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Protesters Sent Away From Inaccessible Jail
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 17, 2001

AUSTIN, TEXAS--A group of disability rights activists who showed up at Travis County jail yesterday to start serving time for a civil rights protest, were sent away and told to come back in two weeks. Members of the "Bush Nine", six of whom use wheelchairs, said the jail did not have accessible facilities.

The activists were arrested in February 1999 for blocking an entrance to the Governor's Mansion. They had been protesting Gov. George W. Bush's support of state's rights and opposition of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act in the Supreme Court case of Olmstead vs. LC & EW. The court later decided that states must follow the ADA and must find ways to move people out of institutions and into communities.

Also yesterday, a group of demonstrators assembled at the steps of the state Capitol to begin a vigil for the "Bush Nine", and to demand that the legislature allocate adequate money to implement the "Olmstead" decision.

"People should not be warehoused because they're disabled," ADAPT organizer Bob Kafka said yesterday.

Here is a press release from the Texas chapter of ADAPT:

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President To Announce $1 Billion Proposal To Help People With Disabilities
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 1, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--At press time, President George W. Bush was expected to announce a $1 billion proposal to increase opportunities for people with disabilities.

The president's proposal to Congress, which he calls his "New Freedom Initiative", includes provisions to increase access to technology, expand educational and employment opportunities, and promote access to community life and services.

Bush was also expected to sign an executive order today to implement the Olmstead decision, the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which affirmed the right of people with disabilities to live in communities rather than institutions.

Another executive order would direct federal agencies to enforce a law allowing people with disabilities to keep their medical and other benefits after they begin working. And another proposal would allow some who now receive rental housing assistance to build up that money for a down payment to purchase a home.

The president's initiatives are being welcomed by disability groups and even by at least one liberal democrat.

"We're excited that they're doing this early in the administration, that he sees this as a high enough priority to roll it out in the first few weeks," said Andrew Imparato, president of the American Association of People With Disabilities (AAPD).

"I strongly agree with the goals of the New Freedom Initiative," wrote Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, the Democrat who has championed many initiatives for people with disabilities, in response to the news.

"I have always believed that the principles of independence and equal opportunity have nothing to do with which party you're from and everything to do with being an American."

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President Bush Unveils "New Freedom Initiative"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 2, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--Yesterday, President George W. Bush joined a platform with dozens of people with disabilities to unveil his proposals to expand the Americans with Disabilities Act and other initiatives.

The podium and platform on which the president gave his speech was specially designed to put his head at the same level as guests in wheelchairs.

"Wherever any barrier stands between you and the full rights and dignity of citizenship, we must work to remove it, in the name of simple decency and justice," Bush told the crowd in the East Room of the White House.

His proposals could bring an estimated $1 billion into improving access to jobs, services, and churches.

This article from the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that several groups are taking a "wait and see" attitude toward his proposals:

For a full text of the president's presentation, visit this web page:

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New Freedom Initiative Is A Good Start, But Needs Some Work
February 5, 2001

ALBANY, NEW YORK--President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative, unveiled last Thursday, was welcomed by some advocates for people with disabilities, and met with caution by others.

"Why would we be worried?" writes Michael Volkman, a columnist for the Albany Times Union. "Mostly because Bush as governor of Texas was not a strong supporter of disability issues, according to advocates in that state who repeatedly attempted to meet with him."

Volkman looks at where the New Freedom Initiative "hits", where it "misses", and offers some suggestions to the president on how he might alleviate some of the worries that people with disabilities and their allies have, in this column from Sunday's Times Union:

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People Could Lose Benefits Under Proposed Reforms
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 9, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--Last week, lawmakers in both parties, and leaders of some disability organizations responded favorably to the New Freedom Initiative unveiled by President George W. Bush's on February 1. The president's proposals would pump nearly $1 billion toward, among other things, improving access to employment, education, housing and assistive technologies.

On Wednesday, however, some of those same people were expressing concern that one of the president's favorite campaign promises -- reforming social security -- would cause millions of people to lose their disability-related benefits.

A study released by the General Accounting Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, reported that proposals to allow people to take money out of the social security system to invest privately would have a negative impact on people with disabilities.

"This report shows that millions (of) people with disabilities have been forgotten in the broader conversation about Social Security reform, and as a result we could actually roll the clock back for them and their families," said Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa.

More details are available in this news item from the Associated Press via Yahoo! News:

The 57-page GAO report, entitled "Social Security Reform: Potential Effects on SSA's Disability Programs and Beneficiaries", is available on-line at this address:

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Demonstrators at White House Get Meeting and Assurances
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 16, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--Bush Administration officials Tuesday gave assurances to a group of demonstrators that the President supports the "integrated settings mandate" of the Olmstead ruling, and within the next 30 days would sign an Executive Order to speed up its implementation.

Several hundred members of the disability rights group ADAPT had lined up along the fence in front of the White House, protesting what they considered the President's "failing grades" on disability issues. Within a few minutes, 16 members of the group were escorted inside for a meeting with officials, including Diane Schacht, Special Assistant to the President for Justice Policy, and John Bridgeland, Director of the President's Domestic Policy Council.

Two hours later, the representatives emerged, telling the crowd they had gotten what they had come for -- a commitment as to when the President would sign the Order, along with assurances that people with disabilities and their allies would be meaningfully involved in educating the public and people at risk of institutionalization about their rights to community services.

One ADAPT organizer said they were "cautiously optimistic" about the President's commitment. Many advocates recalled that George W. Bush was governor of Texas when that state filed what is called an "amicus brief" showing support for states' rights in the U.S. Supreme Court case known as "Olmstead v. L. C.". In June of 1999, the court ruled that states were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily putting people with disabilities in nursing homes or other institutions.

Members of as many as 40 ADAPT chapters are in the nation's capital this week pushing lawmakers to move more quickly on changing the current focus of the long-term care system from institutions to community and in-home supports.

The Memphis Center for Independent Living is hosting this web page on ADAPT's activities this week:

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Groups Oppose Sutton Nomination
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 24, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--Members of several disability groups this week are rallying in opposition to the President's named choice of Jeffrey Sutton for a federal appeals court position.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt the Americans with Disabilities Act perhaps the strongest blow since it became law in 1990. In the case of Garrett vs. Alabama, the high court determined that state workers could not use the ADA to sue their employers for damages. It was one of several recent cases where the court leaned toward state's rights.

Arguing the case for the state of Alabama was Jeffrey Sutton, an attorney from Ohio. Sutton told the Justices there was no need for the ADA, because the states already had their own anti-discrimination laws. Disability rights advocates disagreed, pointing out that there were countless examples of people's rights being violated even by those states.

Earlier this month, President George W. Bush nominated Sutton to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That court reviews appeals from federal district courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Sutton must be confirmed by a Senate Judiciary Committee before he can take the position.

Late last week and earlier this week, several groups organized to actively oppose Sutton's confirmation. Those groups include, but are not limited to: American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD), the National Council for Independent Living (NCIL), the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Justice for All, and the National Disabled Student Union.

Sutton was scheduled to go before the committee on Wednesday, but the hearing has been postponed. A new date for the hearing has not been announced.

The Ability Center of Greater Toledo is planning a protest in front of Sutton's Columbus, Ohio law office for Friday morning.

More details on Sutton's confirmation, along with suggestions on how you can help are available from the National Council for Independent Living website:

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President Demonstrates Commitment to Americans with Disabilities
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 20, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--On Tuesday, President George W. Bush announced the following four separate actions he says demonstrate the federal government's commitment to the rights of people with disabilities.

1. Executive Order on Olmstead Decision.
The President signed an Executive Order directing federal agencies to work with states to make sure they comply fully with the Supreme Court's ruling in the Olmstead decision. In that case, which was decided on June 22, 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that "unnecessarily" institutionalizing people with "mental disabilities" is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court called on states to develop comprehensive plans for providing community services for people in institutions who want to move out and for to people who are at risk of being institutionalized.

The Executive Order signed by the President on Monday goes beyond the scope of that Supreme Court ruling, and refers to all Americans with disabilities, not just those with "mental disabilities".

The action also directs specific federal agencies to work with states to make sure they fully comply with the Olmstead ruling and the ADA. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to coordinate an effort by all federal agencies to evaluate their own policies, programs and regulations to make sure community-based services are available.Along with HHS, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is directed to fully enforce Title II of the ADA, including coming up with ways to resolve complaints filed by people who claim they have been institutionalized unfairly.

2. Bush committed the Federal government to providing leadership in improving accessibility and technologies for Americans with disabilities.

3. The new rules implementing Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments will take effect on June 25, the President announced. Those regulations, required under a 1998 law passed by Congress that was sponsored by Sen. Jim Jeffords, require the federal government to purchase electronic and information technology that is accessible to people with disabilities, including thousands of federal workers.

4. The President also announced that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be issuing regulations to implement the Section 8 Disability Homeownership Initiative, which was created by Congress last year. A 3-year pilot program will allow people with disabilities to use housing assistance funds toward down payments and closing costs for purchasing a home, instead of limiting these funds to rent payments.

"We will treat Americans with disabilities as people to be respected, rather than problems to be confronted," the President said.

More details, including links to announcements from those agencies responsible, are available from this Inclusion Daily Express webpage:

Information on the Olmstead ruling, along with updates on progress being made at the state level, may be accessed here:

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President's Announcement Comes One Month After Demonstrations
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 20, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--The Olmstead Executive Order signed by President Bush on Monday, comes nearly 11 years after his father signed the Americans With Disabilities Act, and two years after the Supreme Court's Olmsted ruling.

It also happens to come almost a month to the day after several hundred demonstrators, many using wheelchairs, lined up in front of the White House protesting what they called the President's lack of commitment to Americans with Disabilities.

On May 15, after a brief demonstration, representatives of the disability rights group ADAPT were brought into the White House to meet with Administration officials. Those officials made assurances that the President would sign the Executive Order within 30 days.

ADAPT members also protested at the offices for the departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development that week.

Inclusion Daily Express ran three stories on the May ADAPT actions:

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Bush Administration Celebrates ADA Anniversary With New Initiatives
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 26, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--Eleven years ago, the first President George Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The landmark legislation made it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities in employment, telecommunications, public services and public accommodations.

The administration of his son, the current President George W. Bush, celebrated the anniversary of the ADA by announcing an initiative directed at reducing the barriers to community living for people with disabilities.

The initiative involves the coordination of six federal departments (Health and Human Services, Justice, Education, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and the Social Security Administration) and the development of a high-level Interagency Council on Community Living. That council will be responsible for conducting what is being called a "comprehensive nationwide assessment of current barriers to community living", then reporting to the President on the findings and recommendations by October 16.

The assessment process is to provide a number of opportunities for citizens to comment, including a national meeting in Washington, a special written comment process, and a series of toll-free teleconferences.

"We're beginning a nationwide listening and idea-gathering initiative that will help us better understand what actual real-world barriers remain and how to tear them down," Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Wednesday.

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President Repeats Community Living Message
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 30, 2001

WASHINGTON, DC--Last week, President George W. Bush celebrated the 11th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act by announcing the formation of an Interagency Coalition for Community Living, along with a community living initiative involving several agencies within his Administration.

During his weekly radio address on Sunday, Mr. Bush acknowledged the contributions made by Americans who have disabilities.

"This has made our country a fairer society, more considerate and welcoming to all our citizens," he said. "As people with disabilities find more opportunities to use their gifts and talents, we also become a stronger, more productive nation."

The President noted that barriers still exist, and then specifically addressed the issue of de-institutionalization:
"We must also work to ensure that people with disabilities are not arbitrarily isolated or kept apart. I recently signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to work with state and local authorities to allow people with disabilities to move out of institutions and into community settings."

"I've also instructed the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to fully enforce Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring that no one is unjustifiably institutionalized."

The text of the President's brief radio address is available at this address:

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