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Testimony of Director Derek K. Orr in Budget Oversight Hearing

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Testimony of Director Derek K. Orr in Budget Oversight Hearing

Office of Disability Rights
Annual Performance Oversight Hearing
Committee on Government Operations and the Environment
 
February 28, 2012
9 am
John A. Wilson Building 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 

Washington, DC 20004

Good morning, Councilmember Bowser and other distinguished members of the Committee and staff. I am Derek Orr, Director of the District of Columbia Office of Disability Rights, and it is my privilege to appear before you today to report on the Performance Outcomes accomplished by the Office of Disability Rights in Fiscal Year 2011 and highlights of Fiscal Year 2012 Performance Measures. 

The Office of Disability Rights (ODR), established in November 2007, has a mission to ensure that the programs, services, benefits, activities and facilities operated or funded by the District of Columbia are fully accessible to, and useable by, people with disabilities.  ODR is responsible for ensuring that District Government is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, its amendments and other Federal and District disability rights laws. 
 
To accomplish this mission, our office provides training, expertise, technical assistance, policy recommendations, and rapid informal dispute resolution to District agencies, consumers and residents with disabilities, as well as other relevant stakeholders. 
 
In 1964, President Johnson signed into law the “Civil Rights Act.” Recognized as the most sweeping civil rights legislation to date, the Act prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. Building on this momentum, people with disabilities, advocates and other invested stakeholders came together to fight for a common cause.  The United States Congress recognized their passion and determination to ensure equality for people with disabilities when it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  
 
The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications.  The Office of Disability Rights for the District of Columbia champions the mandates of the ADA and is committed to realizing the District of Columbia’s full potential as a national model city for individuals with disabilities.
 
The Office of Disability Rights has a staff of eight (8) FTE’s, with no vacant positions. Presently five (5) ODR staff identify as people with disabilities. To promote and implement the mandates of our office, ODR relies on the support and investment from approximately 60 District Agency ADA Coordinators.

The current calculation of the population of individuals with disabilities residing in the District of Columbia is a gross misestimate.  The current “Census and American Community Survey Data” pulled from the “2009 Disability Compendium” indicates that the population of individuals with disabilities living in the District of Columbia is 72, 366. 
 
However, this number includes only individuals from ages 18-64 who have the following disabilities: ambulatory, cognitive, hearing, vision, and “independent living and self-care prohibitive” disabilities.  This number does not include the population from ages 0-18; the population with invisible disabilities (cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, those in active recovery from drug and alcohol abuse and mental-health related disabilities, to name only a few) or the population with any of the disabilities now covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment.
 
For example, the last known count of individuals with diabetes in the District (compiled in 2004) was 30,000.   The latest count of the District’s population of individuals with HIV/AIDS (compiled in 2009) contained 16, 513 people.  The number of cancer patients in the District was estimated at 2,818 (last compiled in 2003.)
 
If we calculate the sum of the aforementioned groups, the total comes to 129, 594 individuals – or 20% of the District’s population.  Keeping in mind, this count still does not include children with disabilities (ages 0-5) or numerous other populations of people covered under the ADA, such as individuals “associated” with people with disabilities; as well as persons “assumed” to be a person with a disability.
 
The aforementioned data is critical when we characterize, legislate, plan for and envision a District of Columbia that embraces “One City”.                                                                                                               
The Office of Disability Rights is proud to report the following accomplishments for Fiscal Year 2011:

  • In collaboration with the DC Department of General Services (DGS), an RFP was issued to assess all District-owned buildings for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Architectural Guidelines (ADAAG). A total of 357 buildings were assessed. In FY ’12, ODR will be working with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DCPR) to prioritize DCPR facilities for modification that maximize recreation accessibility in all Wards of the City with the intent to ensure a City that provides a “life span approach” for recreation for individuals and families with and without disabilities.
  • In collaboration with DGS, ODR worked with an expert consultant to identify obstacles to ADA compliance that exist in the current codes in place with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the Historic Preservation Board (HPB) and the  DC Board of Zoning  (DCBOZ). The report recommended revisions to those codes to effect full compliance with Americans with Disabilities Architectural Guidelines (ADAAG) as well as recognize the values and principles of “Visitability” and “Universal Design.” A comprehensive report entitled “Comparison of the Existing DC Models to the New ADA Legislation and the Path Forward” was completed.
  • Through OCTO’s efforts, obtained increased accessibility through the DC.Gov website by purchasing and obtaining content management system platforms that allow web accessibility requirements to be implemented and utilized. All agency websites on the portal present a unified, consistent presence to enhance usability for web visitors;  offering a consistent Web Style and guidance designed to give District agency web authors clear, up-to-date, and easy-to-use information for writing or editing documents, memos, presentations, and other online content; development and implementation of Web Interface Standards, consistent with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • Managed 470 requests for assistance from District Agencies, consumers, residents and other stakeholders in the areas of informal dispute resolution, requests for technical assistance as well information and referral. 100% of all requests were completed within 30 days of the request being made.
  • Produced and published a monthly newsletter that provided information on a broad spectrum of disability related issues both local and nationally.  Topics included disability employment opportunities, conferences and trainings, regulation change and other highlights of importance to the disability community.
  • Provided leadership and technical assistance that accomplished the submission of 140 ADA Compliance Plans. These plans identified DC Agency barriers to ADA compliance with regards accessibility both programmatic and policy related. Recommendations from ODR for remediation were included in the plans summary.
  • Partnered with the DC Board of Ethics and Elections (BOEE) on a Federal grant to expand, enhance and ensure voting accessibility for people with disabilities. Specifically, ODR will train persons with disabilities on Accessible Voting Guidelines and provide stipends to trainees to be available at various locations for the November 2012 election. In addition, this grant initiative will provide additional revenue for ODR in Fiscal Year 2012.
  • Continued to coordinate the District’s “Olmstead Initiative” working with 10 District Agencies who provide funding and/or coordinate care and services for District residents with disabilities who are institutionalized, or at risk of institutionalization. The initiative “DC – One Community for All” is reviewed with all participating Agencies on a monthly basis.

Other noteworthy accomplishments included:

  • Fulfilled 402 Sign Language requests for DC consumers and residents who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing allowing for full access to the programs and services offered by the District and ensuring full compliance with the “Effective Communication” mandates of Title II of the ADA.
  • Provided training to 676 District Government employees, consumers, residents and vendors on a spectrum of training curricula including employment, government programs and services, the Fair Housing Act, Disability Sensitivity and other requested training topics.
  • In October 2010, ODR coordinated the Mayor’s Annual Disability Awareness Conference. The event was co-sponsored by six District Government Agencies and brought together consumers, caregivers, advocates and Government officials to recognize the social and cultural contributions made by people with disabilities.  With over 380 registered participants, the event highlighted the health, recreation and service needs and opportunities for the participation of children and seniors with disabilities.
  • Participated in the fulfillment of the requirements of the Settlement Agreement outlined between the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Equal Rights Center that ensures compliance with the “Effective Communication” mandates of Title II of the ADA.
  • Continued to serve as the Fair Housing Act Compliance Officer as defined in a Settlement Agreement between the DC Office of Consumer and  Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and the US Department of Justice. In this role, ODR provided training to staff members and commissioners of DCRA, Historic Preservation Board, Board of Zoning, Construction Code Officials and other identified stakeholders, as well as review and approval of all requests for “reasonable accommodation” submitted to DCRA.

The goals and objectives ODR has identified for Fiscal Year 2012 were envisioned and planned with the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with the disability community and form the core of our strategy for Fiscal Year 2012.

  • To that end, highlights will include:
  • Collaborate with the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Administration (HSEMA) in the planning of the 2013 Presidential Inauguration activities to ensure for the full and active participation of people with disabilities.
  • The incorporation of 3 on-demand videos added to the ODR website available in both Sign Language and Closed Captioning that will provide information on the programs and services provided by the Office of Disability Rights; how to file a complaint, request technical assistance and requests for information and referral; and how to request a Sign Language Interpreter.
  • Development of a Social Media Guidance Tool (specifically geared to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) that will provide DC Government Agencies on how to  successfully incorporate these platforms to maximize accessibility, as well as an interactive component to provide education to consumers and residents of the District on these platforms when accessing and utilizing the DC.GOV website.
  • Host a Webinar on Federal regulations regarding Service Animals and Comfort Animals (incorporating 2010 Amendments Act). The live training will feature changes to the ADA regarding definition and tasks recognized of Service and Comfort animals.
  • On-Demand Training Videos to expand and ensure the training of all DC Government Employees on ADA Title I (employment mandates) and ADA Title II (government programs and services mandates).

In conclusion, I thank the ODR staff for their enduring commitment to equality for people with disabilities, the support and friendship of our community partners for their continued enthusiasm and commitment to the mission, vision and values of the Office of Disability Rights.

This concludes my formal testimony. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.