Edward Kennedy (1932–2009)

August 26, 2009

This is not a political blog. This is a blog about how the design of things intersects with our social structures to enhance or obstruct the participation of people with disabilities in society.

I suppose the fact that I think that social structures are things that can themselves be designed and engineered is a political bias that cannot be separated from my blogging, but this place isn’t meant to be about politics ostensibly.

With that, let me talk about the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Here is a partial list of legislation that Sen Kennedy fought for (from the blog of Robert Rummel-Hudson):

1964: Head Start
— Provided meals and early education to pre-school children through the Employee Opportunity Act.We know now how important early foundations are to success later. When we find out there is a problem in kindergarten or first grade it is already late. Preschool intervention is a powerful, powerful tool to facilitate the learning and participation of children with all sorts of disadvantages.

1971: Federal Cancer Research Program
— Quadrupled the amount of money spent by the federal government to fight cancer.

1972: Title IX
— Demanded equal funding for men’s and women’s athletics on college campuses.

1975: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
— Guaranteed free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities.I don’t even know where to begin with this one.

1978: Civil Rights Commission Act Amendments
— Expanded the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission to protect people from discrimination on the basis of disability.

1984: Improved Access to Polling Stations
— Required polling stations to provide physical accessibility for physically disabled and elderly people on federal election days. I blogged about this already.

1986: Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act
— Allowed disabled workers to receive SSI benefits and Medicaid coverage.

1988: Fair Housing Act Amendments
— Prohibited discrimination towards people with disabilities in the sale or rental of housing.

1989: National Military Child Care Act
— Established the Department of Defense child care system.

1990: Americans with Disabilities Act
— Prohibited discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability in job application procedures, hiring or discharge, compensation, advancement and training.Like IDEA, it is hard to imagine our society today without this. While there is still room for improvement, the U.S. is one of the best places in the world to be an individual with a disability because of the way we’ve made inclusion in society a civil rights issue and fought for it that way.

1990: Ryan White CARE Act
— Provided assistance to states to develop effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs, aimed particularly at early diagnosis and home care.

1993: National and Community Service Trust Act
— Created AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service to help expand volunteerism and education grants for students who choose to volunteer for service after college.

1993: Student Loans
— Allowed students to borrow money for college directly from the federal government.

1994: Family and Medical Leave Act
— Provided up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family emergencies or after the birth of infants.

1994: Crime Act
— Secured funding for 100,000 new police officers, imposed new penalties for crimes involving gangs and firearms and authorized the Police Corps, a program to award college scholarships to students in return for a commitment to serve as police officers.

1996: Kennedy-Kassebaum Act
— Enabled employees to keep health insurance after leaving their job and prohibited insurance companies from refusing to renew coverage on the basis of preexisting medical conditions.

1996: Mental Health Parity Bill
— Eliminated limits on mental health coverage that differ from other covered illnesses.

1997: State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
— Supported state efforts to provide health insurance to uninsured children in low-income families.

2000: Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act
— Improved data systems and research on the extent and severity of minority health problems, and authorized significant resources to help enhance the delivery of health care to minorities.

2001: No Child Left Behind Act
— Required more rigorous testing of public school students and permitted parents to transfer their children from low-performing to higher-performing schools. while the implementation is flawed, the intent of NCLB is to standardize education across all levels of society.

2006: Family Opportunity Act
— Provided states the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs and allowed low- and middle-income families with disabled children the ability to purchase coverage under the Medicaid program. Hopefully, such programs as this will be made unnecessary by a larger healthcare reform structure. This is an important benchmark for the goals of the reform programs, however.

Thanks, Ted. We owe you big time.

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