White House Remains Steadfast In Support Of Disability Council Nominee
An anonymous Senate hold hampering the first-ever nomination of a person with autism to the National Council on Disability is highlighting rifts within the autism community. But despite the political hitch, President Barack Obama remains solidly behind his nominee.
Obama nominated Ari Ne’eman, the 22-year-old founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and seven others to the council in December 2009.
Now, The New York Times reports that under a highly secretive parliamentary move in the Senate, a hold was placed on Ne’eman’s nomination anonymously by one or more members of the body. Meanwhile, the other seven nominees were confirmed.
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It is unclear why Ne’eman’s nomination was delayed, but the effort to derail his appointment is leading some to suspect that Ne’eman’s sometimes divisive views on autism could be the reason. A proponent of neurodiversity, Ne’eman has said he does not believe the disorder should be cured, but rather that it should be accepted and accommodated as part of a person’s identity.
Despite the holdup, however, Obama remains confident Ne’eman’s nomination will be confirmed.
“We are still behind Mr. Ne’eman and hope for a quick confirmation,” a senior White House official told Disability Scoop on Monday.
Though Ne’eman has largely stayed out of the spotlight since being nominated to the council — and declined interviews for this story — he made his name with strong opinions and has at times publicly butted heads with Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism advocacy organization. Most recently, Ne’eman’s organization waged protests against Autism Speaks after it rolled out a fund-raising video that presented a negative view of life with autism.
Many parents whose children are far more adversely affected by autism than Ne’eman pounced when they learned of his nomination to the National Council on Disability, which makes recommendations to the president and Congress on disability issues. Some at Autism Speaks have also publicly criticized the nomination.
Nonetheless, more than a dozen disability advocacy groups including the Autism Society of America, Easter Seals, Special Olympics and the American Association of People with Disabilities have expressed support for Ne’eman’s appointment.
Those close to Ne’eman say they’re trying not to read too much into the Senate hold. “It’s all kind of speculative,” says Scott Michael Robertson, who is vice president of Ne’eman’s Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. “I think it may just be politics as usual.”