[Hpn] Williams To Bush: Don't You Care?
Thu, 20 Apr 2000 05:45:50 -0400
From: Justice For All Moderator
Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2000 23:52
Subject: Williams To Bush: Don't You Care?
Justice For All
Williams To Bush: Don't You Care?
John Williams, Business Week, JMMAW@aol.com, writes:
An Open Letter to George W. Bush
Criticism of your stands on disability issues is mounting.
But sadly, you won't address it. Don't you care?
Dear Governor Bush,
Five months ago, I approached you, Vice-President Al Gore, former
Democratic Senator Bill Bradley, and
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) to learn where the candidates stood on
issues affecting people with
disabilities. In less than a month, Gore agreed to an interview, and on
Dec. 31, he spent 30 minutes
with me answering questions (see BW Online, 1/5/00, "Q&A with Al Gore:
Using Technology to Connect the
Disabled"). The interview was widely read and widely disseminated on the
Senator John McCain's staff told me, "Ride the Straight Talk Express," so
I did, going to New Hampshire
to ride the bus with the GOP challenger. I will always remember walking
side-by-side down a long school
hallway asking John McCain where he stood on disability issues. He was
candid, forthright, and looked me
straight in the eye. The interview was well received by readers, and
again widely disseminated (see BW
Online, 2/2/00, "McCain: 'We Must Put the Disabled to Work'").
Former Senator Bradley's staff did not have any interest in disability
issues. They said that right up
front. You see how far it got him.
POSTPONED. As for you, Governor, your campaign staff urged me to prepare
for an interview in Austin
during the third week in January. I did that. The interview was postponed
until after the New Hampshire
primary. After New Hampshire, the interview was put on the schedule
again, but postponed until after the
South Carolina primary. After South Carolina, it was postponed until
after Michigan. Then, it was
postponed until your staff could educate you on disability issues.
A date was set and then canceled because you were out raising money.
Another possible date was set, but
the meeting was called off. Yet another interview was canceled because
you were campaigning and raising
money. Seven times, Governor, your staff has scheduled an interview and
then canceled it at the last
moment. Seven times.
Sadly, Governor, last week your staff informed my editor -- after five
months of assuring me and
Business Week Online that an interview would happen -- that there won't
be one after all. No explanation
was given. A spokesman for your staff just said, "Circumstances have
changed." And that was that.
Instead, I was contacted twice by your domestic-policy staff and told
that you were "too busy to talk to
me" but that they would field any questions.
** A movement is under way to register 1 million voters with disabilities
for the 2000 elections **
I find this strange. During the four months I was discussing -- two or
three times a week -- an
opportunity to interview you personally, your staff's interest was quite
high. They were aware that the
interview with Mr. Gore produced more than 1,600 responses (I'm still
getting mail about it). The
interview with Senator McCain produced nearly 600 e-mails and letters. I
forwarded your staff copies of
e-mail I received from people who read these interviews. Some liked what
the Veep said, others said they
were leaning toward McCain. But most said they were eagerly looking
forward to learning where you stand
on these issues and would wait to hear your answers before picking a
OPEN FORUM. As you know, Governor, the disability movement in this
country is growing. And more and more
corporations are taking an interest in hiring the disabled in this tight
labor market. Disability
organizations have a powerful lobbying presence in Washington, D.C., and
in many large,
campaign-battleground states such as California. Just ask a member of
Congress some time about the
disability lobby. A national movement is under way to register 1 million
voters with disabilities for
the 2000 Presidential election.
These groups are generating a lot of criticism about your stand on
disability issues. I alerted your
staff to this situation many times and repeatedly offered my Assistive
Technology column as a forum in
which you could refute any possible misinformation and set the record
Your father, George Bush, the President who signed the Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990, wasn't
too busy to spend more than two hours with me in a Connecticut airport 20
years ago, when he was running
for President. We spent that time talking about a wide range of issues.
He has said that he considers
the ADA to be one of his major accomplishments in the White House, and he
is absolutely correct.
TOO BUSY? Because of his stand, many disabled people voted for him in
1992. You should know that many of
these voters will cast their ballots for Mr. Gore in November because the
Vice-President has told them,
in detail, where he stands on these issues. He has told them in my column
where he stands on expanding
the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA). He has
told them he would invest additional money in the development of
assistive-technology products and
encourage a strong partnership between the public and private sectors in
these areas, so these products
can be more readily accessible and affordable to disabled people. Where
do you stand on these issues,
Governor? Are you really too busy?
Senator McCain made his concerns for improving and strengthening IDEA
part of his campaign speeches in
New Hampshire. Have you addressed disability issues in any of your
Governor, do you have a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD) in
your campaign headquarters? Its
number isn't listed on your Web page. Are you publishing your campaign
literature in alternative
communications formats for people with disabilities? Mr. Gore has a TDD
number listed on his Web page,
and he is publishing campaign materials in formats specially designed for
OXYMORON. When I asked your campaign staff months ago why there isn't a
TDD number on your Web site, I
never received an answer. People within the disability community believe
that one benefit to your
campaign from not taking federal dollars from the Federal Election
Committee is that you don't have to
make your campaign accessible to the disabled. Is this true?
How can you claim to have an inclusive policy toward bringing people with
disabilities into the
Republican Party when their concerns are excluded from your campaign? How
can the son of George Bush,
who signed the ADA, refuse to speak directly to the community of disabled
** People in the disability community bitterly remember the Reagan years,
when so many of them were
taken off the benefit rolls. **
The disability community remembers bitterly the years of President Reagan
and the arrogance and
disregard his Administration showed toward people with disabilities. It's
conventional wisdom now among
disabled groups that the Reagan Administration just didn't care.
Disability issues were not important,
even though one of President Reagan's most trusted outside advisers,
retired Dart Industries Chairman
Justin Dart, uses a wheelchair. The community remembers the nearly
100,000 disabled people who were
taken off the benefit rolls under the Reagan Administration, only to
later be restored by federal judges.
To people with disabilities your philosophy of "compassionate
conservatism" is an oxymoron. My column
remains an open forum for you to address the policy concerns of the
disabled and those in the corporate
world who deal with the disabled in the workforce. This is an opportunity
for you to set the record
straight. So how about it, Governor?
Do Governor Bush's answers to these questions matter to you? Share your
opinion at BW Online's Assistive
Tech Forum. Or drop John a line at JMMAW@aol.com
EDITED BY DOUGLAS HARBRECHT
Chair, Justice For All
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