NFPA Journal® online exclusive, July/August 2010
By Allan B. Fraser, CBI, CPCA, Senior Building Code Specialist, NFPA
Disabilities: Where We've Been, Where We Are, Where We're Going (NFPA Journal® cover story, July/August 2010)
I was in Washington, D.C. the last week of July for the National Summit on Disability Policy, sponsored by the National Council on Disability. The event was designed to do two primary things: commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and to hammer out disability policy recommendations for the decade to come.
As with any event of this magnitude and importance, the range of subjects and policies was expansive. I had the opportunity to speak with a number of attendees during the four days of the summit, and we agreed that while perhaps more time could have been spent on ways to move disability policy forward, valuable lessons and ideas were nevertheless uncovered regarding where we are and where we need to go.
The full name of the event offered a lot of appeal for attendees: "National Summit on Disability Policy 2010: ADA 1990-2010 Retrospective and Future Policy Directions - A comprehensive dialogue to shape the national disability agenda." There were more than 475 attendees, representing an incredibly wide range of interests and experiences, not to mention 48 states and the whole spectrum of disabilities. The formal program began on Monday, July 26, with hundreds of attendees applauding the opening ceremony that included the U.S. Marine Color Guard and Band playing the national anthem. In his opening remarks, NCD Chair Jonathan Young said that the dialogue and recommendations of what we all need to do for, and within, the disability community to address inclusiveness in all aspects of society have been on the table since 1996. This summit isn't necessarily about generating new recommendations on what to do, he told the crowd; we know what to do. Now it's time to decide how we get them done.
Other speakers that first day provided overviews on national and international issues such as the "Community Choice Act" that's before Congress, and proposed accessibility regulations for the Internet to assure that both delivery systems and content are accessible to those with all forms of disabilities. An overview of the new healthcare legislation and regulations with respect to people with disabilities was outlined, noting that no child can be denied coverage due to disabilities and must be covered until they are 26 years old. Furthermore, beginning in 2014, no one with a disability will be denied healthcare coverage, even for pre-existing conditions.
The summit had been designed a year ago to have working discussions to generate directions and plans-the "how we get them done" part of Jonathan Young's message-in 10 specific tracks. A consulting firm had been retained by NCD to help handle not only the summit's logistics, but to develop a set of 10 working papers to provide background information for the key topics folded into the three broad pillars of "Living, Learning, and Earning," which was the theme for the event. The 10 working papers addressed civil rights, healthcare, education, employment, housing, transportation, technology, emergency management, statistics and data, and international affairs.
The break-out group discussions were not directly tied to the original ten topic tracks; many of our discussions instead focused on inclusiveness from a number of different perspectives including, but not limited to, community, universal design, and life-long learning. In a broader sense, much of the summit was devoted to recounting past accomplishments rather than charting a way forward. Even so, there were many opportunities to discuss emerging topics and subjects that will impact us in the not-too-distant future-such as the specific inclusion of provisions for people with disabilities in all types of codes and standards related to buildings, including one- and two-family dwellings, as well as in codes and standards governing notification devices and operations-and I came away with a lot of invaluable information and ideas from not only the group discussions but also from the off-line and after-hours discussions I had with many attendees. The many new contacts I made will allow NFPA to further collaborate with other groups on an array of ideas and programs relating to NFPA's codes, standards, public education programs, and products for fire and life safety. As NFPA continues to be aware of, sensitive to, and inclusive of people with disabilities, we must make sure that our codes, standards and programs do not inhibit the "Living, Learning, and Earning" vision of the NCD.
In this Section:
|Challenging Agenda, Challenging Topics
NFPA participates in the National Summit on Disability Policy.