President Bush announced the New Freedom Initiative on February 1, 2001, as part of a nationwide effort to remove barriers to community living for people with disabilities. Today (based on statistics included in the President's announcement), there are more than 54 million Americans living with a disability, representing a full 20 percent of the U.S. population. Almost half of these individuals have a severe disability affecting their ability to see, hear, walk or perform other basic functions of life. In addition, there are more than 25 million family caregivers and millions more who provide aid and assistance to people with disabilities.
The New Freedom Initiative is a comprehensive plan that represents an important step in working to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to learn and develop skills, engage in productive work, make choices about their daily lives and participate fully in community life. The Initiative's goals are to:
· Increase access to assistive and universally designed technologies;
· Expand educational opportunities;
· Promote homeownership;
· Integrate Americans with disabilities into the workforce;
· Expand transportation options; and
· Promote full access to community life.
A comprehensive document outlining the administration's policy represented by the New Freedom Initiative, along with news related to its implementation may be found at:
As a part of the New Freedom Initiative, the President issued Executive Order 13217, "Community-Based Alternatives for Individuals with Disabilities," on June 19, 2001. The Order called upon the federal government to assist states and localities to swiftly implement the decision of the United States Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C., stating: "The United States is committed to community-based alternatives for individuals with disabilities and recognizes that such services advance the best interests of the United States."
The full text of the Executive Order may be found at:
A fact sheet about the Executive Order may be found at:
Executive Order 13217 directed six federal agencies, including the departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Education, Labor and Housing and Urban Development and the Social Security Administration to "evaluate the policies, programs, statutes and regulations of their respective agencies to determine whether any should be revised or modified to improve the availability of community-based services for qualified individuals with disabilities" and to report back to the President with their findings. The departments of Transportation and Veterans Affairs, the Small Business Administration, and the Office of Personnel Management, though not named in the Executive Order, also joined in the implementation effort.
Together, these agencies formed the Interagency Council on Community Living under the leadership of HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. HHS presented President Bush with Delivering on the Promise: Compilation of Individual Federal Agency Reports of Actions to Eliminate Barriers and Promote Community Integration, a compilation of reports from all participating federal agencies, on March 25, 2002. The full text of this report is available at:
The Olmstead Decision topic discusses many of the resulting actions taken by Federal agencies as a consequence of this report.
A number of Federal agencies and other organizations have established websites where information about their roles and activities related to the New Freedom Initiative may be found.
Additional information and an ongoing progress report from the White House are available at:
The Department of Health and Human Services website is at:
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website is at:
The Department of Labor website is at:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website is at:
The National Organization on Disability maintains an NFI webpage at:
Information about a new website created as part of the President's New Freedom Initiative may be found in the DisabilityInfo.gov topic.
Some of the other activities from the New Freedom Initiative are discussed in The Olmstead Decision topic.
Information about the previous administration's (President Clinton) initiatives for employment of people with disabilities may be found in the Presidential Task Force on the Employment of Adults with Disabilities (PTFEAD) topic.
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