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FOREWORD BY PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH
July 26, 2007
Today, Americans with disabilities are enjoying greater freedom than they have ever known. This is freedom in a very real sense — a freedom beyond the imaginings of persons with disabilities from generations past. This new freedom — the freedom to dream and to do, the freedom to be and to become, the freedom to give and to grow, and the freedom to participate and to progress — is at the heart of my New Freedom Initiative, an agenda that I launched within three weeks of entering office. The New Freedom Initiative aims to remove the obstacles that still remain for Americans with disabilities.
One of the cornerstone projects of the New Freedom Initiative became a reality on January 1, 2007, when the Department of Health and Human Services awarded the first of the Money Follows the Person Rebalancing Demonstration grants, offering $1.75 billion over 5 years in competitive grants to States to rebalance their long-term support systems. These grants were created so that individuals have a choice where they live and receive services, and the grants are available to help individuals transition from institutions to the community. Money Follows the Person promotes a strategic approach to building a person-centered, needs-based system that supports quality of care and quality of life in both home and community-based settings and institutions. Giving people with disabilities the ability to choose where they live helps create a strong foundation to help achieve greater freedoms at work, at school, and throughout the community.
Today, people with disabilities have greater access to assistive and universally designed technologies, receive broader opportunities to excel in the classroom, are integrating themselves into the workplace, and are participating actively in every facet of life in their communities. We are fighting against low expectations, and we are winning. Individuals and organizations of every description are answering the clarion call to make things better, not just for people with disabilities, but for everyone.
Considering that over 54 million Americans currently have a disability and that most others will become disabled at some point in their lives, work in this arena touches us all. We must each do what we can to continue to create a world in which equal dignity and treatment are not the exception but the rule, a world in which disability is an incidental rather than a defining characteristic.
This New Freedom Initiative Progress Report details the ongoing work done by the federal government to advance full participation for people with disabilities and to involve them in the work of securing their own tomorrow.
GEORGE W. BUSH