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Obama's top disability adviser on ADA's 20th anniversary

Kareem Dale
Kareem Dale (Courtesy Of The White House - Courtesy Of The White House)
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I think the top goals don't differ too much from what the president is trying to accomplish for Americans at large. Health care: Eliminating preexisting conditions and caps -- that was huge. We're talking about education reform now; that's critical to people with disabilities. . . . Employment and jobs is obviously a very, very big thing with our economy right now. . . . Our goal is to help level the playing field with disabilities to ensure that everyone has an opportunity.

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How has the private sector done with integrating disabled people into the workforce?

I think advocates would say it's not much different than what I've said: That there's been progress. There are private-sector companies doing great things, whether it's with employment or technology, but we need to do more. The employment rate for disabled people is five percentage points lower than it is for people without disabilities, so we need to do better, just like we need to do better in the government.

And what's the government's employment rate of disabled people?

In the government, just over 5 percent of people have disabilities and less than 1 percent are people with targeted disabilities. (People with targeted disabilities are deaf, blind, mentally retarded or missing extremities, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.)

So how do you keep the issues of disabled Americans at the forefront beyond Monday's anniversary?

I think what we're trying to do is to integrate disability into all of what we do. . . . As an example, when we created our Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport, we included paralympics and people with disabilities in that office so it wasn't something you had to add on afterwards. . . . We seek to include people with disabilities from the beginning, from the ground, so it's fully integrated, and that's really our focus and how we keep it front and center.

-- Interview by Ed O'Keefe

Monday at washingtonpost.com {vbar} Join Andrew J. Imparato, president and chief executive of the American Association of People with Disabilities, for a live discussion of the 20th anniversary of ADA at 12:15 p.m.

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