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A letter to President Clinton.

Congratulations and best wishes as you take on the awesome responsibilities of leadership.

Throughout the Presidential campaign as well as during the transition period, you demonstrated an impressive breadth of knowledge about the complicated issues that face our country. Now you take on the challenge of applying your understanding to the process of change.

In your campaign statement in Exceptional Parent (October 1992), you showed that you were aware of the vast changes that have been taking place in the lives of children and adults with disabilities and their families. At the same time, you made clear your goals to bring the promise of legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act to the reality of everyday community life for all citizens with disabilities -- "My administration's disability policies will be based on three simple creeds: inclusion, not exclusion; independence, not dependence; and empowerment, inclusion and independence means providing education and job training so Americans with disabilities can actively contribute to our country's productivity. It means providing quality, affordable, comprehensive health care that accommodates the special health needs of Americans with disabilities ...

"For too long, education and training for Americans with disabilities has been underfunded and pushed outside of national efforts. I will work to make sure that children with disabilities receive a first-rate education, tailored to their unique needs but provided alongside their nondisabled classmates. My administration will fully fund the Head Start program and other early intervention programs that will assist children with disabilities."

The remarkable advances that have occurred over more than two decades are the results of the efforts of parents of children with disabilities and people with disabilities, as well as dedicated leaders from both political parties. The enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act is the most recent statement regarding the basic tenant of equality of opportunities for all Americans. This concept did not mean much to most children and adults with disabilities until a courageous group of parents with children in state institutions for people with mental retardation took on the state of Pennsylvania more than 20 years ago.

Today, as all of us know too well, opportunities for quality education and quality health care for all children (not just children with disabilities) vary widely from community to community and from state to state. In both health care and education, providing adequate resources when needs are first identified can decrease the need for vast resources in the future. For most children with disabilities, quality health care and quality education are intertwined far more than for most children without disabilities. For many families of children with disabilities, health-care costs have been overwhelming in terms of actual dollars spent. In addition, parents are forced to give up employment opportunities because they are afraid of losing whatever health insurance they already have or the appropriate health or educational services available in one location but not in another. Therefore, thousands and thousands of parents of children with disabilities eagerly await your proposals in both health care and education with the hope that you can reach the goal of "providing quality, affordable, comprehensive health care that accommodates the special health needs of Americans with disabilities."

Just as millions of children and adults have become cognizant of the need to address the health and care of the environment and are making changes in their current lives based on long-term payoffs, you and your administration can educate our citizens so they can learn to appreciate the moral as well as long-term fiscal payoffs involved when all children have quality health care, comprehensive early intervention and quality education. Such a national educational process requires a skilled team of government officials involved in monitoring and facilitating compliance with existing laws at the state and local level related to children and adults with disabilities. We believe that quality health care and quality education programs for children with disabilities have suffered in recent years because the federal government has decreased its efforts to monitor and facilitate compliance.

We are ready to help you and your administration educate our citizens. We invite you and the members of your administration to use these pages to educate thousands of parents and professionals and to illustrate how each citizen can participate in the process of bringing about the kinds of significant improvements in the health and education of children with disabilities that you have so eloquently addressed over the past year. We wish you well.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Klein, Stanley D.; Schleifer, Maxwell J.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Words:735
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