by Melanie Brunson

Since the Obama administration assumed the reins of government in late January, the White House has regularly sought input from the disability community. The administration has regularly invited members of the community to meetings which were convened specifically to seek input on a variety of issues of concern to people with disabilities, as well as professionals who provide services to them. I am very pleased to tell the readers of "The Braille Forum" that ACB has been an active part of a number of these gatherings. We have had opportunities to engage White House staff in discussions regarding a wide range of topics including access to health care, accessible telecommunications, funding for audio description, pedestrian safety, and the future of vocational rehabilitation, just to name a few.

I am also pleased to report that the response from White House staffers has been quite positive. Our discussions have been both frank and open. Kareem Dale, special assistant to the president for disability policy, has been particularly interested in obtaining input from ACB on a number of issues. He has met with ACBís president, Mitch Pomerantz, by telephone, with our director of advocacy and governmental affairs, and with me. He has been very engaged during our discussions and has facilitated contacts with other White House officials when appropriate so that we could either give information to them or obtain assistance from them, as the situation warranted.

The White House has also included people who have disabilities in gatherings that have no specific connection to issues related to disability, but at which they want to have participation from individuals representative of a cross-section of the nationís population. For instance, Eric Bridges has been invited to attend a couple of bill-signing ceremonies so far this year.

As a result, we are hopeful that the administration will follow through on its pledge to consider the implications all policy decisions may have for people with disabilities, and not seek to engage our community only when the subject matter specifically relates to disability issues. Thus far, the signs are positive for both the disability community at large, and for ACB in particular. As I write, Eric Bridges is preparing to attend another meeting at the White House for leaders of national disability organizations, which will be held later this week. We will keep you informed as our dialogue with the White House proceeds. We are excited about the opportunities it may present and gratified by the way it has gone thus far.

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