Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

All Together, Now!

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

All Together, Now!

Article excerpt

We who have disablilities and our loved ones are in grave danger of losing our fragile, hard-won beachhead on the mainland of American life. There is an escalating chorus of assaults on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Medicaid and SSI supports for children with disabilities. The new congressional leadership has announced their agenda - a "Contract with America" - that, if implemented literally, could drastically cut virtually all the programs that empower us. They speak of "erasing" key economic and social programs of the last three decades, and "reasserting American culture as it has existed for the last 300 years" - a culture in which people with disabilities were outcasts.

I cannot believe that the leaders of our nation - Republican or Democrat-are scheming to destroy our rights. But when I see the current eruption of public frustration with the growing pains of democracy, I remember history. I am terrified that the hysteria for instant solutions and easy scapegoats could result in a move to pull the plug on our progress, our rights, the programs that empower us and, in some cases, our very lives.

Republican leaders have announced a blitz to pass their "Contract" agenda during the first 100 days. We must act quickly, while basic positions are still being formed.

Reach out to all of your state's representatives and senators. Nearly half of the current members of Congress were not present during the ADA debate in 1990. In too many cases, their perceptions of disability-related laws and programs have been formed during the recent avalanche of negative propaganda. Many Capitol Hill veterans, including old friends in both parties, have also been influenced by these messages.

Don't discount the potential support of new conservative members of Congress. Many are people of profound conscience, who share our passionate determination to emancipate all prisoners of dependency and empower them in the mainstream of free-enterprise democracy.

Our messages, our power

We have messages to deliver-to the Congress, but also to state houses, to the White House, to business, to labor and to groups representing minorities, women and older Americans.

There are many ways to deliver our messages - face-to-face or by telephone, fax, computer or mail. Use the media. Be visible at public events with signs and questions. Flood talk shows and newspaper letter columns. Communicate personal stories illustrating the necessity of the ADA and IDEA and their positive effects.

These are the messages we must deliver:

* Disability impacts everyone. Sooner or later, every family will experience disability. Public policy that fails people with disabilities fails every family. We who have disabilities form one fifth of the population - 49 million Americans. Add in our families and service providers. We all vote.

* The ADA is good for America. The ADA is not a costly, unfunded mandate. It is a civil rights law that extends equal constitutional protections to Americans with disabilities. The ADA will not bankrupt anyone. It specifically provides that no business or public entity can be required to do anything resulting in undue hardship. The ADA will open the doors of opportunity, enabling us to get off welfare and into the productive mainstream. The ADA will pay for its tiny cost a hundred times in terms of reduced welfare and increased productivity. …

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