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 Home > News & Policies > June 2001
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 19, 2001

Fact Sheet
President Bush Highlights Commitment to Americans with Disabilities

Presidential Action

  •   The President signed an Executive Order on Monday, June 18, 2001, promoting community-based alternatives -- rather than institutions -- for individuals with disabilities.  This Executive Order directs key federal agencies to work closely with states to ensure full compliance with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Olmstead case and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  •   The President committed the Federal government to a leadership role in providing greater access for Americans with disabilities.  President Bush visited the Pentagon's Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program Technology Evaluation Center (CAPTEC), which evaluates and demonstrates assistive technology for people with disabilities at the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
  •   The President announced that new rules implementing Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments will take effect on June 25.  The rules will require the federal government to purchase electronic and information technology greatly expanding the availability of assistive technology to Americans with disabilities.
  •   The President announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development is in the process of issuing regulations to implement the HUD Section 8 Disability Homeownership Initiative, created by Congress last year.  The 3-year pilot program will allow people with disabilities to use Section 8 assistance toward down payment and closing costs of purchasing a home, rather than limiting these funds to rent payments.

Background on the President's Action

  •   Olmstead Executive Order: On June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court held in its landmark Olmstead decision that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires states, whenever possible, to place qualified individuals with mental disabilities in community settings rather than in institutions.  The Supreme Court called on the states to develop "comprehensive, effectively working plans" to provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated settings possible.
  •   The Executive Order refers to all American's with disabilities, going beyond the Supreme Court's ruling Olmstead, which limited the holding in its decision to individuals with mental disabilities.
  •   The Executive Order directs key federal agencies to assist states as they work to fully comply with the Olmstead decision and the ADA.  It directs HHS to coordinate an effort by all federal agencies to evaluate their own policies, programs and regulations to ensure that community-based services for people with disabilities are available. Finally, it directs the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to fully enforce Title II of the ADA, including alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to help resolve complaints filed by those who allege they are victims of unjustified institutionalization.
  •   Section 508: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 requires that federal agencies ensure that disabled employees and members of the public have access to information, computers and networks comparable to access enjoyed by people without disabilities.  The Bush Administration is working closely with the high-tech industry and the disability rights community to implement Section 508 and is encouraging the private sector to develop products and technologies accessible to people with disabilities.
  •   HUD Section 8 Disability Homeownership Initiative: Because the high costs of therapeutic care and assistive equipment and technologies make the goal of home ownership unattainable for many Americans with disabilities, the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be issuing regulations to implement a 3-year pilot program passed by Congress that will allow many people with disabilities to buy their own homes.  This initiative will make the current Section 8 low-income rental assistance program more flexible for persons with disabilities, allowing Section 8 funds to be used for mortgage payments, and making home ownership a reality for more Americans.

The New Freedom Initiative -- Breaking Down Barriers to Access

  •   Earlier this year, President Bush unveiled his New Freedom Initiative -- a comprehensive set of proposals to fulfill America's promise to the 54 million Americans with disabilities.
  •   The New Freedom Initiative will help Americans with disabilities increase access to innovative new technologies that help them participate fully in society, expand their educational opportunities, better integrate them into the workforce, and promote their full access to community life.

The President's Budget and the New Freedom Initiative

  •   The President's budget plan backs up the New Freedom Initiative with more than $8.6 billion in funding in FY 2002 alone.
  •   Among the key proposals receiving funding in the President's budget:
    •   $5 million to help small businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and to encourage small businesses to hire Americans with disabilities.
    •   $20 million for Rehabilitative Engineering Research Centers, which conduct some of the nation's most innovative assistive technology research, and help bring assistive technologies to market.
    •   $20 million for the Access to Telework Fund, to provide federal matching funds to states to guarantee low-interest loans for individuals with disabilities to purchase computers and other equipment necessary to telework from home.
    •   $20 million in federal matching funds to help organizations that are currently exempt from the ADA, such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and civic organizations, make their facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities.
    •   $40 million in federal matching funds to states to finance low-interest loans to help people with disabilities to purchase needed assistive technologies.
    •   $45 million to fund 10 new pilot programs to develop innovative transportation programs to serve people with disabilities.
    •   $100 million in competitive matching grants to promote access to alternative transportation methods for people with disabilities through community-based and other local providers.
    •   $8.4 billion for special education programs, including $7.3 billion for Part B grants to states, a $1 billion increase.  This is the largest special education funding increase ever proposed by a President in his budget, and increases the federal share of special education costs from 15 percent to 17 percent.

  •   In addition to the President's New Freedom Initiative, the President's budget also nearly doubles funding for the newly created Office of Disability Employment Policy at the Department of Labor.  The Office will facilitate change in policies and practices that will result in a higher number of individuals with disabilities employed in the competitive labor market.

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