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NAMI Meets with President Obama at White House

NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick joined a group of 12 representatives from the disability community last week for a historic meeting with President Barack Obama.

The group met prior to an East Room ceremony in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The landmark law prohibits discrimination against employees with mental or physical disabilities in employment, education, housing, public transportation and other areas.
President Obama announced the Administration’s commitment to sign and seek Senate ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which encourages countries world-wide to protect people with disabilities from discrimination.

Before the President’s arrival, the disability community representatives spoke with Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis about the group’s priorities for civil rights enforcement at both departments.

Among other things, priorities include:

  • reducing the waiting time for ADA complaints to be resolved,
  • protecting children from the use of seclusion and restraints and
  • applying a government-wide strategy to improve the representation of people with significant disabilities among federal employees.

President Obama acknowledged that employment, education, technology, health care and civil rights policy issues were all relevant during this first listening session.

Disability group representatives shared their personal discrimination stories with the President to underscore the importance of viewing disability issues in terms of civil and human rights. Health care reform also was a major focus of the discussion and the group highlighted the need to end institutional bias in Medicaid.

Going forward, the group plans to meet with members of the Administration’s health reform team to share their input, as they work to make more progress in achieving the goals of Americans with Disabilities Act before its 20th anniversary next year.

"NAMI was proud to be a part of this groundbreaking meeting," said NAMI Executive Director Michael Fitzpatrick. "We look forward to working with the Administration and other disability community groups to meet the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act."