Statement on the Disabled Published in "Exceptional Parent"
I will implement the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94—142) as swiftly as possible, to insure that all the children in this nation can receive a high quality public education. I believe that this is an important and worthwhile use of our limited public funds. We must attempt to enable all of our people to reach their full human potential.
The dramatic rise in the cost of medical care over the last decade has been especially hard on disabled people and those in need of chronic care. It is the government's responsibility to do the very best it can to minimize the burden of those costs. If elected, I would devise more efficient delivery systems, find better and less expensive means of rehabilitation and care, and seek to insure that all those who need care are able to get it, whether they can afford it or not. As we implement a national health insurance policy, we must have strong and clear built-in cost and quality controls. Rates for institutional care and physicians' services should be set in advance, prospectively.
When I was Governor of Georgia, we enacted the state's first architectural barriers law, to insure that whenever public money went to the construction or renovation of a building, every member of the public would be able to use it. So far more than 100 buildings have been brought into compliance with this law. The federal architectural barriers law is not now being adequately enforced. I would make sure that it was.
I feel especially strong about this cause, because architectural barriers amount to fundamental discrimination. If I cannot get into a courtroom, or a polling place, or the office of a state official, it is the same as being turned away.
I also feel it is important to bring our technical ingenuity to bear on the barrier problem. We should be able to design buses, escalators, and other transportation systems which are much more easily accessible to disabled people than those we now have.
Full rehabilitation—leading to economic, social and vocational independence—is our common goal. As Governor of Georgia, I authorized state purchase of the rehabilitation facilities at Warm Springs. Within a year, average daily patient attendance had risen by 75 percent. Because of successful efforts there and elsewhere in the state, Georgia stood, during every year of my term, among the top five states in the nation in its proportion of successful rehabilitations per 100,000 population.
As President, if elected, I will make a determined effort, under the Vocational Rehabilitation Act, to make rehabilitation and training facilities available to all who want them. I believe that the act is too restrictive, in that it excludes those disabled people who may not be able to enter the job market, but who can be trained to lead independent lives and to perform valuable services in their communities and homes.
Vocational rehabilitation is a dead end if it does not lead to a job. In Georgia, I made sure that both the state and private businesses took steps to hire rehabilitated workers. The Rehabilitation Act has many sections requiring affirmative action hiring programs by the federal government and its contractors, but they are not now being adequately enforced. My administration will stand behind the letter and spirit of the law.
During my campaign, some of the chief contributors have been blind or disabled persons. If elected, I intend to use the abilities of the disabled to the fullest.
We all pray for the day when people in need of residential care will be able to reenter the productive mainstream. Until that day, we must be sure the residential facilities are clean and decent and that these disabled people are cared for with dignity and respect. To insure that the civil rights of those in institutions are protected, I promise to enforce the guidelines laid down for institutional care in the Development Disabilities Act of 1975.
The new administration will do its best to minimize the cost and share the burden of long-term special care. A comprehensive national health insurance program will eventually help alleviate this terrible financial burden.
Where community-based facilities would be in the best interest of rehabilitation and care, I will support such facilities.
As an engineer and manager, I am always struck by how much we lose when our technical ingenuity is not applied to our most pressing human problem. We need an increased, and much better coordinated, program of research and development for projects that can help disabled people—and we must be sure that the results of our research are applied. There is great potential for improvement in the prevention and treatment of disabilities and in methods of rehabilitation and care.
This year the Senate has passed a $49 million research and development bill. I consider that money to be an investment that would pay for itself many times over. The current administration has tried to cut it to $37 million. My administration would support such investments fully.
• Many disabled people know that the greatest handicap they have to overcome is not their physical disability but the attitudes it creates on the part of others. Too often the official attitudes toward the disabled have been pity when you are present, and neglect when you are away. Neither of these is an appropriate or decent attitude. Neither of them will characterize my administration.
We will care, in dignity and respect and compassion, for those who cannot care for themselves. But we will never forget that our goal is independence and true rehabilitation for all our people. Under my administration, disabled people will not be neglected, but neither will they be smothered under the tyranny of good intentions. One of the best ways to guarantee this is to involve disabled people in the criticism, planning, and execution of programs that affect them. As I earlier mentioned, I have included the disabled in my campaign and would likewise include them in my administration, if I am elected.
NOTE: The APP used August 1 as the date for this document. The original source stated that this appeared in the "August 1976" issue.
Jimmy Carter, Statement on the Disabled Published in "Exceptional Parent" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347637