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Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama Question

I just read via various sources that President Obama has created new position designed "to oversee arts and culture". The person that earned this position is Kareem Dale, a lawyer who was recently appointed special assistant to the President for disability policy. Dale's appointment as it relates to disability was logical and I am not sure if I am confused or worried by this change. Could it be that Dale is being set up by President Obama to be the "arts czar"? If so, he will focus on coordinating the activities of the National Endowment of the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services with regard to White House objectives. Again, I am not sure what this entails but it appears Dale's appointment is good news for the NEH, NEA, and IMLS because each of these agencies received a significant budget increase.

What I am confused about is what does Dale's appointment mean to disability policy? Will Dale's post in disability policy be assigned to someone else? Will Dale's work in disability policy be tagged onto his new position? If this is the case, can he advocate on behalf of people with disabilities and those in the arts? I do not think this is possible but it sure is common. I never cease to be amazed how disability policy or coordination is an afterthought. In my experience, such a position is an added element to an already over worked stressed out administrator. For instance, on many college campuses the person assigned to assist students with a disability primary job has nothing to do with disability. It is also not unusual for the person that is assigned to handle disability related matters to have absolutely no experience whatsoever with disability issues. The fact is disability policy and coordination requires an understanding of the law, the ADA in particular, disability rights, disability history, and a measure of understanding with regard to the social obstacles disabled students encounter. When done well, a disability policy specialist can empower students and faculty alike and educate the academic community about civil rights violations that still exist. Sadly, this is unusual as I have come across very few disability analysts that are well paid and can devote the time required to do a good job. The point, is will the Obama administration fall into this trap? Will Dale's position be filled by a person with a detailed knowledge of disability rights and policy? If so, this is a great sign. Maybe Obama does indeed value the inclusion of people with a disability and disability policy in his administration. I for one will be scouring the news for more about who may or may not replace Dale.


Terri said...

I have been puzzling about this too... culture and disability would be an interesting mix, but arts? I can't picture the mix working, but as you say, I sure can picture disability issues moving to the back of the (inaccessible) bus.

Wheelchair Dancer said...

Well, I sure hope my employer will be benefitting...



william Peace said...

Terri, There is nothing to be puzzled about--disability policy is an after thought. Dale's primary job is the arts and he will no longer be able to spend the needed time on disability policy. This is typical in higher education and now the Obama administration. I feel as though Obama has lied to me and all the other people with a disability that voted for him.