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Obama To Disability Advocates: ‘I’ve Got Your Back’


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Some 150 disability advocates from across the country headed to the White House Friday for a day-long powwow with administration officials and they got a surprise visit — from the president himself.

The group of advocates included individuals with disabilities, their families and professionals affiliated with The Arc who were invited to meet with Obama administration officials.

The event was part of the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series, a weekly initiative designed to establish direct dialogue between local leaders and top federal officials.

President Barack Obama surprised the group by stepping in for a short, late-morning talk in the South Court Auditorium.

“I want you all to know that I’m going to keep fighting everyday for an America which lives up to our most basic values, not just for some, but for us all. But I need your help,” Obama told the group.

The president praised the advocates for speaking up last summer during a series of tough budget talks about the importance of Medicaid and said that continued advocacy of that kind is needed.

“People with disabilities deserve the chance to build a life for themselves in the communities where they choose to live,” Obama said, adding that he supports high education standards and employment opportunities for those with disabilities.

“I’ve got your back and I’m looking forward to working with you for many years to come,” he said.

In addition to Obama, the group also heard from top officials at the Justice Department and the Medicaid program, among others.

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Comments (25 Responses)

  1. David Fazio says:

    If the President has our back then why is the Federal workforce mass terminating employees with disabilities? Management Directive 715 says the Federal Government is supposed to be the model EEO employer, yet less than 1 percent of its workforce is an employee with a disability. They hire Mexicans, they hire African Americans but they don’t hire people with disabilities. Executive Order 13164 requires all federal agencies to establish written procedures to facilitate the provision of reasonable accommodation. It is 10 years old and not a single Air Force Base has complied. Recruitment, retention, and advancement of Federal Employees with disabilities has been on a 20 percent decline the last 10 years.

    – David Fazio
    Helix Opportunity

  2. Marsha Katz says:

    I think it is good anytime the White House and the President meet with people with disabilities. I am am curious however why this group just included people with intellectual (and maybe other developmental?) disabilities affiliated with only ONE disability organization, the Arc. Historically, the White House has been careful to include representatives from MANY disability groups, and would never think of meeting with only one disability group. I certainly hope this meeting wasn’t viewed as a way to appear to be supporting disability issues, but doing so with a group that is not as stridently vocal about disability rights as organizations like the National Disability Leadership Alliance, NCIL, ADAPT, ASAN and others.
    Or will this perhaps indicate a change in how the White House interacts with various disability groups. Can each of us now look forward to our own meeting and a drop-in by the President?

  3. The Man says:

    NO. HE does not have our backs. Our backsides maybe, but certainly not our backs. All I have seen, for us who are disabled, are CUTS to our services. He is just lying- again! I will not buy into this attempt at him buying votes while cutting MY disability services. I want a job, but this white paraplegic with a Bachelors Degree is being shunned by the Federal agencies while he is “going to keep fighting everyday” to help me. Notice he says, “going to” not will or is. What a pathological LIAR!!

  4. Pam Richardson says:

    I appreciate The President having our backs but we need jobs not backs

  5. Awesomeness says:

    If he has our back, how come the health insurance of Federal employees does not cover ABA, or any therapies that children with autism need.

  6. Marie-Anne Aghazadian says:

    Hopefully, we got his back too, register and vote!

  7. Diana Rodriguez says:

    If the President Obama has my back, then why isn’t my daughter getting the benefits she needs. The people that voted for Obama are the ones complaining now. I have been waiting almost 25 yrs for my daughter to get her benefits. When I see other disabled individuals get them immediately. I don’t think this is right. I’d wish President Obama would just come to my home for a week and see what I have to deal with a disable person day by day.

  8. Dee Dee says:

    Our state has already cut services by 9%, with another 10% cut due in March. There are also talks of cuts up to 25% for the next fiscal year. Really, he has our backs?? I believe a lot of people with disabilities will have their services cut back, they are certainly not getting any better.

  9. Lynnrx52 says:

    Talk is cheap. Notice how Obama turns every issue into a campaign for votes and in this case wrongly evoking the impression that conservatives want to take help away from the disabled. Nothing could be further from the truth. Conservatives want to protect those who can’t fend for themselves. They just don’t want the Country to go broke handing fish to those who can fish for themselves.

  10. Carolyn Trader says:

    Glad to see that ARC and all of the other reresentatives for this population who support and serve individuals with various disabilities come face-to-face with President Obama’s administrative officals to address the critical impacts of our government’s cut in supporting this underserved and disadvantage population. Moreover, we hope that the efforts to continue to integrate our workforce with diverse individuals seeks to increase employment pratices to include developmentally disabled “diverse” candidates to make the workforce inclusion mantra “truly inclusive of ALL diverse applicants. As they to seek to be employed and be contributors of our tax-paying workforce.

    Carolyn Trader
    Executive Director
    Pathways Regional Employment Support Services (Los Angeles, CA)

  11. DJ Shoaf says:

    Finally, a President who really cares for our citizens with disabilities and has their best interests at heart! A vote for President Obama is a vote for a thinking, caring, compassionate, considerate President. I know who I am voting for in the next election!

  12. Mary Sherman says:

    If you read all of the E-Mails that are sent you on a daily or weekly basis then my Name & E-mail address should be familiar, I am constantly sending e-mails with questions as well as advising you of my support, I have even invited you to a Power Dinner in Milwaukee, WI that celebrats peoples ABILITIES I think you could learn a lot from this gathering.

  13. Mary Miller says:

    i have to agree with the folks below, about the inclusion issues (mentally challenged only has his back???) and the issues around ARC…for those who are reading this should also know that ARC is one of the controversial hiring problems for folks with disabilities, (not only because they are about Mentally challenged only hiring) but because they HIRE BELOW minimum wage at shelter wages, which is indentured servitude, or if you don’t get it, slavery. So interesting he has their back, but did you know that in 2013 HUD has already gotten rid of our housing????

  14. Bob Segalman Ph.D. says:

    If Obama truly “had my back” how do I ask him to make sure that the FCC approves the advanced regulations on telephone access for people with speech disabilities (Speech-to-Speech, a part of the Telecommunications Relay Service)? These regulations have been pending for several years.

  15. Christy Koury says:

    This is one of many reasons I will definitely be voting for Obama’s re-election. My family is more secure, especially in terms of healthcare, than we were before Obama.

  16. Rosella A. Alm says:

    I have been an advocate for 23 years for people with disabilities in the San Gabriel Valley of California, but was not invited to this conference, probably because I am not affiliated with any group, but am an independent advocate. If I had been there I would have asked, begged pleaded for the re-establishment of the IHSS Plus Waiver Program that was allowed to “sunset” in CA in June 2009. This program helped families with a child who has disabilities so much. I deeply regret its passing without a renewal. If I had been abl;le to do so that year, I would have done my best to urge renewal of this excellent program.

  17. scott landon says:

    I have transeverse myeliti, it has stopped my life. My Doctors have no inmormasion on how to help me or any person with transverse myeliti. My body hurts all the time, parts of my body know nolonger works. I use to volutor at retirement homes and hospital. I can no longer help other people, it is hard because I know that I am suppose to help other people. With out the help of our government helping our Doctors a lots of us with transverse myeliti will be laying in our beds indeed of out in our comuntees helping other. Please help us so we can help others. Scott

  18. Mike Volkman says:

    He has OUR back? If he says what he means and means what he says, actions would speak louder than words. He already knows our top priority since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act has been and still is ending the institutional bias, specifically in Medicaid and generally in our culture. Our bill to change the Medicaid statute has been languishing in Congress now for almost 14 years. He was a sponsor of it when he was in the Senate, and he made a campaign promise when he ran for president to call for the passage of this bill and to sign it into law. He has not done so. If he had done this one thing, that would prove to us that he really does have our backs. Furthermore, that would also guarantee that next November we would have HIS back in his bid for reelection. So far, that guarantee cannot be confirmed.

  19. Jack Williams says:

    It’s about time he showed up. I’ve been waiting four years for him to do so. Must be election time again.

  20. Sherry Deeter says:

    I’m a 55 yr old woman with very mild CP , but I’m experiencing a very hard time to find a job in this difficult economy. Where can I go to find a job? I’m in need of computer skills training. I have had lots of jobs in my life but lost a job to a fall almost 5 yrs ago. I have not been able to find a job , please help!

  21. Maureen says:

    I don’t believe a single word that comes out of his mouth!

  22. robert says:

    good yor you prez

  23. Patrick says:

    While I agree with many of the commentators that what the President says he wants to do does not always comport with the actions of the administration and the government as a whole, I think it is important to remember that the President is not a dictator. Balancing the needs of the disability community along with the countless other priorities of numerous groups all the while trying to deal with political jockeying and electioneering makes it difficult to fulfill every vow.

    I have personally found the federal hiring procedures remarkably easy compared to some of the nonsense in the private sector. Nearly every federal agency has a Selective Placement Program Coordinator that facilitates individuals in hiring through the Schedule A process. Schedule A is designed as a non-competitive hiring process for those with disabilities. Despite a severe physical disability, I am clerking at a large federal agency this coming summer and hope to do so after my graduation from law school.

  24. Melissa says:

    I don’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth either – just lots of talk to try and get votes.

    Awesomeness you mentioned that Federal Health Insurance doesn’t provide autism therapies. My husband works for Feds – we have Federal Blue Cross (Standard plan) and two kids with autism. Our coverage for speech/OT and PT as well as social skills (with an SLP) has been amazing – 75 visits total for one or any of combo of these covered. We tried to get ABA and I agree the coverage was rotten but the other has been great and made all the difference. Alot of it comes down to the billing code used and diagnosis – if providers use the wrong code or just label everything under autism then coverage is more sparce. However ASD kids issues overlap into other areas (speech disorder, gross/fine motor disorders etc) so there are ways to be creative and get coverage. Hope that helps.

  25. Julie (Jobless in Oklahoma) says:

    If the President has my back, where is my job? I have been applying and interviewing for four years, right after I graduated with my *second* Bachelors degree. (I have since completed my Masters degree and numerous certificates in my field. I also volunteer and give my time to those in need etc…)

    I had to stop applying for private sector jobs, because they would not allow me telephone interviews (only in person interviews) and because I live hours away from the jobs in which I’m applying, (and in some case states) I can’t physically travel that far to interview in person. (There are *no* jobs in the small town in which I live.)

    I am a “Schedule A” disabled applicant and have been applying to federal jobs that include both status/merit and competitive positions. I am highly qualified in my field, have numerous private sector experience and education, AND I’m willing to relocate *anywhere in the US*, yet when I apply for the status/merit positions, I am referred to the hiring official, but never hear back from anyone. When I apply for competitive (open to the public) positions, I receive an email stating “You weren’t referred because there were enough veteran’s preference candidates that must be referred ahead of non-preference candidates or you were not among the most highly qualified candidates.”
    It’s so frustrating. I need a job!!

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