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President Bush's agenda.

President Bush's Agenda

I am writing in response to your editorial "Dear Mr. President" which appeared in the March 1989 issue of EXCEPTIONAL PARENT. You have clearly stated my commitment to those of our citizens with disabilities and appropriately highlighted the progress our country has made in integrating people with disabilities into the mainstream of American life. I wish to take this opportunity to highlight those issues on which my Administration will continue to focus its efforts and to repeat my dedication to those with disabilities.

Today, many individuals with mental and physical disabilities are active participants in typical school, work and community activities. They share in the ordinary routines of learning and living essential for all. Yet, the challenge remains to help all people with disabilities, including those with the most challenging needs, to become integral parts of their communities. To accomplish this goal, we must encourage the belief and understanding that people with disabilities are valuable members of our society who want to contribute to their country and to make choices about their lives.

Educating children with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible is one way to achieve this foundation and it is the mandate of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142). Educational and economic opportunity is the foundation for success that will make all Americans with disabilities vibrant threads in the fabric of their communities. This nation is committed to the notion that schools are for everybody and should be measured by their success in serving all students, including those with disabilities.

America's schools are responsible for preparing students for a productive, satisfying future. For the typical student, success is measured in outcomes such as meaningful work, a healthy, safe place to live, and personal fulfillment, which includes a social network of family and friends. These goals are equally valid for students with disabilities. Education in an integrated environment assists in preparing students to live in integrated communities as adults.

However, our efforts to ensure integration of persons with disabilities into our communities is unfinished as long as Americans who are disabled remain unemployed. They want to be a part of the economic mainstream because work enhances self-esteem, because they want to contribute to their country's productivity and global competitiveness, and because they recognize that their talents are needed. We want to continue the emphasis on preparing special education students for transition from school to employment. Young people with disabilities continue to experience high levels of unemployment despite increased educational opportunities available to them under P.L. 94-142. At the local level, school systems and adult service systems must continue to work with young people, parents, and employers to develop appropriate transition plans and services for each student that support entry into the work world.

To expand employment opportunities for those with severe disabilities, we are encouraged by the success of supported employment programs nationally. Through supported employment, persons with disabilities so severe that they have never been able to work in competitive employment, are placed into real work settings, trained at the job site, and provided longterm support services. Thousands of people, a few years ago considered unemployable because of their disabilities, now hold paying jobs. Research and practice show that supported employment is feasible, desirable, and cost-effective. Companies throughout the country that rely on a diminishing supply of younger workers for their work force are hiring individuals through supported employment in increasing numbers. Programs like these, which put the productive capacity of persons with disabilities into the American economy must be encouraged and continued.

But as important as government and community help is to integrating those with disabilities into American life, the family still remains in the center. People with disabilities need to participate in the same settings as others and support and involvement are especially critical for those with disabilities. Strategies for supporting families should enhance the dignity of individuals with disabilities by recognizing their contributions. Indeed, many of our policies and regulations need to be examined to ensure incentives for family cohesiveness. The key is to support -- not supplant -- the family.

As we move into the 1990s, significant challenges and opportunities face out country in regard to those with disabilities. While some people may have special needs and present special challenges in integrating themselves into the community, they are, first and foremost, human beings with human needs. They need a decent place to live, meaningful activities, relationships with other people--and most of all, respect and dignity. I pledge strong leadership as we move forward to make these mutual goals a reality.
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Title Annotation:A letter from the President; George Bush
Author:Bush, George W.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 1989
Previous Article:Strength through weakness.
Next Article:ABLE: the future of mechanical aids.

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