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Obama Administration Reaches Out to Disability Community

January 23, 2009

Michael Morris, chief executive officer of The Burton Blatt Institute: Centers of Innovation on Disability (BBI) and Eve Hill, senior vice president of BBI, represented the organization at a meeting with Kareem Dale and other transition staff leaders for then-President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday, Jan. 13. BBI was one of several disability advocacy organizations invited to meet with the Obama team. The meeting provided the opportunity for BBI to offer policy recommendations to the incoming administration on economic empowerment and accessible affordable housing. The BBI policy team recommended eight critical actions the president and federal agencies could take in the first 100 days.

The recommendations highlighted challenges, opportunities for change and ideas on economic empowerment for adults with disabilities:

  • target IRS community partnership development and volunteer tax preparation assistance (VITA) to reach low-income tax payers with disabilities and enhance their access to, and use of, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), financial education, low- cost affordable financial services and products, and savings and asset-building strategies;
  • establish an interagency federal task force on economic empowerment for working-age adults with disabilities to identify barriers and propose solutions to federal policies that create disincentive to work, savings and asset building;
  • enact a tax-advantaged family savings program to encourage families with children with disabilities to set aside funds for future asset goals;
  • require all economic stimulus-funded development infrastructure projects to adopt universal design standards and affirmatively support employment of persons with disabilities;
  • increase Department of Justice and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) monitoring and enforcement of Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and uniform federal accessibility standards (UFAS) accessibility requirements;
  • expand the FHAA to require accessibility elements in alterations;
  • adopt visitability standards for all HUD- and Fannie Mae-financed or -subsidized single or multifamily housing to expand accessible housing design, development and maintenance; and
  • centralize and expand funding, loan programs and tax credits for homeowner, renter and landlord expenditures to increase accessibility.

"With the current spotlight on economic conditions and the housing market in the United States, there is no better time for targeted government action that leaves no working-age adult with disabilities behind and focuses on a pathway out of poverty and full community integration in affordable and accessible single and multifamily housing," Hill says. "We are heartened by the new administration's demonstration of its willingness to work with the disability community, and we at BBI look forward to helping inform the administration's policymaking efforts."

More information on the BBI meeting with the Obama transition team (PDF)

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