NCD Calls for Changes in Policy

The National Council on Disability (NCD) released its annual progress report www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2005/ calling on the Federal Government to be more […]

The National Council on Disability (NCD) released its annual progress report www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2005/ calling on the Federal Government to be more creative in program design; be more accountable in measuring the impact of civil rights compliance for people with disability; and provide greater cross-agency coordination in managing disability programs.

According to Glenn Anderson, Ph.D., NCD vice chairperson, “NCD’s examination of the status of disability policy discloses that incremental progress made in some areas is clouded by other major barriers and challenges that continue to block paths available to the general population. Gaps in necessary services and supports remain to the extent that far too many Americans with disabilities are undereducated and unemployed.”

NCD has identified several important and recurrent themes that need to be addressed.

Program Design for a

New Century

In programs for people with disabilities, such as special education and vocational rehabilitation, the need for innovative program design has been recognized, but the means for carrying it out remain matters of debate. How tightly should these programs be tied, in procedures or expectations, to their mainstream counterparts—No Child Left Behind in the case of education, and the Workforce Investment Act in the case of employment?

The debate regarding the need for innovative approaches to program concept and design is taking place in a variety of ways. New program models; new definitions of services themselves and of target populations and stakeholder groups; new allocations of responsibility and authority among federal, state and private sector partners (including end-users and consumers themselves); and new criteria for measuring program outcomes and success—all of these can be seen to one degree or another in virtually every major piece of legislation discussed in this report.

Accountability

Perhaps no single word is heard more often in the discussion of domestic policy today than accountability. At the same time, perhaps nowhere is the meaning of accountability more critically at issue than in the area of civil rights. NCD believes that vigilant civil rights enforcement is an indispensable component of any balanced effort to achieve equality of opportunity in society. But if statistical evidence were needed to justify this belief, one would be hard-pressed to produce it. Evidence of the costs of compliance to industry and government can readily be produced, but comparable data demonstrating the value of a just society or tracking the impact of vigorous enforcement on public attitudes and behavior over time is hard to define, let alone to collect.

NCD supports the goal of extending accountability to as many programs and sectors as possible. While NCD believes that the costs of compliance with all laws should be minimized, NCD also strongly believes that emphasis on the dollar costs of compliance to government and business is premature, unless accompanied by reciprocal attempts to ascertain the costs of noncompliance for individuals and for society as a whole.

Cross-Agency Coordination

In light of the concerns about program accountability noted before, it is gratifying to note that President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative (NFI) recognizes the interconnection of programs and subjects.

In 2004, NCD published its Livable Communities report www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2004/. This report vividly showed how a variety of programs must work together efficiently in order to achieve a high quality of life for those they intended to benefit. As NCD’s work and common experience make clear, it is no longer possible to look at housing in isolation from transportation, at employment separately from health care, or at income supports in old age apart from long-term services and non-cash supports. The challenge is to shape this growing awareness into processes that will fulfill the promise of coordinated planning and programming.

NCD does not underestimate the difficulties associated with such efforts. Throughout this report, readers will encounter these difficulties in illustrations of inconsistency or even conflict among programs, and in instances where the recognition of the need for coordination was sincere but achievement of the goal was largely lacking. Broadly speaking, as these examples show, the methods for implementing this next vital step in effective planning and budgeting are yet to be devised or put in place.

News Release: NCD #05–501, November 17, 2005; For more information: 202-272-2004 (202-272-2074 TTY); mquigley@ncd.gov