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Tom Harkin's  

late brother, Frank, lost his hearing at a very young age, so he knows firsthand the challenges facing Americans with disabilities. Harkin is a longstanding champion of persons with disabilities and a national leader on disability policy.
As a family who lives with someone living with autism and intellectual disability, our family thanks you Senator Harkin.
Working with Senator Bob Dole and others, Tom Harkin authored the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landmark legislation that protects the civil rights of more than 54 million Americans with physical and mental disabilities. The day the bill was signed into law was one of the proudest moments of Tom Harkin's life. The principles of the ADA -including equality of opportunity and independence - provide the foundation for all of his work on disability policy.
The pursuit of equality of opportunity and independence, to the best of her ability, has been the cornerstone of my advocacy for my daughter for the past 20 years and will be into the future.  Without ADA and IDEA, none of the rights afforded to her would have been possible.  Thank you Senator Harkin.
He helped write legislation reforming education for children with disabilities, with a special emphasis on early intervention.
At a time when autism was rarely diagnosed and understood by a few, my daughter began receiving early intervention services because of ADA and IDEA.  I studied those laws to the best of my ability and fought for services for which she was entitled.  Although limited at the time, she received Birth To Three intervention services.  We were able to obtain a full day Pre-School program for her when the school system only offered a few hours for three days a week. We pushed for sensory integration therapy when few occupational therapists had even heard of it. That was only the beginning.

Thank you Senator Harkin, because ADA and IDEA have given my family the support to fight for my daughter's right to a free appropriate education.  Without these laws, I couldn't imagine what our lives would have been like.

Read on if you're interested

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. It also applies to the United States Congress.

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability or have a relationship or association with an individual with a disability. An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. The ADA does not specifically name all of the impairments that are covered.

Because of ADA, my daughter was and is transported to school safely and with proper supervision.  There is no bullying and the drivers are an integral part of her "community".

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (formerly called P.L. 94-142 or the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975) requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.

IDEA requires public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP's) for each child. The specific special education and related services outlined in each IEP reflect the individualized needs of each student.

IDEA also mandates that particular procedures be followed in the development of the IEP. Each student's IEP must be developed by a team of knowledgeable persons and must be at least reviewed annually. The team includes the child's teacher; the parents, subject to certain limited exceptions; the child, if determined appropriate; an agency representative who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education; and other individuals at the parents' or agency's discretion.

If parents disagree with the proposed IEP, they can request a due process hearing and a review from the State educational agency if applicable in that state. They also can appeal the State agency's decision to State or Federal court.

The IEP is one of the most powerful legal documents a parent of a child with a disability can use to obtain services.  It's helped me advocate and implement new programs over the years.  It's helped me to be a strong partner with the school district.  Teachers identified music as one of my daughter's strengths.  She learned to play the clarinet and saxophone and played with the school bands up through high school graduation.  She had a paraprofessional with her, when needed.  When appropriate, my daughter was taught on a one to one or small group basis.  She has also been and continues to be instructed on daily living, recreational, and community skills.  Because of IDEA, my daughter has the right to receive educational services through age 21.

We've been fortunate to live in a good state and a good town, however, I learned long ago that a student's program is as good as the parent's involvement.  Working with the school system, as opposed to demanding services from them, has benefitted my child as well as others.  We continue to implement programming which emphasizes functional skills to help prepare students transition to adulthood with as much independence as possible.

Section 504

Section 504 states that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter before going to court.

Up until this point, my daughter has had the right to a free appropriate education.  When she is ready to move on from her educational "cocoon" into the world of eligibility restrictions and budget cuts, she will need ADA and Section 504 more and more to obtain equality of opportunity that she is due under the law.  We will continue to advocate and innovate for her into the future.

ADA and IDEA have enhanced my daughter's education specifically and life as a whole.  Providing her with more opportunities to learn and grow has given our family the gift of a fuller life as well.  Although, there is still much to be done in the fight for equal opportunities for people living with disabilities, with much gratitude and appreciation, thank you Senator Harkin.  

Originally posted to Foundmyvoice on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:17 AM PST.

Also republished by Parenting on the Autism Spectrum, KosAbility, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (40+ / 0-)

    You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Foundmyvoice on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 07:17:01 AM PST

  •  Senater Harkin is a great American. (15+ / 0-)

    The American's With Disabilities Act sponsored by him and Sen. Dole, (R-Kansas)  is the standard for the whole world now,  it is hard to over-estimate the significance of this Act.  I am a social worker with almost 50 yeas of work in the human services field and I want to tell everyone Sen. Hardin is why I believe in government.  He went to Wash., DC some time ago and he has never forgot why he was sent there by the good people of Iowa.  He has fulfilled the injunction from the Gospels to care for those in need.  People with disabilities and those who are their family, friends and who help them, today live in a better America than when Tom Harkin was first elected to the Senate.  Thank you Sen. Harkin and your friend Bob Dole, a man who knew how address and isue to get someting done when it was needed.  As we treat those among us who are very young, very old and who are mentally and physically challenged so we will make or union whole and safe.  The Nazis started their exterminations of people with physically and mentally challenged people, then to gay people, then to Jewish people and others.  No, I can't overestimate what Tom Harkin has accomplished.

  •  Also a reminder (9+ / 0-)

    that it wasn't that long ago that Republicans and Democrats could, and would, actually work together for the good of Americans. In light of the failure of the Senate to pass the UN treaty on disabilities, in the face of their former colleague Bob Dole, shows how far the current Republican party has fallen.

    My mother-in-law has been in a wheelchair for over 25 years after failed surgery (in a case where it was successful 99 out of 100 times, she was number 100). The ADA has definitely made things easier for helping her, from wheelchair accessible parking spaces (albeit some are in need of maintenance), curb cuts in sidewalks so it's safer to cross a street, and accessible restrooms. It's not perfect -- there needs to be more coverage of therapy, both physical and occupational (it's especially been cut back under Medicare) -- but it's been a great start.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 10:19:45 AM PST

  •  As the aunt of a young man (7+ / 0-)

    with Asperger's, SIL of a gentleman who is blind, and as a nurse, I also thank the good Senator, and I thank you for this diary.  

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 11:19:49 AM PST

  •  Thank you, Senator Tom Harkin. (5+ / 0-)

    I very much appreciate those who went before us, to make the progress that was made.   I am grateful for all the kids who are helped.  

    There seems to be a gap.   The kids who are profoundly disabled clearly require that the school accept that some things are going to different, and that seems to make it possible to work out something.  

    The kids who are nearly normal, almost what the school wants them to be, are much more difficult.   The schools keep trying to shove them that little extra bit, trying to force them into the slot that has been assigned for them, caring very little for how much damage they do to a child trying to do that.

    I wish it was enough, but it wasn't.  We are no longer attending the traditional public school.  They were unable, despite their good intentions, to either understand my daughter's disabilities nor to accomodate them.  

    In fact, at one point, the principal turned to me and actually said to me, "Help me understand."   I talked to him about it, brought literature, and still, he was unable to grasp it.    It's no surprise.   It takes parents and kids many years to understand the nature of a child's disability.   ESchool officials take a ten minute overview and decide that they know what's best.  Even members of my own extended family who don't spend as much time with our child still doubt the extent of our daughter's disability.  She looks so normal.

    The other thing the principal said to me, was, "Here is what we are going to do."  

    Not, "What do you need?"

    But, "I don't understand."    And, "Here's what we are going to do."   How can you decide what needs to be done, when you don't understand?    The answer is, of course, you can't.

    There is still too much power in the hands of school officials and doctors, and not enough options and resources in the hands of parents.    With enough options and the proper resources, I have learned, many  parents don't even need an IEP, even for a very disabling condition.  

    The schools don't provide an appropriate learning environment for many disabled kids.  The environment is overly-illuminated, noisy, and crowded, resulting in painful jostling.   Their only "accomodation" for kids with sensory sensitivity sydrome, is to subject them to this torture for less hours in a day.   But, for a perfectly intelligent child, it is not enough education, and too much sensory stimulation.  Where is the "accomodation"?

    Our military uses light and sound as a method of torture, and that is what our schools are doing to kids with sensory sensitivities.    What is a bit irritating to a normal person, is an assault to kids with sensory sensitivies.

    And, it makes we wonder.   Perhaps, all this sensory stimulation might not even be so good for the "normal" students.   Perhaps it is contributing to those stress disorders that are plaguing our kids.  The depression, cutting, drugs and school shootings.   Perhaps, a quieter, more relaxing environment in which to work and study and spend eight hours a day might make a difference for many of these sensitive kids.   More natural daylight, and less flourescents.  More noise baffles.   More opportunities for at least partial privacy.   Staggered class changes so that changing classes is not an exercise in attempting to avoid being trampled.  

    Something to think about.

    I am grateful for what has been accomplished, but, for us, it wasn't enough.  

    Thank you, Senator Tom Harkin.  At least you tried.

    And, thank you, Charter Schools.   Because, that is where you can find us refugees from a failed system.  Kids who have been bullied.  Kids with attention deficit disorder.  Kids with Central Sensitivity Sydrome.  You can find us in  the Charter Virtual School.   That is our "accomodation".  You can complain that it is diverting money from the public school system, or that the education we get is not as good, but what were our options? We didn't want to leave.  We were forced out.   The only place for us, before, has always been home school.   At least, now we have virtual schools to help carry the load a bit.  

    Meanwhile, we are grateful for our escape. We no longer have plead with doctors and school officials, while being ignored and told in a patronizing tone about what's "in our child's best interests".   After a couple years of that, we felt like refugees from a fascist state.   Now, we only go to the doctor when the doctor can help us, medically.   We don't go every six weeks, paying $550 for an office visit, just to get a form signed that the school requires.   We don't get notes from the State threatening us because our child has absences, despite the fact that we have documented her chronic incurable condition.   It doesn't feel like an accomodation.  It feels like prison.

    By the way, my "healthy" child is still in public school.  I have nothing against public school, in general.   I love our public school, and only left because no matter how afraid we were to leave that safety net, the way we had always done things, we were forced to leave.   We tried the accomodations, and they didn't work.  So, what were we to do?   Where were we to go?  

    I have had to devote a great deal to supporting my daughter's "do-it-yourself" education, relying on my own technical and professional background.   I often wonder about the other parents in this situation, who don't have the same resources, who are eventually forced out of public school by overly-aggressive misguided helpfulness which is not at all helpful (detrimental, in fact) and way too aggressive.

    I wonder if those kids ever do get an education?

    Sorry for the rant.   For anyone who thought the ADA, and IDEA and Section 504 had taken care of the problem -- it is a wonderful start, but the job is not done.

    •  I'm so sorry all that you, your daughter and your (5+ / 0-)

      family has endured.  My nephew has high functioning autism and has so many challenges that my daughter doesn't face.  It's not easy for anyone.  I agree with you that there still is a great deal wrong with the system in serving the needs of people living with autism and so much more to do.  

      There is no cookie cutter answer to any of this.  What works for one family doesn't work for another.  Your rant is justified.  

      You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

      by Foundmyvoice on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 04:19:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's even worse when you're in the working world. (7+ / 0-)

      I'm an Asperger's sufferer that looks and acts almost completely normal, thanks to more then 20 years of therapy and other assistance.  But it's slowly destroying my career as a bioscientist.  The ADA is a good thing when you've already been hired, but in a field where there are several hundred applications for every decent job, it's so easy to sabotage someone's advance or hiring, and the ADA pretty much doesn't function at all BEFORE you get hired.

      The IDEA act actually has quite a few more teeth in it then the ADA, too.  I've seen employers routinely flaunt it with no consequences, even with folks with OBVIOUS disabilities.

  •  One of the proudest days of activism (7+ / 0-)

    and I didn't even think of it as such.  Just right and wrong.  When I contacted the Persons with Disabilities Presidential Task Force and talked to Johnathan Young who worked for President Clinton in the Wet Wing and he, Jack and I became good friends trying to get Nashville ADA compliant.   After they were fined under section 508 of the 78 law of Barriers ....We were invited to An Evening on the Lawn at the Naval observatory.
    Upon meeting Peter Yarrow, and Jose Feliciano, aong with seeing my old friend Max,  I talked a long time to Sen Harkin and was at a private party the next night. We spoke of his brother Frank and a very instrumental part of the ADA.

    Justin Dart:

    In the early 1980’s, Dart was a member and eventually the chair of the Texas Governor’s Committee for Persons with Disabilities. In 1981, President Reagan selected Dart to be the vice-chair of the National Council on Disability. At this time Justin and Yoshiko began a national tour, stopping in every state to gather stories from individuals with disabilities. Their goal was to collect accounts of injustices and hardships that disabled people faced in order to create a piece of legislation that would finally address discrimination against people with disabilities in America. The Darts did all of this at their own expense, twice.

    After meeting with disabled people across the nation, Justin and Yoshiko brought the stories they collected back to Washington, D.C. and began working towards legislation that is now known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Upon receiving the information collected, Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa worked with many other prominent leaders to author the ADA. Harkin refers to the ADA as “an ‘emancipation proclamation’ for people with disabilities” and believes that disabled individuals “spend a lifetime overcoming not what God wrought, but what

    man has imposed by custom and law” (source: McCrone).I was there.. I heard the President speak and Justin Dart before he died and Sen Kennedy.   I so cherish my time for those 4 days in DC.  I spent a great deal of time at the VA Headquarters and talking to these folks and dancing and even sharing a smoke with Becky Ogle was really something I cherish.  Johnathan Young became a good touch base person and friend over the years and we spoke last around 2011....

    Sen. Harkin was so gracious and so funny when he kept snapping pics of the kids who was at the party dressed up as Japanese Kabuki girls.  it rained the whole time we were there but a wonderful experience.  Sen Harkin wrote me a very long letter I keep framed after I got home.  

    I really like and admire Tom Harkin... Senate won't be the same.  We no longer have Byrd, Wellstone, Kennedy, Cleland, and now Harkin.  We have Reid and many like him.

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:41:37 PM PST

    •  I apologize .. I meant Section 504 (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WakeUpNeo, worldlotus

      of the Structural and Barriers Access Board of this

      Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act created and extended civil rights to people with disabilities. Section 504 has provided opportunities for children and adults with disabilities in education, employment and various other settings. It allows for reasonable accommodations such as special study area and assistance as necessary for each student. [1]

      Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter before going to court.[1

      ]
      I am always referring to it as 508....Glad I got it right back then.

      We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

      by Vetwife on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:46:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  All those with disabilities and their familes (7+ / 0-)

    Were well served by parties who went out of their way to remember that one of the key goals of government is to help those who have difficulty helping themselves.

    When Dole (R) and Harkin (D) really pushed for ADA, they did so not because it was easy or because it was "small government", they did it because it was the right thing.

    It was an expansion of government to help defend the rights of the people, an attempt by government to give people rights who had been denied them.

    What Republicans seem to be totally missing now is that when they worked together with Democratic partners on common goals that reflected the realities of life, they did best.

    Harkin's work on legislation changed the life of millions of Americans.  It's the LAST major civil rights act passed by congress.. almost 20 years ago.

    A senator once told me that the greatest accomplishment of any legislator was to help make society a better place.   For millions of Americans, Tom Harkin did that.

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 02:43:22 PM PST

  •  Senator Tom Harkin is a remarkable human being (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    worldlotus, Foundmyvoice, cocinero

    and his comments on the passing of Katie Beckett last year formed the basis for my first diary on Daily Kos. Here is a part of what Senator Harkin said:

    Statement by Senator Tom Harkin In Tribute of Iowan Katie Beckett

    As prepared for delivery - May 22, 2012

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate today in honor of Katie Beckett.  Below is the text of his remarks, as prepared for delivery.

    “Mr. President, last week, our Nation lost one of its most determined and courageous advocates for the rights of people with disabilities, my friend Katie Beckett.

    “I am proud to say that Katie was a native Iowan.  She was born in March 1978, and five months later contracted viral encephalitis.  She subsequently had a seizure and went into a coma for 10 days. This illness caused nerve damage to her brain, which left her paralyzed and unable to breathe on her own.  Katie received a tracheotomy, was placed on a ventilator, and was fed using a tube.  Initially, after coming out of the coma, she could not move at all.  Slowly, much of the paralysis receded, but she was not able to breathe on her own until she was two years of age.  During that time, she lived in a pediatric intensive care unit.  Her family, naturally, wanted her out of the hospital, and home where they could care, support, and love her.  

    “By her third birthday, Katie’s private insurance had reached its $1 million cap, and she began to receive Medicaid support for her health care.  Doctors eventually determined that she could leave the hospital with proper supports at home. However, Medicaid refused to pay for such care -- even though it would cost one-sixth as much as hospital care.  Under Medicaid rules, she could only receive care in a hospital or nursing home setting.  

     “Katie’s predicament received national attention...

    You might wish to read the Senator's entire statement, and more, here:

    Celebrate the Life, Spirit and Legacy of Katie Beckett

    God bless United States Senator, Tom Harkin.

    He truly served our entire Nation very well.

    •  Wonderful diary, WakeUpNeo. I especially loved (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WakeUpNeo, cocinero

      what Senator Harkin said on NPR.  I can't imagine not having my daughter home with me.  Thank you for sharing.

      You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

      by Foundmyvoice on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 04:34:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you for this diary and for who you are... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Foundmyvoice, cocinero

        as well as for taking a moment to follow the link to my diary --- I appreciate your kind words.

        The mention of Senator Tom Harkin in your title is what attracted my attention to your diary. Like VetWife, I too had the pleasure of meeting him in DC at several events since enactment of the ADA, and he is as warm and caring an individual as I have ever met --- and same for members of his staff.

        (I have met other well-known political figures who are fine people, too --- but not seemingly quite as open and genuine, somehow?)

        We could sure use more leaders like Tom Harkin!

  •  Without the ADA and IDEA, the prison system... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WakeUpNeo, cocinero

    ...would be filled with an even higher number of former special educations students than it has now - 8% students with IEPs in schools, 32% prisoners had IEPs.

    I see the impact of these protections as akin to those provided by the creation of labor unions. And interestingly, the attitude of school admin officials toward parents and others who advocate for special needs students is often similar to the attitudes of management towards active union members.

    Halt the abuse of special education students, sign the petition.

    by dsnodgrass on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 05:34:56 AM PST

  •  IDEA one of the most progressive... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cocinero

    pieces of legislation ever enacted.

    It is reauthorized every 7 years and continues to be watered down - this Congress will likely do some real damage to it.

    The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. --George Orwell

    by jgkojak on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 09:09:26 AM PST

  •  He's every crip's Congressman... (0+ / 0-)

    I really hope this next generation produces someone like that.
    Tammy Duckworth??

    "I'm six-four...it takes a lot to get over my top." --Alan Grayson

    by chicating on Mon Jan 28, 2013 at 09:47:30 AM PST

  •  Tom Harkin has been my senator and my rep (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Foundmyvoice

    since he was first elected to congress in 1975. I agree with all the good things that have been said about him.

    In November, Sen. Harkin stopped by my OFA GOTV staging location and talked to all of us who were working there.

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