At the sixth annual World Congress on Disabilities and Exposition (WCD) www.wcdexpo.com at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the following keynote speakers spoke about their commitment and focus of helping the millions of people with disabilities.
Stephen A. Glassman, is the chairman of the PA Human Relations Commission (PHRC). In his keynote address, which opened the three day WCD conference and exhibition, Glassman mused, “It seems almost inconceivable that our communities and government agencies have been content to function with the terminology and expectations established in the early years of the disabilities rights movement.”
“Over the past 35 years,” Glassman observed, “we have been witness to some remarkable advancements in technology and in our regard for equality and social justice. We have seen these advancements in adaptive devices and the promise of dreams yet unfulfilled. Now, we must reassess how our curiosity for technological advancement could outpace our interest in creating parity for all Americans in the workplace, in accessible housing and commercial property, in public accommodations, and in our educational environments.”
Still, an October article in The Wall Street Journal read in part: “A code of silence has long kept parents of children with disabilities from talking about their kids at work. Driven by growth in their numbers and the cost of raising special needs children, some parents are starting to `come out’ at work. A handful of employers are stepping up to help, with support groups, informational meetings, and insurance benefits. Today the incidence of U.S. children and teenagers with a disabling condition has risen from 2% in 1960 to 7%, according to the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. This reflects an increased survival rate and diagnosis of conditions such as Autism.
Glassman noted how everyone attending the WCD “has heard the call to arms and understands the need to raise the bar to enable all Americans to realize their ultimate potential. That we have an unemployment rate of 70% among persons with disabilities indicates the inadequacy of the systems originally designed to create equity for every individual.”
He concluded by underscoring his message: “[It] is one of urgency to strengthen the deployment of resources to enable everyone to participate fully in every aspect of our society.” He contended this would be accomplished “by strengthening our partnerships with government, corporate America, and our associations in the non-profit sector. By increasing the visibility on these important issues, collectively we will raise the awareness and sensitivity of the public and enhance our expectations and support for all persons living with disabilities, their caregivers, their families, and their communities.”
Kimberly Kendrick, Assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (Region III) in the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, is charged with administering federal fair housing laws and establishing national policies that ensure all Americans have equal access to the housing of their choice. She told the audience “it’s important to keep the pressure on, and even small efforts are worthwhile.”
She noted the Fair Housing Act, as amended in 1988, “prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of disability, race, color, religion, sex, familial status, and national origin. It includes private housing, housing that receives Federal financial assistance, and state and local government housing. Other covered activities include financing, zoning practices, new construction design, and advertising. The Fair Housing Act requires owners of housing facilities to make reasonable exceptions in their policies and operations to afford people with disabilities equal housing opportunities.”
U.S. Rep. John P. “Jack” Murtha, contended he seeks “policies that help people, including a patient’s bill of rights, prescription drug benefits and protecting Medicare, and Social Security.”
Rep. Murtha notes that facing steadily increasing premiums and the “skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs, Americans are continually faced with finding and keeping affordable health care. Millions of [us] are never sure if their health-care coverage will be there when they need it. Today, one in six Americans has no health insurance, millions more are under-insured, and the number of the uninsured has increased by almost 4 million since the start of the Bush Administration. While America has the most advanced health-care system in the world, many of us face increasing costs, difficulties finding care, and hassles from our insurance companies.” He asserted that Democrats believe that “on every issue our nation faces, it is our responsibility to ensure the policies we pursue are consistent with the values we cherish. The Bush Administration’s 2006 budget slashes Medicaid by $60 billion, reduces grants to train doctors at children’s hospitals, and does almost nothing for the nation’s 45 million Americans without health insurance.”
“The mission of the World Congress on Disabilities (WCD) is committed to improving the lives of those with disabilities, their families and caregivers, physicians, and direct support professionals,” said Joseph Valenzano Jr., president, CEO, and publisher for EP Global Communications Inc. and publisher of Exceptional Parent Magazine, a chief supporter of the WCD. “Those direct support professionals include “allied health-care professionals, educators and adapted physical education specialists, and everyone working within the disability community,” he said. The WCD featured an exhibit hall with a vast array of pertinent products and services, an extensive educational program along with special events and activities