of personal empowerment. It’s about giving people the tools they need to pave their own way. To me, that’s the role of government: not to give people a hand out, but a hand up… giving people the tools to pave their own way to success.

What we see here today, as the Library pays tribute to the historic leaders of the disability movement and the everyday heroes in our own schools, workplaces and communities, is an illustration of just how far people can rise above difficult circumstances to achieve great things.

In the 27 years since my own injury, I have seen the disability community make great strides in the areas of employment and community inclusion. The Americans with Disabilities Act helped businesses to see employment of people with disabilities not as charity, but as a civil right.

And across the country, businesses are finally becoming aware that people with disabilities are a real resource for their companies!

Just last month, I participated in a groundbreaking discussion in my home state of Rhode Island. Business leaders from one of the largest employers in the state, Raytheon, and the local disability community gathered at a day-long retreat to discuss strategies for getting people with disabilities back into their communities and into meaningful employment.

These issues can only truly be addressed in a cooperative dialogue between business, government and individuals, and I am proud to represent a state like Rhode Island, which has been very forward thinking.

In recent years, Rhode Island designed a Medicaid Buy-In program, which allows a number of people with disabilities to maintain their state health benefits when they return to work.

In addition to implementing such programs, the local disability community is constantly monitoring the results and reaching out to business leaders and elected officials to find new ways to collaborate.

There is a great deal we can do here in Washington, at the federal level, to support this vision for the future of employment. In addition to supporting flexibility with Medicaid funds for people with disabilities, I am committed to evaluating and improving the Ticket to Work program, which has met with mixed reviews.

I am cosponsoring a bill known as the Community Choice Act, which would encourage states to provide equal access to community attendant services, such as personal care assistants, and other supports for individuals in need of long term services who want to participate in their communities and live at home rather than in a nursing home. Local and national disability advocates have long supported this kind of change in policy, and I will keep pushing in Congress for movement on this initiative.

As a final note, I want to thank you profusely for your efforts in this arena.

I am fortunate to have access to an array supports and services, and I certainly could not do my job without them. But sadly, not everyone has access to the same resources. I know there are millions of people with disabilities across the nation who are stuck in their homes when they could be sitting in a classroom, a boardroom, or with me in Congress. That’s why it is so important that we all take the time to recognize the needs of individuals with disabilities, and the simple ways employers can meet those needs and allow these talented people to achieve the dream of living independently and succeeding in the workplace.

There’s a lot of what Congressman Langevin says that is still an issue now, several years after his speech. The fight for equality continues.

This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.


Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright. Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty Twelve Records.

Harry S. Truman: “Proclamation 2664 – National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week, 1945,” September 21, 1945. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

Jim Langevin Keynote (text):

Jim Langevin Keynote (video):

(#DIW Podcast) People with #Disabilities and Accessibility of the New SF #BART Rail Cars

Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast.  People with #Disabilities and #Accessibility of the New SF #BART Rail Cars

Audio file:

Photo of New Bart Car

Photo of New BART Rail Car showing central pole with colored decals, the painted floor with the wheelchair symbol, and color coded seats.


Recently, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit or BART revealed the new design for their rail cars. Considering that BART has probably the oldest fleet currently in use, many feel it is “long past time.” The new car design includes improved air conditioning, new announcement systems, LCD screens showing track and train information, color coded seating to better identify senior and disabled seats, bike racks, a third door for better people-movement in and out of cars…some great improvements.

However, one new innovation has raised concerns among the Bay Area’s people with disabilities… a pole located in the central open area in front of the doors and near the wheelchair area. Their specific concern is that this would potentially decrease wheelchair accessibility.  Especially during high traffic periods.  People would tend to “stake out” the center pole, crowding the pathways making it difficult for people in wheelchairs to move on to and off of the new cars.

Jessie Lorenz, Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center of San Francisco had this to say:

I really believe that people with disabilities have the right to move freely, particularly on public transportation. But this new design, particularly the pole in the entry area, is going to cause people with disabilities to often times not be able to board crowded trains, and when we are able to board, we are going to do it having to apologize, doing it with less dignity than the previous model.

In response to concerns, the transit agency said they moved the pole six inches away from the wheelchair access space, increasing the width of the path to 49 inches and has raised the point where three tripod branches meet the pole by 3 to 4 inches to eliminate “pinch points” for wheelchair users. In addition, they have changed the floor design to embed a wheelchair symbol in the floor to remind customers to yield that area to people in wheelchairs and added colored decals on the poles to increase contrast and make them more visible for visually impaired riders. They are also planning to test removal of poles in some locations.

That sounds like some good faith changes. In particular, I like the colored decals on the poles.  Have rammed myself into the poles on Washington DC’s Metro a few times, those would be a nice addition.

BART also stated on its website that, “We also plan to actively remind customers to step aside to make room for wheelchair users to more easily enter and exit the train, especially when conditions are crowded.”

Okay, having been on DC’s Metro during rush hour I know exactly how useless that is and can personally attest to having to wait for 3 and 4 trains to pass before I can get on with my dog. I can squish my dog into some pretty tight places, I can’t quite picture a power wheelchair as something particularly squishable.

I can’t say that I believe announcements alone will address that particular concern. But it sounds like BART is listening.

Of course, it would have been better if the design hadn’t already gotten to this final stage before accessibility concerns were raised. An interesting point that Lorenz brings up in an article is that although BART claims to have sought out and received community input from both seniors and people with disabilities, she can find no local organization that was a part of any public process regarding feedback to the design of the new cars. In addition, several members of the BART Accessibility Task Force stated that they were never asked to vote on anything surrounding the new cars.  Just something to ponder.

So….in the grand scheme of things, what does this mean? When people think of policy, they usually think of Federal legislation or regulations, judicial decisions, state budgets.  However, policy is also in everyday issues relating to “design” and often, these can have far reaching implications.  New York City’s choice in the design of their taxi cabs, not choosing an accessible model.  Which would have a significant disparate impact on people with disabilities and of course, lead to a federal lawsuit. BART’s choice in rail car design, considering that their current fleet includes cars that are almost 40 years old, will impact people with disabilities, and all riders for a long time to come.

As always, I encourage you to read and come to your own opinion. Links are available in the comments. This is Day Al-Mohamed, hoping you continue to be well, and be informed.


Day in Washington is a product of the Lead On Network. Comments and opinions expressed in this podcast should in no way be considered representative of opinions, statements or policies of any organizations, affiliations, employers or agencies connected with the host. Audio production provided by Chris Wright.  Music is “If by Force” courtesy of the Podsafe Music Network and Twenty Twelve Records.



Jessie Lorenz Audio Clip from Liam Gleeson’s “Bay Area Views” –

New BART car design prompts concern from disabled community –

BART unwraps future of transbay travel –

New Train Car Project –

ILRCSF’s Executive Director Jessie Lorenz Continues Advocacy to Address Access Barriers with New BART Cars of the Future –

Judge approves city’s push for wheelchair-accessible cabs and 30-cent surcharge –

(#DIW Podcast) People with #Disabilities in the #Military

Day in Washington Disability Policy Podcast.  People with Disabilities and Military – New happenings in 2014.

Audio file:


Hello and welcome to Day in Washington, your disability policy podcast. Together, we will explore and analyze issues of interest to the community. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed working to make sure you stay informed. Today’s topic is people with disabilities in the military.

I wrote about this some last year. You see, around June of last year, Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, lifted the ban on women in combat. Women would be allowed equal opportunity to participate in combat operations. There have been a variety of responses from the public, but I think that in general most people are generally in favor of the change. And to be fully honest, it wasn’t like this was not happening already. There are women medics, women Military Police (MPs)), women helicopter pilots and women in other positions who, while not officially part of combat units are “attached” to such units or operating under the same or similar conditions. To ignore that reality is to denigrate their risks and their sacrifices.

That discussion lead to the question of “If we are allowing women in to combat, when will we allow people with disabilities to serve?” It would seem that the question has become more than an academic exercise.

Senator Tom Harkin spoke about this with Leon Panetta just this year <audio from (0:40 sec to 1:15)>

The idea may sound laughable to some in the general public but the call to serve is just as strong among people with disabilities as any other community.

Keith Nolan, a young man who is deaf who also happened to be a top performer in the California State University ROTC program as a part of a TED Talk said, “All I really want to do is join the Army. I want to do my duty, serve my country and experience that camaraderie, and I can’t, owed to the fact that I’m deaf.” And he isn’t alone. There’s even a Facebook Page for people with disabilities who want to join the military.

Corporal Garrett S. Jones, an amputee who was injured in 2007 by an insurgent’s bomb during his unit’s deployment to Iraq, shows his prosthetic leg. Jones is a 23-year-old Newberg, Ore., native. (Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ray Lewis)

The Army’s Continue on Active Duty (COAD) program is putting military men with clear, visible disabilities back into combat, and retaining and retraining others for other forms of active duty. As of June last year, sixty-nine amputees have returned to active duty. Also of note, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, a 100-year old, 47,000-man (and woman) garrison is now commanded by Colonel Gregory D. Gadson. Colonel Gadson is a double-amputee. Perhaps even more impressive is Marine Corporal Garret S. Jones’ recovery and redeployment to a combat zone after losing a leg.

With those preliminary programs already in place and courageous soldiers continuing on in their chosen duty, it was perhaps not surprising to hear Secretary Panetta’s response. <audio (1:29 to 1:55)>

On July 30th of this year, Representative Mark Takano filed H.R.5296 a bill to require a demonstration program on the accession as Air Force officers of candidates with auditory impairments. It mirrors a December 2013 bill from Senator Harkin.

A promising project. If an individual with a disability is qualified and capable of meeting the responsibilities and selective criteria that may be necessary for certain jobs and positions, then why not? However, I doubt the issue is quite so simple. I say this because all one has to do is do an internet search to find the discussion on military forums and the response is much more negative.

A previous “test” project used hearing military staff wearing headphones and was less than successful. In addition, several military personnel pointed to Project 100,000 as an example that proves how people with disabilities are unsuitable for the Armed Forces. Project 100,000 was a 1960s program by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to recruit soldiers that would previously have been below military mental or medical standards. Done in part as a response to the escalating conflict in Vietnam and part response to Johnson’s War on Poverty, it would give training and opportunity to “the uneducated and the poor.” These “New Standards Men” still went through the same training and had to achieve the same performance standards. Project 100,000 has received significant criticism over the years and reports and studies have shown higher mortality rates, higher transfers, arrests, and death for those soldiers (some articles even referring to them as “cannon fodder,”) and also significantly poorer outcomes for them as returning veterans.

Even considering all of that, the reality is, just as the case with women, we already have people with disabilities in the military, and some even in war zones. Some are individuals with learning disabilities, some with mental health conditions, or attention deficit disorder, or autism; as well as several amputees. I even know of a naval officer, recently retired, with cerebral palsy and 20 years of service. And this isn’t just an American phenomenon. In 2011, the Israeli Defense Forces were creating an official policy of integrating people who are disabled prior to military service into the armed forces.

People with disabilities, given the examples above, are “already there.” They are already serving in the offices and on the ships; in the medical tents and out in the trenches. The Army (and indeed the other branches) want to keep their investment in these soldiers; the disability isn’t a barrier, at least not compared to the skills and value these individuals bring. Imagine what additional skills and talents would be available to the United States Armed Forces if they had access to the 50 million Americans with disabilities.

No doubt there will be many people watching this legislation very carefully. As always I urge you to read it for yourself. Links are in the comments. I’m your host Day Al-Mohamed hoping that you continue to be well and be informed.


Text of H.R. 5296 – To require a demonstration program on the accession as Air Force officers of candidates with auditory impairments:

YouTube Video of Senator Harkin and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta:

Women operating under the same or similar conditions as men:

Army’s Continue on Active Duty (COAD) Program:

2/7 Marine amputee rejoins battalion; returns to combat after near death experience:

Keith Nolan and being Deaf in the Military: Lawmaker wants trial program for deaf to serve in Air Force: