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Lurie Institute presents lecture on disability policy

By Dori Cohen

Section: News

October 5, 2012

Aaron Bishop, the Executive Director of the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that advises the U.S. Congress and the president on disability policy, spoke Thursday at the Irving Schneider and Family Building on “Disability Policy Beyond Politics: Building Blocks for a Better Future.”

The lecture was the second in a series of speeches presented by Lurie Institute for Disability Policy, an institute dedicated to “lead research and training initiatives that promote effective, efficient policies to improve the wellbeing of children and adults with disabilities,” according to the institute’s website, called the Annual Distinguished Lectures, and was attended by Heller School faculty members, Brandeis graduate students and representatives from various national and federal agencies.

During the lecture, Bishop, a Wisconsin native, discussed the issue of budget cuts from disability research funds and how critical it is that such cuts are not enacted.

According to Bishop, it is imperative that awareness about the elimination of disability funding be raised. “We have a wonderful opportunity, but the opportunity relies on all of us,” Bishop stated. “We are the ones who can build the future, but what it will take is an effort that likes of which have never been seen before. We have to look at research and figure out how do we take it and turn it into policy.”

Around the time that Senator Ted Kennedy was chairman of the Senate Committee on Health Education, Labor and Pensions, from 2005 to 2009, 50 bills, many regarding disability policy, were sent to the president. Since then, however, only five bills have been presented. This, according to Bishop, is the result of a great divide between the two major political parties. “We need to work together. You can’t do that [draft bills and raise awareness] unless you are working together, in bipartisan fashion. No work is being done on Capitol Hill now.”

“We all have to get together, build a platform, share all of our information, and come up with a position.”

The lecture was very well-received, ending with thunderous applause and a variety of questions from attendees, showing the concern and interest that the audience members had in the subject. “I thought that it was really a wonderful and candid overview of the challenges that we face in the disability community regarding policy,” remarked Amy Weinstock, Director of the Autism Insurance Resource Center at UMass Medical School.

Maria Damiano, who works in healthcare administration and whose daughter is a Brandeis alum, said, “It’s great to see attention being paid to disability policy. I am very impressed. I come to the lectures every year because I have a daughter and brother with disabilities, and so it’s wonderful to see attention being given to such an important, yet usually overlooked, topic.”

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