The President's New Freedom Initiative: The 2007 Progress Report
Promoting Full Access to Community Life
The President is committed to promoting equal basic civil liberties for all Americans, including those with disabilities. Community integration is the hallmark of this commitment, which is why the Administration has worked to put into place the kind of infrastructure that fosters equality of opportunity and the right of every American to strive for his or her goals.
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Implementing the Olmstead Decision Swiftly and Decisively
This Administration has undertaken many steps within the areas of transportation, housing, access to government programs and services, and the removal of the bias favoring institutional treatment over community-based care.
- The Department of Health and Human Services implemented the “Money Follows the Person (MFP)” program, spending $1.75 billion on the program over five years to build Medicaid programs that enable people with disabilities to transition from institutions to the community.
- The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 allows self-direction of Medicaid services, meaning that people with disabilities have a greater say in their receipt of services.
- The Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services continues to investigate and resolve complaints alleging that persons with disabilities are denied the opportunity to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
- The Department of Justice has brought enforcement of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act to historic levels as part of its ongoing commitment to eliminate isolation of institutionalized persons in various kinds of facilities.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued guidance to Community Development Block Grant recipients to promote community living for individuals with disabilities.
- The Department of Education provides support for several programs that assist individuals with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in their communities. These programs support:
- More than 330 consumer-controlled community-based centers for independent living that give assistance to individuals with disabilities through various support services.
- Services for those with severe visual impairments developed late in life.
- State efforts to enhance independent living services through the operation of Statewide Independent Living Councils, outreach, capacity-building, evaluation, and training.
- The Department of Health and Human Services:
- Funded programs and services for children and adults with developmental disabilities by supporting state Protection and Advocacy systems, University Centers for Excellence and Developmental Disabilities, and State Councils on Developmental Disabilities.
- Empowered people with disabilities to take greater economic control of their lives by leading in the creation of the TAXFACTS Program.
- Continued research to replicate the highly regarded Cash and Counseling Demonstration Program in ten states.
- The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, consisting of 20 Federal agencies, is dedicated to addressing the needs of homeless individuals with psychiatric disabilities.
- The National Council on Disabilities provided guidance on ways better to serve individuals with disabilities across a wide spectrum of government programs, most recently posting new guidance in November 2006.
- The Department of Health and Human Services awarded $21 million to 10 States in fiscal year 2007 to develop demonstration programs that provide home- and community-based services for children and youth with serious emotional disturbances.
- The Department of Health and Human Services convened the 9th Biennial International Congress, bringing together representatives from more than 50 countries to exchange information and ideas about community inclusion and integration.
- The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration on Aging, held the “Choices for Independence” Summit in Washington, DC in December 2006 to promote specific strategies for assisting older individuals to remain in their homes.
- The Department of Health and Human Services, through CMS, held the seventh annual CMS New Freedom Initiative Conference, “Access to Community Living: Promoting Choice and Independence,” in Baltimore, Maryland, March 5-7, 2007.
- The Department of Health and Human Services completed a multi-year, 50-State review of state policies on home modification and assistive technology to gain an understanding of the scope of support that is available through Medicaid, including coordination with other funding streams such as Medicare, tax credits, and workers’ compensation.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will continue to administer the $1.75 billion Medicaid-supported “Money Follows the Person” demonstration, which began in 2007 and will last through FY 2011.
- The Department of Justice will continue to focus efforts on matters fundamental to people with disabilities, including access to core activities of community living and Olmstead implementation. These include:
- Ensuring the ability to travel freely.
- Ensuring access to education and childcare.
- Providing access to the community, including health care facilities and medical equipment, access for people who use service animals, and access to consumer goods and services.
- Ensuring that polling places nationwide are accessible under the ADA and work to ensure that the disability provisions of the Help America Vote Act are implemented.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will:
- Continue to implement its Effective Communication in Hospitals Initiative. The Department is partnering with the American Hospital Association to assist hospitals in communicating with persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.
- Continue the several projects it has underway that will help inform policy makers on methods to increase access to community life, including a Money Follows the Person project in Texas and studies of inclusion of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in community and civic organizations.
- In 2007, NCD will release a report that identifies financial incentive factors that may influence employees and potential employees with disabilities to seek, maintain, and advance in the employment market.
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Securing Voluntary Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act
Titles II and III of the ADA cover government and public accommodation standards. The Department of Justice, in addition to litigation efforts discussed elsewhere in this chapter, has engaged in a number of strategies that have resulted in significant barrier removal in every part of the country within state and local government settings and places of public accommodation. The Administration is committed to ongoing efforts to reduce barriers in Title II and III entities.
- The Department of Justice:
- Facilitated greater compliance with Title II provisions of the ADA through Project Civic Access.
- Continued to build its mediation program, which has had a success rate of 75 %.
- Fielded more than 46,000 technical assistance calls to its information line and provided online information to more than 3.1 million individuals.
- Distributed free ADA materials to more than 25,000 police departments, sheriff’s offices, highway patrols, and other agencies.
- Established a new course to train businesses on providing goods and services to customers with disabilities.
- Made a variety of streaming video products available on-line, including the “Ten Small Business Mistakes” video and “Police Response to People with Disabilities.”
- Raised public awareness about disability rights by reaching out to more than 300,000 people in FY 2005 alone through a variety of education activities.
- In the next two years, the Department of Justice will review 20 additional cities and towns nationwide under Project Civic Access. The Department will also create and disseminate the “ADA Best Practices Toolkit for State and Local Governments.”
- The Department of Justice will expand its popular ADA website to provide new information for design and construction professionals to get quick answers to ADA design questions and add interactive visual materials to explain ADA requirements.
- In 2007, NCD will release two reports on the Americans with Disabilities Act analyzing its impact and areas for improvement in implementation.
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Expanding Transportation to Enhance Mobility
The Administration continues to support transportation alternatives that enable individuals with disabilities to travel independently from home to school or work and to maximize their ability to live in the community. Beyond the local community, access to transportation allows individuals with disabilities to make their way to places that would otherwise be out of reach.
- The President has increased transportation options by securing disability provisions in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act, which includes the New Freedom transportation program.
- The Department of Transportation:
- Continues to implement Executive Order 13330, which brings together stakeholders at all levels under the banner of “United We Ride” to coordinate transportation for low-income individuals, senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.
- Remains on track in facilitating the removal of physical barriers within the U.S. inter-city passenger rail system, with the goal of full accessibility by 2010.
- Has continued to educate airline personnel about how to comply with the Air Carrier Access Act.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has reached out to Spanish speakers with disabilities by launching its new Spanish-language website located at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs has continued to provide the Driver Rehabilitation Program which gives veterans with disabilities the training to drive their own vehicles, including with adaptive equipment.
- The Federal Interagency Council on Access and Mobility will fund demonstration grants for local communities to improve coordination of transportation and simplify access for consumers.
- The Federal Transit Administration has issued comprehensive guidance for the New Freedom program outlining eligible projects, strategies for developing a coordinated plan, and options for conducting competitive selections.
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Creating More Housing Options
For many Americans today, community-based housing is still a dream yet unfulfilled. Physical barriers such as inaccessible rental units and common areas remain. Even more insidious are the attitudinal barriers erected by those who do not treat individuals with disabilities with the dignity and respect they deserve. President Bush is committed to creating more and better housing options for persons with disabilities through enforcement of applicable Federal laws.
- A variety of initiatives in the Department of Housing and Urban Development have increased the percentage of persons with disabilities who own their own homes from 30% in 2005 to 36% in 2006.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development, in order to help establish higher standards for accessibility, has worked to improve standards under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Architectural Barriers Act.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice have worked in close partnership to uphold the rights of persons with disabilities:
- Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST, a Department of Housing and Urban Development initiative, provides training of architects and builders in accessible design and construction of apartments.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development issued Housing Choice Voucher Program guidance to help grant recipients obtain affordable housing, resulting in over 7,000 units created or modified.
- The Department of Justice prosecuted the largest disability-related Fair Housing Act case in its history, resulting in the mandated creation of 5,000 accessible units.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development will continue its program of headquarters-led compliance reviews of major housing authorities.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice will issue two additional joint statements covering Reasonable Modifications and Fair Housing Act Design and Construction Requirements.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development will reissue its New Freedom CDP Notice, which will give guidance to HUD grantees on how CDBG, HOME, and HOPWA funds can be used to facilitate housing assistance to persons with disabilities.
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Enforcing the Rights of Voters with Disabilities
The Administration takes very seriously the need for every American voter with a disability to gain access to the polling place and to vote independently. This most fundamental of American rights must be protected and cherished.
- In February 2006, the Department of Justice issued a 33-page ADA Checklist for Polling places, which helps election officials recognize and identify accessibility problems at polling places. This document offers practical, simple, and efficient solutions for eliminating barriers, including temporary measures for Election Day.
- The Department of Health and Human Services administers the Voting Access for Individuals with Disabilities (VOTE) project and funds Protection and Advocacy programs to aid implementation of the Help America Vote Act.
- Through the Help America Vote Act, the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has played a key role in providing technical support and guidelines to help realize nationwide improvements in the voting system.
- The Department of Justice will continue to distribute its “ADA Checklist for Polling Places” and will enhance outreach to disability organizations, local and state government officials, civic groups, and others.
- The Department of Justice will continue to monitor the efforts of the states as they seek to bring themselves into full compliance with the disability provisions of HAVA and take appropriate steps as necessary to uphold the voting rights of Americans with disabilities.
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Increasing Access to Healthcare, Services, and Supports
The President believes that access to quality healthcare means access to a better quality of life. Understanding that each person has his or her own unique needs, many efforts have been underway to provide appropriate support for persons with disabilities in this area.
- The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Administration on Aging and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, supported “one-stop shops” for expanding access to long-term care services. There are now over 120 demonstrations in 43 states.
- The Medicare Prescription Drug Program included targeted outreach to members of the disability community.
- The Department of Health and Human Services streamlined a process to enable funding to move from institutional care to community-based living for those with long term disability or illness.
- The Department of Health and Human Services encourages physical fitness and healthy nutrition among youth with disabilities through the “I Can Do It; You Can Do It” program; advanced a community-based model of care for children with specialized needs; and developed a total of 21 new Family-to-Family Health Information Centers to provide information, education, training, and peer support for these children, responding to more than 222,000 requests for technical assistance from FY 2004 through FY 2005 alone.
- The Department of Health and Human Services promotes greater health for older Americans through evidence-based intervention, identifying effective strategies to facilitate community-based care, and providing technical assistance and support to promote healthy aging, decreasing the impact of age-induced disability.
- In FY 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services provided a series of grants to support treatment to persons who are homeless due to psychiatric disability.
- Over the last two years, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has encouraged more than 115 cities to adopt the implementation of Project Homeless Connect, a one-day, one-stop engagement strategy to end homelessness.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will:
- Continue to implement the health-based recommendations of the December 2005 White House Conference on Aging and promote the goal of independence, dignity, and health for older adults living with or at risk for later-life disability and chronic illnesses.
- Implement an action plan resulting from recommendations from its 2005 National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health. These recommendations address the challenge of healthcare for minority women with disabilities.
- Analyze Home- and Community-Based Service waivers for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Continue to work with all involved federal departments to render necessary support for children 0 to 3 years of age who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
- Help states develop quality improvement programs for children with specialized healthcare needs or disabilities, including health plans to improve systems of care for these children.
- Continue to implement key health initiatives to respond to ongoing, frequently under-treated chronic health and disability-related issues among the American Indian/Alaska Native population.
- Continue to assist states in their efforts to implement Aging and Disability Resource Center programs in accordance with the Older Americans Act.
- In 2007, NCD plans to analyze the history of federal efforts in healthcare as it relates to Americans with disabilities and to review efforts towards access to coverage and care through the private sector.
- In order to reduce healthcare-related disincentives to employment for people with disabilities, the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy will:
- Provide information and technical assistance to the existing workforce development network to increase the level of competency and familiarity with healthcare issues.
- Work with the Department of Health and Human Services Medicaid Infrastructure Grant states to assist them in better addressing the employment-related healthcare needs of their Medicaid recipients.
- Examine personal assistance cooperatives to identify promising practices.
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Implementing the Recommendations of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health
Several mental health conditions can result in significant disability. The President believes that work remains to be done in this area, and has taken numerous steps in that direction, including the establishment of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in 2003. Ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in a new focus on mental health services for our returning veterans, and the President is committed to furthering that cause.
- The Department of Health and Human Services:
- Awarded a total of $92.5 million to seven states to transform the ways in which they each deliver mental health services.
- Launched the National Anti-Stigma Campaign to educate the general public about mental illness, focus on recovery, and encourage individuals experiencing mental health issues to seek treatment and support.
- Convened the 2005 Invitational Conference on Medicaid and Mental Health.
- Supported reform of state mental health systems to treat co-occurring substance use and psychiatric disabilities.
- Coordinated educational support and other services to children with significant psychiatric disabilities.
- Succeeded in making mental health services further available to individuals from diverse communities.
- Supported community-based organizations in providing mental health services to older Americans.
- Doubled funding support for national suicide prevention efforts, including college campuses and tribal communities from FY 2005 to FY 2006.
- Released materials guiding Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income applications, Medicaid, and mental health services.
- Hosted a National Behavioral Conference for Returning Veterans and their Families, to aid them in identification and prevention of mental health disabilities and substance abuse disorders.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs:
- Has substantially increased mental health care capacity across the service continuum, increasing psychology, psychiatry, social work, and mental health nursing staff. VA currently employs over 9,000 mental health professionals.
- Has integrated mental health into geriatrics. A psychologist has been funded at every Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) team nationally.
- The Department of Education is supporting efforts to identify evidence-based mental health care and to remove barriers for children and adults in obtaining effective treatment.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will:
- Continue working through its Mental Health Action Agenda to align activities, remove barriers to collaboration, and develop a systemic response to fragmented services and systems across the Federal government.
- Support an ambitious collaborative effort to address the significant problem of youth experiencing both developmental disabilities and emotional and/or substance abuse.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs will:
- Increase access to mental health services and eliminate disparities across geographic areas by increasing mental health care staff, as well as promoting the availability of tele-mental health care technology throughout the VA system.
- Develop programs to train VA mental health staff in the delivery of evidence-based treatments for PTSD, depression, and serious mental illness, and continue to place mental health providers in the primary care setting at VA medical centers.
- Implement its Mental Health Strategic Plan, which supports the integration of mental health services into primary care settings and provides assessment and brief treatment for those veterans who may not require specialty mental health care, as well as coordinated referrals if a veteran requires specialty mental health services.
- The Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue the Senior Oversight Council, which addresses veterans with traumatic brain injury and mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder.
- The National Council on Disabilities will complete its Mental Health consumer paper in 2007, incorporating available research findings and addressing the potential for federal policy and/or legislative actions.
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Integrating Persons with Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness
The President issued Executive Order 13347, Individuals with Disabilities in Emergency Preparedness, on July 22, 2004. The purpose of this Executive Order is to ensure the safety and security of individuals with disabilities in all-hazard emergency situations. The Executive Order established an Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities (ICC). The Secretary of Homeland Security is the chair of the ICC and he has delegated that role to the Department of Homeland Security’s Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
The ICC is comprised of senior leadership from more than 20 federal departments and agencies. Its mission is to ensure that people with disabilities and their unique needs are fully integrated into all aspects of emergency management. The ICC has concentrated its work in eight major areas:
- Emergency Communications.
- Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace.
- Emergency Transportation.
- Private Sector Coordination.
- State, Local and Tribal Government Coordination.
- Technical Assistance and Outreach.
The ICC’s Report to the President issued one year after the ICC’s creation contains background information on disaster and emergency preparedness, needs of people with disabilities, a historical overview of efforts to integrate these needs into the nation’s preparedness activities, a description of the implementation of the Executive Order, a summary of accomplishments, and recommendations. Since its inception, the ICC has achieved major accomplishments that are central to the eight core areas of the ICC’s focus.
- The Department of Justice created the Disability and Emergency Preparedness Resource Center, which brings together hard-to-find information of importance to first responders, emergency managers, disability community organizations, and members of the general public.
- The Department of Labor developed and disseminated a framework of guidelines to emergency planners, managers, and employees, containing key guiding principles that help federal agencies include persons with disabilities at every stage of emergency management.
- The Department of Homeland Security provided input into integrating individuals with disabilities in simulated emergency response exercises.
- The ICC, with coordinated leadership of the Department of Transportation, developed and launched an emergency transportation website, particularly to assist with emergency evacuations. It also released and posted a new emergency transportation publication in September 2006.
- The ICC formed a partnership with the National Citizen Corps Subcommittee to foster ongoing and regular dialog with community-based national organizations within the disability field.
- The Department of Commerce organized a workshop identifying numerous recommendations for additional research concerning emergency evacuation of people with disabilities from buildings.
- The Federal Communications Commission took affirmative steps to improve emergency warning systems for persons with hearing and visual disabilities, expanded access to the Emergency Alert System, and implemented Executive Order 13407, addressing the public warning system’s accessibility to persons with disabilities.
- The EEOC brought together representatives from the disability and employer communities to address emergency preparedness in the workplace and determine specific next steps for improvement.
- The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security co-hosted a national conference in June 2006 that addressed the emergency preparedness needs of older individuals and persons with disabilities, integrated targeted capabilities into FEMA’s Emergency Support Functions, and prioritized emergency preparedness at the state level.
- The Interagency Coordinating Council moved quickly to assist individuals with disabilities during the 2005-2006 hurricane season and supported the implementation of the Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Act of 2005.
- The Department of Homeland Security Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) office submitted recommendations to the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) volumes, calling for the addition of specific language that will ensure accessibility and inclusiveness of the DHS exercise and evaluation process.
- On behalf of FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, CRCL led the development of Guidelines for Accommodating Individuals with Disabilities in Disasters as required by Section 689 of the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act.
- FEMA senior staff met with approximately 20 representatives of disability consumer, advocacy, and service organizations regarding disaster response issues.
- A National Advisory Council was created within FEMA to “ensure effective and ongoing coordination of Federal preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation for natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.”
- The Department of Homeland Security will work closely with ICC partners and stakeholders to implement the recommendations set in its first two years:
- Direct homeland security funding to promote the full integration of people with disabilities in all aspects of emergency preparedness, response and recovery.
- Urge federal building officials and managers to include the concerns of federal employees and visitors with disabilities in developing emergency plans and continuity of government plans.
- Ensure that Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) personnel, Public Safety Entering Point (PSAP) personnel, and captioners may travel to and from their designated facilities to provide continuity of services for persons with hearing and speech disabilities.
- Coordinate evidence-based federal research into the effectiveness of audio, visual, and/or tactile protocols and technologies related to emergency preparedness, alerting, warning and response for individuals with disabilities.
- Ensure comprehensive medical approaches that address the health care and medical needs of individuals with disabilities across the lifespan of an emergency event.
- The Department of Homeland Security is acting upon the recommendations of its Remediation Plan in the TOPOFF (Top Official) 3 Full Scale Exercise After-Action Report. Recommendations include the following:
- Identify individuals with disabilities, advocacy groups, and emergency preparedness experts to assist in planning and provide actors for realistic exercises.
- Integrate individuals with disabilities in exercise scenario and play (specifying that a school for the deaf or a nursing home is in the area affected in the scenario, for example).
- Work with the Department of Homeland Security Section 508 Program Coordinator and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to ensure maximum accessibility and accommodation for observers and players in TOPOFF 4 and intermediate exercises.
- DHS CRCL is working closely with TOPOFF 4 exercise developers to incorporate issues presented by people with disabilities and other special needs populations into exercise planning and delivery.
- The Department of Homeland Security is engaged in the revision process of the National Response Plan (NRP) and the National Incident Management System (NIMS). DHS is coordinating a diverse group of stakeholders to develop recommendations that incorporate disability and other special needs considerations into federal policy, operations, and incident command structure.
- GSA will incorporate into its existing emergency management plans (Occupancy Evacuation Plan, Shelter in Place, and Continuity of Operations Plans), exercises, and actual events the recommendations found in the recommendations of “Preparing the Workplace for Everyone: A Framework of Guidelines for Federal Agencies.”
- The Department of Health and Human Services will analyze data on the status of healthcare facilities located in areas affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and track the availability of hospitals and long-term care facilities in the Gulf Region, as part of the Office of Gulf Coast Recovery efforts.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will provide the following emergency preparedness and response supports:
- A web-based training toolkit targeting State and local emergency response managers.
- An introductory web-based training module on disability that will be used to educate Public Health and civil service staff to be detailed for an emergency.
- An Assessment Tool developed in collaboration with the American Red Cross (ARC) to identify specific needs of persons with disabilities, functional impairments and chronic medical conditions who present at American Red Cross Shelters and HHS Federal Medical Shelters during an emergency.
- Public health risk communication messaging for vulnerable populations to support implementation of the Pandemic and All Hazard Preparedness Act of 2006.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will continue to collect and assess reports from state emergency management offices and disability and public health authorities that participated in the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security June 28 – 30, 2006 Conference on Emergency Management and Individuals with Disabilities.
- The Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research will fund research into effective solutions and strategies to address the needs of persons with disabilities in planning, response, and mitigation of disasters.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development will be working with the Access Board to consider amendments to the Architectural Barriers Act Accessibility Guidelines to establish standards for emergency transportable housing as part of its hurricane disaster relief efforts.
- The FCC is currently undertaking rulemaking proceedings to update regulations for Internet-based Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) with respect to calling for emergency assistance using 9-1-1 and E9-1-1 for TRS.
- EEOC is evaluating the input it received at the October 25, 2005 Commission meeting and the June 7, 2006 Employer Roundtable to determine what strategies will most effectively integrate people with disabilities into workplace emergency preparedness procedures.
- The Department of Transportation is acting upon the recommendations identified in its report to Congress and the President regarding lessons learned from past efforts to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities and will:
- Involve transportation agencies and operators more directly in key aspects of evacuation planning and implementation.
- Encourage state and local agencies to work with the disability community to develop systems to identify vulnerable populations prior to an evacuation.
- Develop regional mass evacuation plans with representatives of various vulnerable populations.
- Under the Homeland Security Appropriations Act for FY 2007, H.R. 5441, NCD is working directly with FEMA on nine major activities delineated by Congress to focus and strengthen emergency planning and preparation work.
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Protecting the Rights of Crime Victims with Disabilities
The Department of Justice has taken a leading role in raising awareness about rights and services available to victims of crime with disabilities. It has sought input from national experts from the victim assistance, disability advocacy, and policy and research fields in this effort.
- The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has made progress in tracking crime victimization of individuals with disabilities. To advance the requirements of the Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act, new questions are being tested for possible incorporation into the National Crime Victimization Survey, which is collected for BJS by the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
- The Department of Justice:
- Actively supports efforts to render education and technical assistance on domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking against women with disabilities.
- Improved forensic interviewing techniques for law enforcement and medical professionals who come into contact with these victims.
- Educated professionals in the victim/witness field by facilitating receipt of its article and companion piece to almost 10,000 victim/witness offices working in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC).
- Expanded its Project Civic Access Program to include inspection of domestic violence shelters funded by cities and towns in support of their local citizens.
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics, in response to the Crime Victims with Disabilities Awareness Act, will produce estimates of the number of crimes committed against people with disabilities and evaluate the relative risks for these groups. An initial release of these estimates is planned for late 2007 or early 2008.
- The Department of Justice Office on Violence against Women will host a series of focus groups and bring together experts from the criminal justice system to plan how to incorporate the new provisions under VAWA 2005 into the Disability Grant Program.
- The Department of Justice, through its Civil Rights Division, will investigate and then require specific remedial action in instances in which domestic violence shelters funded by local cities and towns are found to be inaccessible.
- The Department of Justice, NCD, and NCVC will continue to partner with one another to foster greater public awareness about crime victims with disabilities.
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Improving Access to Telecommunications
The President believes that access to communications is a prerequisite to full community integration. Recognizing this, the FCC has undertaken efforts that have resulted in greater access to telecommunications than ever before.
- Recognized new technologies, including new uses of Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS), American Sign Language, and other systems to meet the needs of specific groups.
- Released a Declaratory Ruling to ensure that VRS consumers can place a call through any VRS providers’ service and that all VRS providers may receive calls from and make calls to any VRS consumer, ensuring access in an emergency.
- Embarked on a public awareness campaign to inform consumers about expanded communication options for persons with hearing and speech disabilities.
- In December 2006, the National Commission on Disabilities issued a report calling for legislative and regulatory safeguards to guarantee equal access by people with disabilities to evolving high speed broadband, wireless, and Internet-based technologies.
- The FCC will consider an open rulemaking addressing issues that might enhance the effectiveness of the Commission’s closed captioning regulations.
- The FCC has several open rulemaking proceedings designed to update regulations for Telecommunications Relay Services to keep up with advancements in technology and accessibility, and to improve financial and program management to ensure the efficient and effective provision of assistive communications technologies.
- The IRS will continue allowing deaf or hard-of-hearing customers to communicate with its staff by various methods, rather than requiring customers to effect all communications through the Federal Relay Service.
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Working to Ensure that Everyone Counts
The President believes that one key to ensuring full participation by people with disabilities is ensuring that they are included in the Census Bureau results. This allows more efficient delivery of essential services, more timely evacuation in emergencies, and more equitable use of sometimes-scarce resources.
- The Census Bureau has established a Disability-Data Users Group to provide a forum for bilateral communication to share ideas, comments, research, and analysis on disability data collected at the Census Bureau.
- The Census Bureau has produced a series of reports entitled “Americans with Disabilities,” which are developed using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).
- The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in cooperation with the Employment Rate Measurement Methodology Interagency Workgroup, is determining ways to modify the Current Population Survey (CPS) in order better to track employment rates of individuals with disabilities.
- The Census Bureau is currently reengineering the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to improve the accuracy, timeliness, and quality of data on economic well-being and program dynamics.
- The Census Bureau has evaluated the results of the disability questions that were tested as part of the 2006 ACS Content Test. The tested questions will be included in the Census Bureau proposal for the 2008 ACS.
- The Census Bureau will release the results of the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement by October 2007.
- The Census Bureau expects to build upon the accomplishments from the 2000 Census and to duplicate similar partnerships with the disability population in preparation for the next decennial census in 2010.
- NCD is developing a sample national disability performance indicator system that may be considered for use by the Federal Government or any of its various components to assess the quality of life of Americans with disabilities.
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Increasing Access to Federal Lands
One of the most important aspects of community life entails taking full advantage of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Individuals with disabilities deserve to enjoy the rich natural treasures that America has to offer. This Administration is committed to providing increased access to these shared resources.
- The Department of the Interior has:
- Eliminated physical and programmatic barriers which had once stood in the way of enabling individuals with disabilities to enjoy all that this nation’s federal lands have to offer, making substantial improvements to its facilities each year.
- Honored its commitment to advance access by overseeing a nationwide strategy of monitoring barrier removal efforts, coordinating remedial measures, engaging in active outreach and education, and instituting an awards program recognizing model practices.
- The Department of the Interior will:
- Continue to enhance accessibility of federal land around the country, applying the principles of universal design to achieve maximum integration in all programs, services, and activities.
- Initiate a major focus on providing effective communication for participants who are hard-of-hearing, deaf, blind, or have developmental or learning disabilities.
- Continue to provide training to its staff and develop a core of knowledgeable and effective accessibility coordinators within its bureaus.
- Remain proactive in addressing civil rights complaints related to both the federal lands and local and state parks and recreational sites under the ADA Title II provisions.
- Continue to provide technical assistance and coordinate with the Department of Justice and the Access Board.
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Broadening Access to the Arts by People with Disabilities
Theaters and museums, intended for enjoyment by everyone, serve as centers for artistic expression and enable members of the general public to experience yet another important aspect of community life. The Administration recognizes that persons with disabilities are a vital part of that community and should therefore be supported in their efforts to maximize opportunities afforded to patrons with disabilities. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has played a significant role in making this ideal a reality.
- NEA continues to provide technical assistance to arts organizations and institutions on the most effective and efficient ways to make their facilities and activities accessible and compliant with federal accessibility regulations.
- During FY 2004-2006, NEA supported six regional arts agencies to conduct a series of two-day training institutes for staff and board members of state and regional agencies across the country.
- NEA identifies and awards support annually to an exemplary project that creates greater public awareness of and demand for universally designed environments.
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