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down to you in writing. But just a couple things I wanted to cover with you.
You know, we had a lot of problems as the bill went through with businesses being concerned about the ADA and the impact on business, and I can understand that. I mean, they did not really know what it meant and what it might cost, especially for small businesses and that kind of thing. It became clear to me, obviously, that a lot of businesses are going to require some technical assistance, some advice, and consultation in complying with ADA.
Let me just ask for the record, what, if any, technical assistance in complying with ADA is the National Council offering or providing to businesses or other entities affected by the Disabilities Act?
Ms. PARRINO. Well, at the moment we will focus on this "ADA Watch." And I think it will assist small business, because we intend to point out some of the ways that people are complying in implementing the law with success. And we think that that will serve as a model to other people who perhaps do not know quite what to do about it or do not know how to implement the law.
Senator HARKIN. I appreciate that because, you know, I am quite familiar with the "Helsinki Watch." When I was in the House I was on the first "Helsinki Watch" commission. And obviously, that was more of a body that looked at those that were not living up to the Helsinki
Ms. PARRINO. That is right.
Senator HARKIN. So it was kind of confrontational. You looked at the "ADA Watch" as perhaps doing some of that, but also in examining, let us say, ways in which businesses have complied, and spreading these out so others would know about it.
Ms. PARRINO. Yes; we have taken the name from these watches, but whereas, as you say, they look at the violations and focus on the violations, we would really like to focus on just the opposite, on the successes taking place.
Senator HARKIN. Let me ask you this. Are businesses contacting you yet at all about how to comply? Are you getting any incoming requests?
Ms. PARRINO. Mr. Gannon will comment on that.
Mr. GANNON. Senator, our office is being called and, as a matter of fact, the Chamber of Commerce in Dayton, OH, in April is having a seminar in which we will be attending. Also, Cornell University, we had 4 days up there where we expressed and learned the concerns of small businesses in the country. So we are doing the best we can at addressing the problem or spreading the word, if you will.
Senator HARKIN. The biggest worry, obviously, is not employment, because we have carved that out, but in the public accommodations section.
Ms. PARRINO. That is right.
Senator HARKIN. This is where small businesses are going to need some help, and I am wondering just who they are going to go to and if you are going to obviously, they have not started yet, because it has not hit yet. But when it hits next year, that is when your volume of incoming fire and incoming mail and calls are really going to increase. Have you anticipated that in your budget request?
Ms. BRIGGS. Yes; we did project an increase in the area of communications to accommodate calls, mailings, et cetera.
Senator HARKIN. I noticed your increase in the communications budget, but there was not much already there to show for that. And that is what this is, anticipating that. I think that is good. You have not been here for the hearings I have had the last couple of years and over the last couple of days and weeks, but I have been focusing on the Centers for Disease Control. They run a primary and secondary disabilities prevention program, and you have been very critical to the development and growth of that program in the primary and then in the secondary aspects of prevention.
You mentioned that in your remarks, and pardon me if I did not quite get it, but I just wondered, what is your overall assessment of how that is working right now? Is it moving ahead well?
Ms. PARRINO. I think it is moving ahead. We have had a good relationship with CDC. It is just that we have a slightly different focus. And maybe their focus is primary prevention because, as somebody said, you use what you have on the shelf because we serve people with disabilities, and that is our focus. We are very concerned about secondary.
Now, we have come to understand each other, I think, compared to when we first went to CDC when Dr. Mason was the director 3 or 4 years ago. We mentioned secondary disability prevention, and it was something that they were not really even considering. So I think we have come a long way with them. It has been a bit of a tug-of-war, because we keep saying we must focus on secondary as well as primary.
It is not that we do not want to focus on primary disability prevention, but very often people with disabilities will die from complications, secondary conditions, not from the primary disability. And so we feel that since there is very little going on in the country and secondary disability prevention is not in the public health system, we would like to see it in the health care system of the United States so that it is something that doctors understand and that health care providers understand, and that it is not difficult for people with disabilities to find services in secondary disability pre
So I think we are making progress with CDC. They will admit that it has been a bumpy road, but I do not think we should give up. I think we have to push on with that.
Senator HARKIN. Good. You answer a lot of my questions here. In fact, I was marking them off here. One was on when you were submitting your proposals you said "shortly" for the reauthorization. What, in another month?
Ms. PARRINO. Well, we had prepared them for this month, but we may continue and we may go on and have another public hearing, depending on what the decision of the Senate and the House is about the reauthorization. But we have some very good information, very good testimony, and we will be recommending some changes.
Senator HARKIN. You also mentioned the need for personal assistance services. Now, you had a hearing last summer on this, right?
Ms. PARRINO. We have had one hearing. We do not have any funding for that, but we feel it is so critical. It is an issue that for the people needing personal assistance, whether they have a physical disability or a hearing impairment or sight impairment, it is so critical that the Americans With Disabilities Act will have no impact on these people if they need an attendant and cannot get
As we have said in some of our speeches, if you cannot get out of your house you do not even have to worry about being discriminated against. We feel this is absolutely critical, and I think it is the financing of personal assistance. I think there are probably a lot of plans out there that would be very good, national plans for personal assistance. But who is going to pay for it?
And because the Council is very concerned, let me just say, we would like to have fewer people going into nursing homes and institutions because they have a need for personal assistance. We think that that should be provided wherever the person wants to live, whether it is at home, whether it is independently. They should have the option for a personal assistant. As so often happens, they have to follow the funding and the funding is in a nursing home or an institution. We find this absolutely unacceptable.
Along with the ADA, it just does not go hand in hand. It is something that we are struggling with, and we would like to hopefully do something about it.
Senator HARKIN. Have you made some policy recommendations in this area?
Ms. PARRINO. We really have not, because we have had one hearing, and we feel that this has to really be looked into more. We need much more information than we have at the moment.
Senator HARKIN. Well, I would encourage you to continue with that, and if you need any assistance from here let us know.
Ms. PARRINO. Thank you.
Senator HARKIN. Because I would like to know what we need to do to help promote that personal service assistance.
Ms. PARRINO. Well, in the present climate I do not think that we are going to necessarily find a lot of new money to finance a national plan; however, there could be a reallocation.
Senator HARKIN. But, Sandy, I have been stressing prevention and wellness and, again, this is an area where you just pointed out if they do not have the personal assistance they are going to wind up in a nursing home, and that is going to cost us a lot more money.
Ms. PARRINO. Well, that is where there could be maybe a reallocation of funding. In other words, we are funding the nursing homes, and it is very easy for a young person to find the support to go into a nursing home. And we would like to see that funding maybe support personal assistance wherever the person wants to live rather than just in nursing homes.
Senator HARKIN. Make some recommendations to us in that regard, OK, and we will take them up with the Finance Committee, too, and see what we can do on that.
You did a study on assistive technology.
Ms. PARRINO. We are doing one right now.
Senator HARKIN. Oh, you are doing it right now?
Ms. PARRINO. Yes.
Senator HARKIN. When will it be done?
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY THE SUBCOMMITTEE
Senator HARKIN. We look forward to that too. Well, listen, I have a lot of other questions on budget items and things like that. Actually, I had one on the increase for the communications, and you touched on that. If I have any budget issues we will just send them down to you in writing.
Ms. PARRINO. That is fine.
Senator HARKIN. If you would report back I would appreciate it. Well, thank you very much. I am glad we were able to work this in today.
MS. PARRINO. Thank you, Senator Harkin.
Senator HARKIN. Thank you, Ms. Parrino.
[The following questions were not asked at the hearing, but were submitted to the Department for response subsequent to the hearing:]
QUESTIONS SUBMITTED BY THE SUBCOMMITTEE
Last year President Bush signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act to extend civil rights protection to people with disabilities and ensure their integration into the social and economic mainstream.
What, if any, technical assistance in complying with ADA is the Council providing to businesses and other entities affected by the Act?
The National Council on Disability is providing a variety of technical assistance to businesses and other entities regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The National Council is responsible for developing overall strategies for the implementation of ADA, along with other federal agencies designated by Section 506 of the Act. As intended by Congress, an important focus of the National Council's work, along with other federal agencies, will be the development of strategies to ensure the performance of technical assistance activities that are coordinated, comprehensive, and effective.
The National Council is planning to conduct an "ADA Watch." The purpose of ADA Watch is to gather and disseminate information about the effectiveness and impact of ADA. ADA Watch will have general oversight over the overall implementation and impact of the Act, both on people with disabilities and with those entities who must comply with the law. ADA Watch will use its information to promote a dialogue between people with disabilities and the business community about creative solutions for compliance with the law.
Are businesses contacting you, or are you seeking them out?
The National Council receives approximately 8 telephone calls per day and 5 to 10 letters per week requesting technical assistance on ADA. National Council staff members answers questions about specific applications of ADA or make referrals to other appropriate federal agencies.
What's the nature of the assistance they're seeking?
Most callers and writers are inquiring about regulatory matters. According to our staff, most calls come from law firms, members of the press, large corporations, state government, small businesses and people with disabilities.
Since the signing of ADA into law, members of the National Council and staff have given enumerable speeches to small business seminars, chambers of commerce, and consumer groups of people with disabilities, either in whole or in part regarding ADA. The National Council continues to be vitally interested in the implementation of and providing technical assistance on ADA.
Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act
When will the Council be submitting to the Congress its proposals for reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973?
As we mentioned in our testimony before the Senate, the National Council has held four days of hearings on the reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. During the most recent meeting of the National Council which took place in Los Angeles in mid-March, the National Council deliberated on recommendations which we received from these hearings. At the present time, the