On May 16, 1997, the House passed HR 1385, the Employment, Training, and Literacy Enhancement Act of 1997 that included reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The bill as passed reauthorized the Rehabilitation Act for three years. As amended, the bill includes a number of modifications to strengthen federal agency compliance with Section 508, and incorporates provisions of Rep. Eshoo’s bill requiring federal agencies to establish procedures to comply with accessibility guidelines to new electronic and information technologies. The amended bill also permits local rehabilitation programs to promote self-employment programs, provides clients with greater choice of services, and promotes efforts to recruit and train vocational rehabilitation professionals. Language in early drafts of the bill that would have deleted the requirement that the Director of the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation (NIDRR) be '... an individual with substantial experience in rehabilitation and in research administration" was deleted from the bill.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee. The Senate expects to have an outline of its bill by the end of June and will hold a hearing in July, It is anticipated that a Senate bill will be introduced after Labor Day. The Senate bill is expected to move with the job training bill. Modeling after the successful passage of IDEA, the Senate hopes to have a consensus bill.
Changes currently being considered by the Senate include: changes in the Definition of Competitive Employment; alternative dispute resolution (similar to that in IDEA); state improvement plan (similar to that in IDEA); revision of the IWRP, (Individual Written Rehabilitation Plan) to include contracts between VR and Clients for services and devices with a report back period or for contracts with additional technical assistance; means testing above a certain level; presumptive eligibility; new methods of reporting outcomes and data; and best practices studies on eligibility determination, client satisfaction, transition and choice. The Senate is looking to create new language that would help more people find and keep employment including distance learning, home businesses/self-employment.
States must file applications to the federal government by June 30, 1997, in order to participate in the new "Community-Based Family Resource and Support Grant Program" (CBFRS). This law was revised last year to "support State efforts to develop, operate, expand and enhance a network of community-based, prevention focused, family resource and support programs." Under the new law:
• States have the authority to use funds to start-up new respite and other
family resource services;
• Community-based family resource programs funded by the state are required to provide or arrange for respite as a core service;
• CBFRS requires that families of children with disabilities, as well as individuals and organizations experienced in working with families of children with disabilities, must be involved in the development and implementation of a state's network of family resource centers.
Contact your State Lead Agency Now State applications are due June 30, 1997. Contact the lead agency for CBFRS in your state now to find out how they plan to spend CBFRS funds on respite services. For information on your state lead agency, talking points and background information, please call Jill Kagan, National Respite Coalition, at (703)256-9578 immediately.
Ask Congress to give more support to CBFRS in FY 1998 Write or call your Representative or Senators in Congress now to request full funding ($66 million) for CBFRS in the FY 1998 Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations bill.
If you would like more information about respite policy, please write to the National Respite Coalition , 4016 Oxford St., Annandale, VA, 22003.
Approximately 600 disabled women and their allies from at least 80 countries have spent June 15-20 in Bethesda, MD exchanging practical advice about how to improve their lives and employment prospects. Main presentations featured experts from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and North and Latin America—including: a disabled member of Parliament from South Africa, disabled physicians from Russia, Nicaragua and the US, and disabled television producer for the BBC. Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala also delivered keynote addresses about what leadership means. Patty Smith, NPND Executive Director, said of the forum, “I wish every parent in America who has a daughter with a disability, could have witnessed the phenomenal progress this forum represents for women who are disabled.”