UNITY, LEADERSHIP and Impact… the unequivocal response from both John D. Kemp and Paul Hearne when asked, “If you had three words to best describe AAPD, what would they be?” Hearne and Kemp are newly elected officers of the new nonprofit organization, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), based in Washington DC.
Unity, leadership and impact are the hopes and convictions of the disability community and are necessary to ensure the future of inclusion promised by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Not since advocacy and passage of the ADA has the community of people with disabilities coalesced to support and voice common issues and needs. However, on July 25, 1995, some 550 individuals, representing America’s 49 million people with disabilities gathered in Washington to help launch a new nonprofit organization, the American Association of People with Disabilities-AAPD. The new organization promises to bring about “the next step in the evolution of the disability rights movement.”
The new organization developed after five key leaders from the disability community (who were instrumental in drafting, advocating for and pas sage of the landmark civil rights law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) met in April of this year to organize what they believe is the next logical step for people with dis abilities creation of a national, non-partisan organization that can and will represent 49 million Americans with disabilities; an organization which will be a positive private sector force to achieve the goal of full inclusion in American society. The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). The AAPD was founded by these five key disability rights activists. and leaders: Justin Dart, former Chair of the President’s Committee. Dr. Sylvia Walker of Howard University, Paul Hearne, President of The Dole Foundation, John D. Kemp, Executive Director of United Cerebral Palsy Associations and I. King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University. “We recognized that beyond national unity for ADA and our civil rights, people with disabilities did not have a venue or vehicle for working together for common goals,” said Paul Hearne, “There was nothing that represented the unified potential of 49 million people with dis abilities.”
As well as recognizing the need for a unified membership organization representing American citizens with disabilities working together for common goals, the five perceived a genuine need for basic benefits such as insurances-life, health, dis ability, still denied and unavailable to most people with disabilities. And the group recognized that the new force to bring about unity, leadership and impact could not, should not, be another government public program. The potential strength to impact the future is an organization conceived, advised and managed by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. It would mean dues-paying member ship and a representational board of directors. Some twenty leaders from around the country were consulted and agreed to serve as the first Board of Directors for the new AAPD. The following were elected to the board: Mike Auberger of ADAPT, Denver, CO: Nancy Bloch of National Association of the Deaf: Judi Chamberlin. Boston University Psychosocial Rehabilitation Center, Boston, MA: Justin Dart, Justice for All; William Demby, businessman and sports figure; Dr. Fred Fay. Boston, MA: Denise Figueroa, NCIL, Buffalo, NY: Lex Frieden, TIDRR. Houston. TX: Ron Hatley of AT&T. NJ: Paul Hearne of The Dole Foundatio, Washington DC: Neil Jacobson, VP. Wells Fargo, San Francisco, CA; L. King Jordan, Pres. Gallaudet Univ.. Washington, DC: Deborah Kaplan, WID, Oakland, CA: John D. Kemp, Executive Director of United Cerebral Palsy Associations, Paul Marchand, The ARC, Washington, DC: Ralph Ness Esq., Washington, DC, Max Starkloff, St. Louis Independent Living Center, MI: Dr. Sylvia Walker, Diversity Programs for Howard Univ., Washington, DC. Jim Weisman, Esq., EPVA, New York, NY: Patrisha Wright, DREDE Washington, DC. The American Association of People with Disabilities AAPD was launched on July 25, 1995, with the formal election of these board members. Key subcommittees of AAPD were developed to focus on three targeted agendas: Membership, Benefits and Operations,
Membership in the organization includes levels of membership options organizational, business groups and individual memberships. The new board set individual membership dues at $5 annually to rein force the affordability for all people with disabilities, their friends and families to join, “If we are talking about an organization that is open to all people with disabilities, we can not forget that 2/3 of us are unemployed and probably cannot afford more,” said board member Judi Chamberlin. “Individual member ship in AAPD must be affordable.” According to founding member Justin Dart, “AAPD gives us the opportunity for harmonious unity and will help create the strong voice needed to overcome thousands of years of attitudinal and physical barriers.”
Following the AAPD board meeting, some 550 leaders from the disability community, business and government gathered to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the launch of the first ever national cross-disability membership organization-AAPD. Participants at the celebration included Senator Robert Dole: Deputy Attorney General Deval Patrick: Tony Coelho, Chair of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities; former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh; key administration officials, including Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services: Congressmen and Senators; business and government leaders and disability leaders.
“My hope is that the AAPD will make full membership in our society,” said founding board member I. King Jordan, President of Gallaudet University. “with every possible opportunity, right, and privilege-a reality for all people with disabilities.”
According to board members, AAPD is the next logical step in the evolution for people with disabilities in America. The organization will provide an effective means to help people with disabilities by leveraging their numbers in the economy. As a unified group, people with disabilities will have a consumer base with economic, political and social influences.
“In my opinion, the AAPD will maximize independence, cooperation and the attainment of maximum potential of people with disabilities. across America,” said Dr. Sylvia Walker, of Howard University. one of AAPD’s founders and member of its board of directors.
“This new private association. AAPD, will serve as a vehicle allowing people with disabilities to unify, to organize. coordinate and govern their lives, not in the con text of government programs or benefits, but in control of their own efforts in the private sector,” stated President Paul Hearne, “As the organization becomes fully operational, AAPD will grow to be the focal point for issues and concerns affecting all people with every disability-a membership association serving the nation’s largest minority group.”
AAPD members will be able to demonstrate leadership both locally and nationally on issues of concern that impact their lives. Members will be kept up-to-date on current issues and strategies for change and impact through the new organization. The new organization (AAPD) will leverage its numbers and, consequently, be able to offer people with disabilities some of the amenities that never before have been available to them-life, health and disability insurance-for example. AAPD has the potential to be the voice of and voice to people with disabilities in America…
“AAPD can provide a unified voice for all people with disabilities that will help influence decision making and media reporting on our issues,” said John D. Kemp. Treasurer of AAPD and Executive Director of UCPA, “Until our voice of unified strength is included in the mix of national and local decision making, the minimal quality of life experienced by many Americans with disabilities will continue.”
People with disabilities have made great strides in the past decade, highlighted in 1990 by the passage of ADA. Need for continued leadership remains strong. Forty-nine million people-one out of every five Americans have a disability. Nearly half the people with disabilities are of an employ able age, yet only one-third are employed and the percentage who say they want to work increased from 66% to 78% in 1994.
The economic effect of unemployment of Americans with dis abilities on our society is substantial. The cost of direct government and private payments to support people with disabilities of employ able age who do not have jobs is estimated to be $232 billion annually. Another $195 billion in earnings and taxes are lost each year because Americans with disabilities are unemployed. By comparison, the annual budget deficit of the United States is approximately $200 billion. “Employing and accommodating people with disabilities in the workplace has tremendous potential to impact our nation’s economy.” said Hearne, “But, it is clear that government alone cannot make the goals of ADA a reality. All people with disabilities need consumer and economic power and a unity of purpose in order to promote the goal of full inclusion in American society.”
AAPD Aims: The organization aims to represent people with all types of disabilities and be a positive private-sector force to achieve the following purposes:
1. To further the productivity, independence, full citizen ship and total integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of society and the natural environment.
2. To foster leadership among people with disabilities.
3. To support the full implementation and enforcement of disability nondiscrimination laws, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
4. To provide information to and from the disability community.
5. To promote service availability in the areas of medical equipment and mobility aids, personal assistance services, insurance and other benefits of membership.
6. To educate the public and government policy makers regarding issues affecting people with disabilities.