White House Hosts Monthly Disability Call

On Thursday, May 26, the White House held their monthly disability call hosted by Kareem Dale, Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.  Guest speakers on this month’s call included Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood; Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education Russlyn Ali; and Director of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the Department of Labor Patricia Shui.
In his presentation, Secretary LaHood stated that “Improving transportation for people with disabilities is a priority of the Administration.”  Explaining accessible transportation is “crucial” for people with disabilities to work, attend school, shop and participate in other community activities the Administration has championed efforts to make accessible transportation ubiquitous within all modes; this includes airplanes and trains.  In fact, in 2010, accommodated explained, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the first federal rules aligned with the Americans with Disabilities Act, to ensure those with disabilities are accommodated on boats and ships and to require policies on such vessels that do not discriminate nor charge the person with disabilities for accessible services.  Furthermore, these vessels are now required to provide information to all passengers about the accessibility of the boat or ship.
The DOT is finalizing regulations on “new and altered passenger rail stations” to ensure small rail cars at all stations are accessible for people with disabilities.  In the near future, DOT will also issue a supplemental notice of proposed rule making to move towards regulations that make kiosks in airports accessible.  LaHood presented DOT’s future plans to also make “in-flight entertainment systems, medical oxygen and bathrooms” on airplanes accessible.  And finally, he added, with these new regulations will come strong enforcement, including monetary fines, aimed at protecting the rights of people with disabilities.
Assistant Secretary Ali began her remarks by explaining the role of the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of

Education, which is to enforce civil rights laws nationwide through their 12 regional offices.  She then described the

Department of Justice’s June 2010 guidance that addressed the use of electronic readers for people with disabilities and the need to make learning accessible for all students.

May 26 marked another announcement from the Office of Civil Rights-that they have distributed letters and a Frequently

Asked Questions document to every K-12 and post secondary school in the country to provide further clarity on the legal obligation of providing students with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the benefits of technology.

For more information regarding the Dear Colleague Letter issued by ED to elementary and secondary schools, see


To read the Dear Colleague Letter to institutions of higher education, see


The FAQ that was issued along with both Dear Colleague Letters is available at


To read the June 29, 2010 letter, see http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-20100629.html.

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