Disability Community Meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder
September 9, 2009
DREDF was present in a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder on September 9. Eight people with disabilities and from leading disability organizations met with the Attorney General to discuss our priorities for the Department of Justice during the Obama Administration. Attorney General Holder was deeply interested in every subject raised and was eager for concrete information about how DOJ could more effectively serve the disability community.
Key issues included the leadership role we hope the Attorney General will take on disability rights, using his bully pulpit to frame our issues as civil rights and justice matters, rather than as personal struggles or medical obstacles. High on our list was the need to ensure a consistent position between the DOJís civil rights division and civil division. For example, the civil division is representing SSA in a class action brought by DREDF on behalf of 3,000,000 blind and visually impaired beneficiaries who receive critical benefit information in standard print.† DOJís defense of SSAís refusal to provide alternative formats is contrary to long-standing interpretations of disability civil rights laws by the civil rights division.
Also high on the disability agenda is stronger enforcement of the ADA and other laws protecting people with disabilities, including publishing a final updated DOJ ADA regulation. ADAPT attorney Steve Gold presented a compelling picture of the urgent need for deinstitutionalization, especially from nursing homes, and contrasted the Department of Justiceís robust role in the 70s when it had a thousand cases for school desegregation, in contrast to its failure to file a single Olmstead case. The community also discussed the need for access to technology and communications; the need for a DOJ leadership role against abuse and neglect, use of corporal punishment, seclusion, and restraints for children with disabilities under IDEA; and access to justice in terms of courthouses, bar exams, and law schools, and disability discrimination in criminal justice and law enforcement.
Lastly, the disability community asked DOJ to be a model employer of people with disabilities and to provide the disability community with a highly placed disability community liaison in Attorney General Holderís office.
The Attorney General ended the meeting with a much greater understanding, a long list of key issues to address, and a stated interest to stay in touch with the disability community over the course of the Obama administration.
Attending the meeting were:
Marilyn Golden, DREDF
Steve Gold, ADAPT
Sandy Finucane, Epilepsy Foundation of America
Mark Maurer, National Federation of the Blind
Andy Imparato, American Association of People with Disabilities
Curt Decker, National Disability Rights Network
Jeff Rosen, Snap!VRS