REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTING HIS
COMMITMENT TO AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 19, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
HIGHLIGHTING HIS COMMITMENT TO
AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES
CAPTEC Assistive Technology
U.S. Department of Defense
10:19 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Mr. Secretary,
thank you very much for your hospitality and your leadership. Senator Jeffords,
Congressmen Green, Horn and Langevin, thank you all for coming. It's good to see
you all. Four members of the United States Congress have had a piece, a hand in
the strategy that I'm about to talk about, and I thank them for their
Dinah, thank you very much. It's always a joy to
be around somebody who loves what she's doing. An enthusiastic soul, and someone
who is making people's lives better. And I really appreciate you having me here.
I want to thank David Shu for his work, and I want to thank Rhett Dawson as
well, who is the President of the Information Technology and Industry Council.
My fellow Americans, when the Americans with
Disabilities Act was signed in 1990, our nation made a promise we will no longer
underestimate the abilities of Americans with disabilities. We will treat
Americans with disabilities as people to be respected, rather than problems to
Our nation has made progress in both attitude
and law. Navigating through buildings and buses is far easier than it was just a
decade ago. Now, the growth of new technologies creates new hopes and new
The Internet brings a world of information into
a computer screen, which has enriched the lives of many with disabilities. Yet,
technology creates challenges of its own. The brilliant graphics that add life
to many web pages can make it difficult for a visually impaired person to get
the information he or she needs from a web site. Video technology is turning
many computers into television sets.
Yet, without closed captioning, many see a
picture and no words. And complex keyboard commands make it difficult for a
person with impaired motor skills to tap a computer's full potential. As a
result, computer usage and Internet access for people with disabilities is half
that of people without disabilities.
Researchers here at the Department of Defense
and at other agencies throughout the federal government and in the private
sector are developing solutions to these problems. I have just had the
opportunity to tour the department's assistive technology center, and I saw
technologies that are helping people with disabilities enjoy the full range of
opportunities made possible by the technology boom.
Software allows hearing impaired people to
communicate with their co-workers by computer. Screen reading technology makes
it possible for the visually impaired to access information on a monitor. And
voice recognition software unlocks new computing possibilities for people with
The technologies on display here have helped
more than 20,000 Defense Department employees enjoy greater access to
communications and computing equipment. And they will help countless individuals
in the public and private sectors become fully integrated into the workplace.
I'm committed to bringing that technology to users as quickly as possible. And
I'm committed to ensuring that government web sites become compatible with this
And that is why I'm pleased to announce that
when Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, offered by Jim Jeffords, becomes
effective for all federal agencies next Monday, there will be more opportunities
for people of all abilities to access government information. Section 508
requires federal agencies to make sure that the electronic and information
technology they use is accessible for people with disabilities.
Increasingly, Americans use information
technology to interact with their government. They rely on thousands of
government web pages to download forms, learn about federal programs, find out
where to turn for government assistance, and communicate with elected officials,
such as the President. And because of Section 508, government web sites will be
more accessible for millions of Americans who have disabilities.
Section 508 will also make the federal
government a better employer, as roughly 120,000 federal employees with
disabilities will have greater access to the tools they need to better perform
their jobs. This is one example of the successful public-private partnerships
that are removing barriers to full community participation by Americans with
disabilities. I thank the leaders from the technology industry who are with us
today for your innovation and your ongoing cooperation.
Full implementation of Section 508 is a key
element of an agenda I announced a year ago, and began implementing in February.
It is called The New Freedom Initiative, and its goal is to prepare -- is to
help Americans with disabilities realize their potential and to achieve their
We've asked Congress to increase funding to
bring assistive technologies to market more quickly, to help make them more
affordable for the people who need them, and to speed research in developing new
technologies. We have sought to make it easier for Americans with disabilities
to enter the work force by finding new ways to get people to their jobs, relying
on new technologies to help people work from their home.
We recognize the small businesses and community
groups like churches, synagogues, mosques and civic organizations may have
trouble finding the resources to fully comply with the ADA. So we've asked
Congress to support efforts to help them make their facilities more accessible.
And we understand that new policies will mean little if we don't fully enforce
the ADA. So my administration is doing just that.
While these federal efforts are crucial to
guaranteeing full accessibility for Americans with disabilities, we must also
help them connect with their local communities. So I've signed an executive
order requiring full implementation of the Supreme Court's 1999 Olmstead
Decision. (Applause.) Olmstead and the ADA rightly mandate that individuals with
disabilities who can receive support and treatment in a community setting should
be given a reasonable opportunity to live close to their families and friends
My executive order directs key federal agencies,
like the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Health and Human
Services, Education and Justice and the Social Security Administration to work
with states to implement the Olmstead decision and the ADA. It directs those
agencies to explore how we can increase community-based services for people with
disabilities. And it directs Attorney General Ashcroft and Secretary Thompson to
fully enforce Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and ensure that
no one is unjustly institutionalized. (Applause.)
Secretary Thompson has also made seed money
available to help every state develop a plan for implementing Omlstead. The
Olmstead Executive Order will increase freedom for people with disabilities. It
is compassionate. It is needed. And it is now the federal official policy of my
administration. Americans must have the opportunity to live independently, work
productively and participate fully in community life.
Many Americans achieve this independence through
home ownership; but, too often, the high cost of therapeutic care and assistive
equipment and technologies make the goal of home ownership unattainable for
people with disabilities. That's why I'm optimistic about a pilot program led
through the Congress by Representative Mark Green, and soon to be implemented by
Secretary Mel Martinez at HUD, that will allow many people with disabilities to
buy their own homes. By making the Section 8 low-income rental assistance
program more flexible, the federal government can make home ownership a reality
for more Americans.
The new Section 8 HUD pilot program, the
Olmstead Executive Order, and the full implementation of Section 508 will help
eliminate the barriers that many Americans with disabilities face. The proposals
I sent to Congress will build on our society's commitment to welcome all
Americans as friends and neighbors. When governments, business and individuals
work together, to build a welcoming society, Americans of every ability will
Thank you for what you're doing here at the
Department of Defense. Thank you for your compassion. And may God bless America.
END 10:29 A.M. EDT