Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The candidates and disability policy

Crooked Timber's Michael Berube has summarized the disability policies of the three contending candidates:

Crooked Timber -- Disability and Democracy.

McCain's policy is fairly simple ...

... Yes, well, McCain’s disability policy is much easier to summarize: (a): we need to cut costs; and, following from (a), (b): don’t become disabled...

Clinton does a very good job ...

... A Hillary Clinton Administration would be quite good on disability/ health and disability/ employment, and generally good for my kid – this one, not the college senior who turns 22 today...

but her web site does a poor job of displaying her disability policies.

Obama's plan is "... remarkably enough, at once broader and more specific than Clinton’s". For example:

... proposes “a comprehensive study of students with disabilities and transition to work and higher education” – something that (a) has never been done and (b) is of great interest to teenagers with disabilities and their loved ones. “As president,” we’re told, “Barack Obama will initiate such a study and task his Secretary of Education with researching: the barriers that keep students with disabilities from seeking and completing higher education; the barriers that prevent students from making a direct transition to work; the extent to which students with disabilities are able to access loans and grants; reasons college students with disabilities drop out at a higher rate; and best practices from schools that have effectively recruited and graduated students with disabilities that can be implemented more widely.” This is, as you might imagine, a (cough) special interest of mine. But that’s not just because I have a 16-year-old with Down syndrome. In recent years I’ve had many fine students at Penn State – twenty-year-olds with dyslexia, or Asperger’s Syndrome, or arthritis, or mild cerebral palsy – request “reasonable accommodation” from me on final exams. And I’ve been amazed and appalled at how few many of my colleagues (here or elsewhere) seem to believe that they’re under no obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for everyone. (Guess what? If you teach in the United States, you have that obligation! It’s a real federal law!) So I’m thinking that “a comprehensive study of students with disabilities and transition to work and higher education” might not be a time-wasting exercise for disabliity-policy wonks. I’m thinking that it might actually make a world of difference for students with disabilities – in high school, in transition, and in college...

Among the topics Berube reviews are:

  • limitations on the ability of insurers to discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions
  • fudning of IDEA (the grossly under-funded Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).
  • federal employment support for persons with disabilities
  • Tom Harkin's ADA Restoration Act (overturn Supreme Court decisions that have limited the ADA's scope).
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of genetic information by employers and health insurers. (Tom Coburn has blocked passage of this in the Senate).

The bottom line of course is that either Hilary or Obama are light years better than McCain for persons with disabilities and their supporters.

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