On July 14, leaders of President Barack Obama’s disability policy team held a virtual town hall meeting with the community. The one-hour meeting was streamed live at www.disability.gov and archived for viewing on the website.
The advisors who answered community questions were Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy and Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Jeffrey Crowley, Senior Advisor on Disability Policy and Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy at the White House; and Rebecca Cokley, Director of Priority Placement for Public Engagement at the White House Presidential Personnel Office.
Questions were accepted via the website prior to and during the meeting. One thousand inquiries were received and a handful were answered. The topics that were covered included Medicaid and Medicare, autism prevention, the accessibility of digital resources, employment and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
One person asked what the administration is doing to address high rates of autism. “A big focus across the federal government is to diagnose children earlier,” Crowley answered. On average children are diagnosed at the age of four, Crowley said, but the administration aims to bring that down to 14 months of age.
Dale also pointed out that President Obama supports the renewal of the Combating Autism Act of 2006, which authorizes legislative funds for mental health disorders in the autism spectrum.
The advisors were questioned about employment and internship opportunities at the White House and elsewhere and Cokley suggested that community members submit their resumes at www.whitehouse.gov, which she uses 15 times a day in staffing activities and contains 200,000 resumes. Cokley pointed out that an advocacy background is not required and people with disabilities are needed in all areas. “We need scientists. We need doctors,” she said.
Dale said the federal government is striving to be a model employer in its hiring of people with disabilities. “This is not an easy problem,” he said about the challenge of diversifying the nation’s workforce to include people with disabilities. “If it was an easy problem it would have been fixed a long time ago.”
On the topic of the CRPD, Dale said the President signed the convention within six months of taking office and that work is in progress to complete the documents needed to present it to the current Congress.
Asked about plans for Medicaid, Dale said the President “opposes turning Medicaid into a giant block grant program to give tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires and corporate jet owners,” and is striving to find a balanced solution between both political parties.
Cokley answered a question about whether White House internships could lead more directly to jobs and said the White House Presidential Personnel Office is currently redesigning the program to determine “how they can turn these programs into pipelines to employment within the federal government.”
Disability.gov is a federal website aimed at serving the community with interactive resources, including webcasts.
This article was published in the August 2011 issue of Able News.