Leading up to the Election of Barack Obama, between the November 4 Election and January 20 when the President-Elect took office, and since Obama's administration took office, the disability community has been organizing furiously to impact positive choices on disability policy within the White House.
Though Obama developed and trumpeted an important disability platform for his campaign, he was not the first president to incorporate disability into his campaign. But all presidents have struggled, or have failed, to trumpet disability from within the White House.
There are clear indicators that President Obama will establish a different record. First of all, Obama appointed Paul Miller and Kareem Dale, both people with disabilities who have a disability agenda, to high level disability posts. And, a coalition that includes diverse disability representation from around the country is working closely with Miller and Dale, and with others in Washington, to continue to push a disability agenda within the White House.
Though disability may have made some progress in the White House, news about the Stimulus Package reveals that disability could have suffered a set back in Washington this weekend. The package originally included millions of dollars for Independent Living Services, Vocational Rehabilitation Services and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funding. The disability funds were included in the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives. It has not been confirmed, but it appears that the disability money was stripped from the version the Senate will vote on this week.
Stripping of the disability funds is more the work of a partisan congress and Senators who refused to agree with anything that didn't directly relate to tax breaks and jobs (though why they can't make a connection between Vocational Rehab, Independent Living and jobs I don't know), it's hard not to lose some of the enthusiam the disability community felt when the new President took office. Just like so many other years in Washington, the stimulus is an indicator that disability, though it is roven directly into the fabric of each of our lives, and disability rights, often take a back seat to other issues.