Barack Obama aims to expand access to assistive technology as part of a four point plan to give a better deal to disabled Americans.
Speaking before his election, Obama promised to restore his country’s leadership on issues affecting disabled people.
“We must support independent community-based living for everyone who chooses it … And it’s why I will expand access to assistive technology as president. Together we can build a world that’s just and inclusive for all,” he said.
Obama revealed that he had learned about the experience of living with disability from his father-in-law, Frasier Robinson. At the age of 30, Robinson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The future president talked about the hidden toll it took on his wife Michelle’s family, including the added burden on her mother, the complexity of planning even the smallest family outing to avoid the barriers they were sure to encounter and the uncertainty of the family’s future.
”Frasier’s story reinforces some simple and indelible lessons. That we must build a world free of unnecessary barriers, stereotypes, and discrimination.
“That policies must be developed, attitudes must be shaped, and buildings and organizations must be designed to ensure that everyone has a chance to get the education they need and live independently as full citizens in their communities.
“And that every nation has a special responsibility to look after those who can’t live on their own.”
However Obama acknowledged that 17 years after Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act, America’s leadership had faded.
“As President, I will restore it. We’ll start by ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” he said.
He made four promises. First, to provide Americans with disabilities the educational opportunities they deserved. He said he supported full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and expanding college opportunities for students with disabilities.
He argued that all infants should be screened for the full array of potential impairments and he set a national goal to re-screen all two year olds.
“Some conditions, like autism, don’t appear until age two, so infant screening is not enough. And to meet the needs of the growing numbers of Americans with autism, we need a comprehensive approach that includes not just screening but early intervention, research, and education services.”
Second, Obama said America must end workplace discrimination. Third, he said his administration would lead the way by hiring more federal employees with disabilities and encouraging private sector companies to do the same.
“Moreover, if we’re serious about bringing more Americans with disabilities into the workplace, we need to sign universal health care into law, which is what I’ll do by the end of my first term,” he added.
Finally, he pledged to support independent, community-based living for Americans with disabilities. And backed new laws aimed at achieving it.