Saturday, December 10, 2016

Time to Be Brave, Think Big, and Engage President Elect Trump's Administration

Last week I attended the Association of University Centers on Disabilities' annual conference in Washington, D.C. AUCD had a record turnout. And no wonder! People were looking for like-minded colleagues with whom to mourn, given the presidential election results. They fear for the continued availability of federal funds to continue their work.

Sixty-seven Centers belong to AUCD. Their bottom line is a commendable one -- helping individuals with disabilities achieve their full potential and the American dream. The Centers do this through research, training, community-based demonstrations, and dissemination. They maintain a healthy emphasis on interdisciplinary projects and initiatives so that professionals across many disciplines collaborate and develop a common language, making it easier for families with disabled members to get help. They partner with state agencies, State Developmental Disabilities Councils and State Protection and Advocacy Systems to develop policies, procedures, and advocacy that make services systems work better, ensure that rights are protected, and that families and individuals are better equipped to advocate for themselves. 

Federal funding for these amazing networks, authorized by the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act should be expanded, period. So tell the Trump Transition Team about them. It needs these details now. Mr. Trump likes things that work. At the AUCD conference I heard many good presenters, but Neil Romano's really hit home. Neil recommended that we urge the creation of a cabinet level position for a national office on disability program coordination. What a great idea. There are over 140 programs that touch the lives of persons with disabilities. There are multiple, conflicting definitions of disability and eligibility for services. Neil urged us to stop thinking in incremental terms and go big. Well if there was ever the time to do it, now is such a time. Mr. Trump loves big ideas. He will have no problem with us outlining the best way for a big idea to be realized. So let's get to work and lay out a plan for him.

 Finally, for many years Presidents have had a disability advisor on the Domestic Policy Council. Unfortunately, this person was usually borrowed and paid for by a federal agency. The position was typically for one year. We need to tell Mr. Trump that we want a disability advisor on the Domestic Policy Council, who is not only qualified, but permanent and paid for out of his staffing funds. With 54 million Americans with disabilities, we have a reason to have our own "ear" on the Domestic Policy Council. We are taxpayers, we are employers and employees, we are family members, we are strong voices who contribute everyday to the vibrancy of American society! So friends, enough mourning. Now is the time for action. The choice to act or sit back and watch is ours. You know where I stand. Where do you stand?

Thank you.

 Common Grounder