Celebrating NOD’s Chairman Tom Ridge on the 31st Anniversary of the ADA

Pres. George HW Bush smiling while shaking hands with Gov. Tom Ridge

Six years ago NOD Chairman and former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge sat with President George H.W. Bush to discuss the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the White House 25 years prior. The conversation was deep and meaningful, and President Bush remarked that it was one of his “proudest accomplishments”.

Today, as we celebrate the 31st anniversary of the ADA, we also celebrate the strength and resilience of our chairman, who as a congressman voted for the passage of the ADA and has dedicated his life to promoting the ADA’s principles of ensuring that every American has a right and an opportunity to participate in our economic progress.

We trust that Gov. Ridge is maintaining the values of optimism, courage in the face of adversity, and generosity of spirit that he taught us at NOD so well, as he continues his recovery from a stroke. All of us across the disability community are thinking of him and wishing him well.

Then Congressman Tom Ridge on stage with Pres. Bush during his term

Gov. Tom Ridge Upgraded To Stable Condition

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tom Ridge, the 43rd governor of Pennsylvania and first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, has been upgraded from critical to stable condition at a hospital in the Washington, D.C. area after having suffered a stroke June 16.

Gov. Ridge, 75, suffered a stroke at his residence in Bethesda, MD last Wednesday. He was conscious when he arrived at the emergency department and later underwent a successful procedure to remove a blood clot.

Former Pennsylvania First Lady Michele Ridge said last week the family is hopeful for a full recovery while recognizing Gov. Ridge “will have a long road ahead, no doubt. But we take comfort and strength knowing what a determined fighter Tom is and that he has come back strong from health challenges in the past.”

Further updates will be provided as events warrant.


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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Former Pennsylvania First Lady Michele Ridge today shared the following statement regarding the health status of her husband, Tom Ridge, the nation’s first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and 43rd Governor of Pennsylvania:

“Tom suffered a stroke early on Wednesday. His excellent medical team continues to monitor and evaluate his status. We are hopeful for a full recovery while recognizing he will have a long road ahead, no doubt. But we take comfort and strength from knowing what a determined fighter Tom is and that he has come back strong from health challenges in the past.

“Our family has been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of all those who have reached out – from across the country and around the world – to send prayers, share encouraging words and offer assistance. It is comforting and means a great deal to all of us. Please keep your prayers coming.

“I’d like to thank the emergency medical services team who took such good care of Tom getting him to the hospital and to the nurses, doctors and staff who are working with compassion and care to help Tom in the early stages of his recovery.”

As of 4pm ET today, Gov. Ridge’s official status remains critical, but stable at a hospital in the Washington, D.C. area. Further updates will be provided as warranted.


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Gov. Ridge + Judy Heumann: A Civil Rights Win for People with Disabilities to Land a Job

Headshot of Tom Ridge and Judy HeumannHere’s truly something to celebrate: Dedicated funding to support people with disabilities who want to get back to work.

Judith Heumann and Tom Ridge, Opinion contributors 
Published 6:00 AM ET, April 14, 2021 | USA Today

A year after the pandemic began, people with disabilities finally can obtain the tools and assistance they need to earn a living and stay independent.

The American Rescue Plan, recently passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, allocates $12.7 billion for what’s known as home and community-based services, or HCBS, through 2021. This is truly something to celebrate — finally dedicated funding to support people with disabilities who want to get back to work.

HCBS is an important source to keep people with disabilities at home, in their communities and out of costly nursing homes or group living setting where we now know COVID-19 thrives. And it provides a critical lifeline to employment.

Many people with disabilities have said for years that they could work if they were given the needed accommodations. Now that conversation, which largely went unaddressed, is a reality.

For example, HCBS pays for internet and assistive technology, allowing people with disabilities to work from home. It provides transportation upgrades, including adaptions to vehicles, so they can drive to work. It pays for job coaches who accompany people with more significant disabilities to their jobs to ensure they are able to fulfill their responsibilities.

And, critically important, it funds personal care attendants who help with bathing and dressing. They also cook meals, can do light housekeeping, and otherwise get their client set up for the day.

People can’t work if they can’t get out of bed. Home aides give those with disabilities a way to be productive, live independently and earn a living. This is not only important because we all want and need a purpose to our lives, but because it helps our nation’s economy, especially now.

People with disabilities should be sought-after employees. They understand how to work through challenges because they face adversity every single day. Ask anyone with a disability and they will tell you this creates an incredible motivation.

Instead, they are always the last hired and the first fired when workforces constrict, and COVID has exacerbated this problem. More than 1 million people with disabilities have lost their jobs during the pandemic. 

HCBS funding can narrow the gap between people with and without disabilities in the workforce. It not only levels the playing field, it also returns money to the federal government through employee taxes. It is one of the most cost-effective investments our nation can make as the economy recovers.

While we see HCBS funding as a great win, more needs to happen to provide equity for people with disabilities. Some states took much too long to establish timetables on when people with disabilities could access vaccines, and they continue to worry about being on the losing end of health care rationing. Both issues are deadly serious for people with disabilities and must be addressed.

COVID or not, an increase in HCBS funding is long overdue and should go beyond the one-year limit included in the American Rescue Plan. This is a lifechanging program for people with disabilities who are tired of being left behind.

Judith Heumann is a disability rights activist. Tom Ridge was the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security and chairman of the National Organization on Disability

How Remote Work Changed Our Lives — and Our Health

Mixed up work schedule, missing out on workouts and feeling like it’s all running together? Yeah, you’re not alone.

By Leslie Nemo | April 3, 2021 5:00 PM

Even if people wanted to work entirely from home before the pandemic began, their year of telecommuting probably didn’t start the way they had envisioned it — stripped of child care while avoiding contact with people outside their bubble, all in the effort to dodge a novel coronavirus.

Welcome or not, the remote workforce had to adjust, maybe watch their physical and mental health change in the process, and possibly find themselves in scenarios they would like to keep going long after their office buildings officially reopen.

New Virus, New Schedule

From May to June of 2020, a team of University of California, Los Angeles researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 newly-remote employees about how their days and habits had changed. One of the biggest modifications workers reported dealt with when they sat down to work: Nearly 75 percent of those surveyed had shifted their work hours, while 37 percent had rearranged their schedule to accommodate others in their home. Who people worked alongside changed, too: Nearly half said other people were in their workspace at the same time.

For some employees, a chance to rearrange work schedules and work from home is exactly what they wanted. Disability rights advocates have long been pushing for employees with disabilities to have the freedom to telecommute if that’s what they need. The pandemic has made that scenario a reality for everyone, and is particularly valuable to workers whose disabilities mean they are also more vulnerable to getting COVID-19 and need to socially distance. Though it’s painful to see that remote work was widely acceptable only once people outside the disability community wanted it, “it’s nice to realize that it’s working fine and should have been implemented decades ago,” says Charles Catherine, the associate director at the National Organization on Disability, a nonprofit that advocates for employment of people with disabilities.

Default work from home and remote gatherings have meant that employees who can’t drive have been able to go without time-consuming and expensive alternative transportation options to the office. For Nicole LeBlanc, advisory group coordinator for the National Center on Advancing Person-Centered Practices and Systems and a disability rights activist, perpetual work from home has meant no longer scheduling and paying for a 6 a.m. pick up in time for a 9 a.m. drop off at her office, a commute that takes people in their own cars 40 minutes. “Spending half your paycheck on transit doesn’t make sense,” she says. “Now that it’s virtual, I don’t have that stress.” Employees with disabilities who regularly see doctors now might be in an office culture where there’s less focus on when they have to be in the building and more emphasis on getting tasks done, leaving them the freedom to schedule work around appointments.

Flexibility in someone’s daily work hours accommodates other demands in their life, and some people cope better with a constant back and forth between responsibilities than others. Clear boundaries between work and home help some people create order in their lives, says Tammy Allen, an industrial-organizational psychologist at the University of South Florida. Transitions between the different phases, like when a parent is getting ready for work in the morning but also preparing kids for a day of school, can create conflict and stress. The more moments of overlap, the more anxiety. So instead of undertaking a couple of challenging periods in a day, people working from home during the pandemic might constantly ping-pong between responsibilities, crossing boundaries — and feeling stressed — more often. Or, if they’re trying to parent throughout work, the day could be one big overlap.

When Allen and her team surveyed people about their work-life balance when first made to work from home, they expected the boundary-lovers to have the hardest time keeping a good mix of work, leisure and family time in their new routines. They were surprised to learn that wasn’t the case. Instead, participants who liked segmentation weren’t any worse off than others who liked more overlap in their day. Allen and her team think that maybe employees had developed coping skills in the pre-COVID era that they were able to carry home with them, or learned new tactics quickly out of a desire to keep the boundaries. For example, “they shut off that computer and they put it away at 5 o’clock,” Allen says, or learn to detach for a while. “Having some period of time where you let work go is beneficial for an individual’s health and well being.”

Where Stress and Parenting Collide

Being able to separate home life from work life can be helpful, as can compartmentalizing the struggles of raising kids. Research has shown that parent and kid stress during the pandemic go hand in hand. In one study, for example, adults who said they were coping with moderate or severe anxiety during the pandemic were more likely to report that their kids had higher anxiety, too. At-home schooling threw another complication into the dynamic. The less capable a parent felt of helping their kid through home school, the more likely that parent was to meet qualifications of moderate or severe depression.

The tight connections between parent and kid well-being made Christine Limbers, a psychologist at Baylor University, wonder what exercise, a well-known stress reliever, could do for mothers during the pandemic. Limbers and her colleagues surveyed moms working from home in the spring of 2020 — when a vast majority of respondents said their kids’ daycare was closed and that they did a majority of the parental work. Moms who regularly fit moderately intense activity into their schedules, they found, were less likely to feel like parenting stress was interfering with the rest of their life.

Of course, multitasking work and childrearing from home during the pandemic can leave families — and moms — without the time for a run or yoga class. Surveys have found that on average, people working from home during the pandemic are exercising less than before, and that even before the global health crisis, working moms often feel guilty for taking time to squeeze in a workout, Limbers says. But her research pointed out that mothers taking time to address their needs could improve every relationship in a household. “This has implications for the whole family,” she says, “and not just the individual who’s engaging in exercise.”

Ideally, the 2020 pivot to work-from-home means remote work will extend beyond the pandemic. Catherine thinks that knowing remote work is possible might encourage more companies to hire people with disabilities — in 2020, the unemployment rate for those with disabilities was 12.6 percent but 7.9 percent for those without disabilities. If any jobs stay entirely remote, some people might have the opportunity to choose not to disclose their disability and relieve themselves of facing workplace or hiring discrimination altogether.

Generally, the employees that Allen surveys want a hybrid office and home model in the future. “People can, perhaps, quickly develop skills or try out a new situation, and that changes their preference,” she says. And if the goal is to have people working in set-ups that fit them best, then maybe remote work will stick around post-pandemic, especially if it comes with the freedom to see friends.

This article was originally published on on discovermagazine.com 

VIDEO: Breaking Down COVID Barriers for People with Disabilities

March 21, 2021 (New York, NY) – Employment has been a chronic issue for the disabled in New York. Only 35% of disabled people were employed pre-pandemic.

Since COVID hit, it is estimated that half have lost their jobs, and more have had their hours cut.  30% of the city’s disabled live in poverty.

Carol Glazer is the President of the National Organization on Disabilities, a group that advocates for the working disabled. She joined In Focus to talk about the reasons why unemployment has hit this community so hard: they often work in low-paying, low-skilled jobs and are, as she says, the last to be hired and the first to be let go in difficult financial times.

She also spoke to the discrimination that often stands in the way of the disabled and jobs, and why the pandemic must show employers that working remotely, something advocates for the disabled have been asking for in order to bring more of them into the workforce, is actually possible for the long term.

Originally published by Spectrum NY1.

Statement on Violence against Asian Americans from NOD’s Chairman Gov. Ridge and President Carol Glazer

March 26, 2021 – We don’t yet know the Atlanta shooter’s full motivation, but recent events make it hard not to suspect this was yet another brutal racial attack against Asian-Americans. Either way, this community has been targeted repeatedly in recent months.

There are reports of older Asian-Americans now seeking out pepper spray and other self-defense items because they’re scared to death to leave their own homes. It’s a horrible situation.

These repugnant attacks against Asian-Americans are un-American, just as the Japanese-American internment camps were un-American during World War II.

Most Americans recognize and greatly appreciate the contributions made by all immigrants. After all, so many of us had parents or grandparents who sought a new home here and who have contributed greatly to our nation’s successes.

When you are fortunate to receive your COVID-19 vaccine, consider the immense contributions made by immigrant scientists who are helping to stem the tide of this raging pandemic. Think of the people in your life – family, friends, and co-workers alike who descended from a land other than ours.

And consider this when you watch the Summer Olympics, should they be played in Japan this year. If there is an opening ceremony, watch when the athletes all march in. Tell us which country most resembles the United Nations. It will undoubtedly be the United States. It always is. Our athletes are more culturally diverse than anywhere in the world. We are a proud nation of immigrants.

We do ourselves a disservice when we equivocate – when we do anything less than condemn racially based violence in the strongest terms possible. All of us must be unyielding when it comes to racism. It is the most American thing we can do.

– Gov. Tom Ridge, NOD Chairman; Carol Glazer, NOD President

Tom Ridge: It’s time to end subminimum wage for workers with disabilities

There is no excuse for treating an entire class of American workers differently from others based solely on the characteristic of disability.

Tom Ridge, Opinion contributor

Among the millions of Americans who watched President Joe Biden’s Super Bowl interview on CBS were families touched by disability. One in five Americans has a disability, so it’s not an insignificant number.

I have to believe many of those families listened with great interest to the president’s comments when it came to the federal minimum wage — and for reasons you might not expect.

President Biden made news when he told Norah O’Donnell that he did not think his plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour is likely to happen as part of his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package. It’s mainly due to a procedural issue now being debated in Congress.

Let’s set that procedural debate aside, because for families who live with disability, the focus isn’t so much on raising the minimum wage, but rather achieving a living wage at all.

As part of his American Rescue Plan, Biden has proposed not only increasing the minimum wage but doing away with a nearly century-old law that allows employers to pay individuals with disabilities far less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

There is no excuse for treating an entire class of American workers differently from others based solely on the characteristic of disability, yet that is exactly what current law allows.

The National Organization on Disability has joined with many of the largest and most effective disability organizations in America in opposing subminimum wages for workers with disabilities. We applaud Biden for his commitment to eliminating the subminimum wage, and we look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to get it done. We cannot allow it to become a casualty of negotiations in the House and Senate.

When I testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission on this issue in 2019, I explained that the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 unequivocally told the world that discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex or national orientation would not be tolerated in America. The Americans with Disabilities Act expanded the Civil Rights Act’s powerful and historic protections to include people with disabilities. All Americans should have the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

The phase out of what is known as section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sanctions paying individuals with disabilities less than minimum wage, is no less than another critical civil rights issue. It is inconsistent with the fairness and equal opportunity guaranteed to every citizen in the United States under existing legislation.

Some people working under 14(c) certificates earn mere pennies per hour. This system tells Americans with disabilities and their families that they are not worth the same as other Americans, that society values them and their labor less.

In 1938, when the FLSA legislation was passed, it was assumed that a worker with a disability was less productive than a non-disabled worker. In retrospect, it was a flawed assumption. We want to be fair to the intent of the original legislation, which was to provide individuals with disabilities an opportunity to enter the workforce.

Nearly a century later, however, the law still contains Section 14(c). Now we know that workers with disabilities, given equal opportunity and appropriate tools or technologies, can perform as well as their non-disabled counterparts. This has been reaffirmed in the past year with so many of us working successfully from home, something people with disabilities have argued they could have been doing all along.

It is long past time to take this fair, commonsense step in the march to freedom for Americans with disabilities. By ensuring that the elimination of the sub-minimum wage remains part of his American Rescue Plan, President Biden can send a powerful message that all Americans, including those with disabilities, must have a chance to have the financial freedom and security we all desire.

Tom Ridge was the first U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and 43rd governor of Pennsylvania. He is chairman of the National Organization on Disability.

Read at USA Today

NOD Policy Update: Priorities of the Biden Administration, Executive Orders, Appointees and Nominations

Priorities of the Biden Administration

President Biden’s first priority is passing a COVID-19 response package. He released an American Recovery Plan, which included the below provisions related to individuals with disabilities.

  • Calls on Congress phase-out the sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
  • Asks for funding for states to deploy strike teams to long-term care facilities experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Calls on Congress to expand eligibility of new economic stimulus payments to adult dependents who have been left out of previous rounds of relief and all mixed status households
  • Suggests creation of grants to more than 1 million of the hardest hit small businesses.

Congress is currently working on negotiating another COVID-19 package based on the provisions outlined in President Biden’s COVID-19 plan. Among his other priorities, President Biden also released a disability platform during his campaign. He is working to ensure that this platform is executed throughout his time in office.

Executive Orders

President Biden has recently announced a number of Executive Orders. Of note, he announced “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government,” which calls on all executive agencies to advance equity for all, including people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.

Biden Appointees and Nominations

President Biden continues to name staff and Administration officials. He recently named former EEOC Chair Jenny Yang as director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at DOL. Alison Barkoff, will be acting Commissioner of ACL. Once ACL has named the permanent position, Alison will be the Deputy Director of ACL. Other ACL appointees can be found here.

NCD announces new Chairman

The National Council on Disability (NCD) – an independent, nonpartisan federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policy – announced Andrés J. Gallegos, of Chicago, Illinois, as its new Chairman. Previous Chairman Neil Romano remains on the Council as a member. Before being designated as Chairman by President Biden, Mr. Gallegos was originally appointed to NCD in February 2018 by then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Also announced was James Rodriguez as NCD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Acting Assistant Secretary, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service. Prior to his selection, Mr. Rodriguez served in various leadership roles including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Office of Warrior Care Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense. In this role, Mr. Rodriguez served as the principal advisor on the coordination of recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration for wounded, ill, and injured Service members across the military departments.

Mr. Rodriguez also served as the Director for Veteran and Wounded Warrior programs at BAE Systems. In that capacity, he acted as the Corporate Liaison for the White House Joining Forces initiative, to senior military leaders, government officials, and nonprofit organizations, increasing the footprint of our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured across all spectrums.

Many doctors have negative perceptions of patients with disabilities — and that impacts quality of care, study finds

By Lauren Kent, CNN | Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT) February 4, 2021

 (CNN)More than 82% of American doctors say they believe patients with significant disabilities have a worse quality of life than people who don’t have disabilities, according to a new study. Those negative perceptions can have big impacts on the quality of care patients with disabilities receive.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital found that negative perceptions of patients with disabilities are widespread among physicians — to a degree they say is “disturbing.”

Just 56.5% of doctors strongly agreed that they welcomed patients with disabilities into their practices, and only 40.7% of doctors surveyed reported feeling very confident about their ability to provide the same quality of care to patients with disabilities, according to the study published in the journal Health Affairs.

“You would think that doctors should be very confident in their ability to provide equal quality care to all the patients that they agree to see, so that’s a troubling finding,” said lead study author Dr. Lisa Iezzoni, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Assumptions lead to worse care

Negative physician attitudes lead to health disparities and dangerous implications for the more than 61 million Americans who have disabilities, Iezzoni said.

For instance, many physicians assume that patients with disabilities are not sexually active, and therefore do not provide them with information about contraception, sexually transmitted infections or testing for cancers associated with sexual activity.

Just 56.5% of doctors strongly agreed that they welcomed patients with disabilities into their practices, according to a new study.

Many surgeons also presume women with disabilities who are diagnosed with breast cancer prefer mastectomies to breast-conserving surgery, under the false assumption that these patients don’t care about their physical appearance, the researchers wrote.

If physicians assume a patient has a poor quality of life, then they are also less likely to talk to them about quitting smoking or adopting other healthy lifestyle habits, Iezzoni said.

It can impact Covid care

The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for improvements and “has exposed long-standing aspects of US health care that severely disadvantage people with disability,” according to the researchers.

The impacts of doctor perceptions on Covid-19 care have “certainly been the concern among people in the disability community,” Iezzoni said.

“This worry prompted the DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) Office (for Civil) Rights last March to issue a directive saying that Covid treatment decisions could not be based on presumptions about quality of life.”

Doctors need to recognize their biases

The first step is for doctors to recognize that they have biases.

“I think that if physicians simply recognize they may have these biases, they need to just ask what their patients’ preferences are and what their patients’ views are — and not make assumptions,” said Iezzoni, who considers herself part of the disability community as a wheelchair user. “Virtually everybody I know with a disability thinks that their doctors just don’t understand what their lives are like.”

That sentiment is echoed by disability advocates, who say that many people — doctors included — have lots of fears, stereotypes and misconceptions about the lives of those with disabilities.

“I think it’s been an out of sight, out of mind situation,” said Carol Glazer, president of the National Organization on Disability. “It’s no different for doctors than it is for anybody else who has limited experience with a certain group of people and doesn’t understand their daily lives, their wants, their needs, and their abilities.”

Although physicians and other health care workers perceive that people with disabilities have an unsatisfying quality of life, that’s a paradox, according to the Massachusetts General Hospital study and Glazer’s group. A majority of those patients — about 54% — self-report having an “excellent or good quality of life,” according to the study.

“Disability does not mean inability,” added Glazer, who was not affiliated with the study. “Disability is a normal part of the human condition. And it’s something any of us can acquire at any time.”

Many people will have a disability

In fact, one out of every five people has a disability and more than 80% of those disabilities are acquired later in life, according to the National Organization on Disability.

The head of Inspire, a company that hosts support groups for more than 2 million patients and caregivers dealing with hundreds of different health conditions, told CNN that many members discuss experiencing skepticism or lack of understanding from medical professionals.

“There’s a lot of concern — patients describe not being believed by their doctor. Or they’re getting a certain look from their doctor because they have a disability or that they’re treated differently,” Inspire CEO Brian Loew said.

Loew said support groups can be incredibly useful for helping patients feel like they are not alone, as well as for practical things like getting advice about how to talk to doctors or making a game plan to get the most out of rushed medical appointments.

“It’s really upsetting reading how much patients suffer from some interactions with their doctors,” Loew said. “And I’m starting to feel that those (interactions) are maybe as important as treating the disease or disability itself.”

The Massachusetts General Hospital study also found that medical school curricula generally don’t include disability topics. The researchers call for all levels of medical education to include more training about disability, including disability cultural competence and etiquette.

“All physicians and health care providers can expect to see increasing volumes of patients with disability,” wrote the researchers, noting that the number of Americans with a disability is growing. “Why should people with disability, unlike other patients, be compelled to justify to their physicians how they value their lives?”

Read on CNN