Sunday, June 16, 2024

President Bush: What does it mean to disability community?

Jo Nagels

> Dec. 13, 2000 — With George W. Bush headed for the White House, many in
the
> disability community are cautiously optimistic about the future.
> “He made many promises during the election. It remains to be seen if he
will
> honor those promises,” said Mark Smith, director of Justice for All, a
> disability advocacy group in Jackson, Miss. “We are all in this together

> and we look forward to working with this administration.”
> Many in the disability community believe their issues are better received
> under a Democrat’s administration, but during the past 15 years, some of
the
> ADA’s staunchest supporters were Republican: George Bush Sr., Bob Dole and
> Richard Thornburgh, to name a few. The new president-elect’s father signed
> the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.
> But the disability community is also skeptical of Bush’s record on
> disability issues .
Many
> say he has been indifferent to their concerns in the past.
> “He hasn’t necessarily been the disability community’s friend in Texas.
> There’s no reason to believe he’s going to be any better as president,”
said
> Mike Auberger, a national organizer for the advocacy group ADAPT. “We have
> an uphill battle.”
> As governor of Texas, Bush did not sign on in support of Olmstead and
> community-based resources. In fact, Texas signed a brief opposing
Olmstead.
> Bush also refused to sign a pledge supporting the ADA during this summer’s
> 10th anniversary celebration. Several other measures Bush has supported or
> failed to support also raise concern among people with disabilities.
> “Texas is not perceived as a moderately progressive state when it comes to
> services for people with disabilities,” said Eric Richards, executive
> director of the Arc Michigan, a group that serves people with
developmental
> disabilities. “We are concerned about tax cuts at the expense of money
that
> provides services and supports to people with disabilities. We are
concerned
> about social security, and his record in Texas.”
> But despite concerns that a Bush presidency will be a step back for
> disability rights, there are hopeful signs that it will not be the case.
> Some advocates are even optimistic about a new, more ethical
administration.
>
> “I am ecstatic,” said Barry Taylor, legal director for Chicago area Equip
> for Equality, a group that represents people with disabilities in legal
> action. “The government should not have an overpowering role in social
> policy.”
> Others say that, although Bush as a governor may not have been as
responsive
> to the disability community as President Clinton or Attorney General Janet
> Reno, he has shown an ability to adapt.
> While he did not sign the ADA pledge, Bush did formulate a plan regarding
> employment of people with disabilities. His “New Freedom Initiative”
> provides $140 million over five years, and includes incentives to
businesses
> that hire employees with disabilities. It includes tax credits for
purchase
> of computers and promotes self-employment. While the plan seems modest in
> scope and funding, Bush deserves credit for creating such a plan.
President
> Clinton, by comparison a solid advocate, had no such proposal entering
> office.
> Bush also is in favor of some version of increased health care, a limited
> prescription drug benefit and some protections for patients.
> Despite these initiatives, some advocates are skeptical about Bush’s
> sincerity and commitment to people with disabilities.
> “You look at the Freedom Initiative, it is some great stuff using the
> language some of the advocates have used for a long while. But none of
that
> comes into an implementation and a promise to work for” people with
> disabilities, said Tim Wheat, systems coordinator for the Memphis Center
for
> Independent Living.
> The community is also waiting to see how Bush will fill key administrative
> positions, including disability agencies such as the National Council on
> Disability and the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education
and
> Rehabilitation Services.
> “There’s just a lot that we don’t know what’s going to happen,” said
Deborah
> Kaplan, executive director of the World Institute on Disability. “He’s
going
> to have other issues that he needs to deal with because of the nature of
> this election. … Making lower level appointments is not going to be high
> on his list.”
> But those appointments are crucial to disability policy. Smith, from
Justice
> for All, said he hopes Bush will retain many of the disability leaders
> already in place.
> And so many disability advocates are taking a wait-and-see attitude,
> pointing to the transformation of Bush’s father into a solid advocate of
> disability rights.
> The senior George Bush became aware of and sensitive to disability issues
> when then-president Reagan asked his vice president to find a strategy to
> shrink the Social Security rolls. In the process Bush Sr. was, by his own
> admission, transformed by what he learned about the issues that confront
> people with disabilities. Bush started by cutting benefits, and left
office
> championing the most important disability rights law in history, the
> Americans with Disabilities Act.
> The changes in Congress will also affect what Bush can accomplish as
> president. With the Republican majority narrowed in the House and an even
> split in the Senate, government will have to be more moderate.
> “Congress is just as important as the president,” Kaplan said. “The big
> worry eveyrone has is the Supreme Court. But with no majority in the
Senate,
> Bush may have a very difficult time putting in members of the Supreme
Court
> who are very, very conservative. I think that may be a little glimmer of
> hope.”
>

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