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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Disability Policy in the Biden White House

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the presidential policy on disability.  Trump despised people with disabilities. President Biden is different.

Abigail Abrams at Time:
[I]n a historic first, the White House has also named a disability policy director to sit on its Domestic Policy Council and ensure the government is prioritizing Americans with disabilities—including those with lingering disabilities caused by COVID-19.

“We have a lot of people that are going to be starting to identify as people with disabilities in light of COVID,” Kimberly Knackstedt, the new disability policy director, tells TIME on March 11 in her first interview since joining the White House.

Knackstedt has a long history with the disability community. She most recently served as senior disability policy advisor on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. But she started her career as a special education teacher, where she saw the systemic barriers children face to accessing education. She then went on to get a PhD in special education and policy before working on Capitol Hill. Now, she is in charge of tackling those structural barriers and ensuring equity for disabled people from arguably the most powerful disability rights position in the country.

“One of my key goals is making sure that we are putting people with disabilities at the beginning of our policy development, not as the afterthought, which I think has happened so often,” Knackstedt says.

In previous administrations, staffers who focused on disability issues fell under the offices of personnel or public engagement, and functioned more as liaisons between the disability community and the federal government. Now, the White House director of disability policy is part of the Domestic Policy Council, the body that drives much of the Administration’s domestic agenda. The council, led by Susan Rice, has been given a larger role and more staff than in the past and Knackstedt will work alongside experts on climate, health, education, racial justice and Native affairs to shape policy that impacts all parts of Americans’ lives.

At the University of Kansas, Dr. Kneckstedt wrote her dissertation on seclusion and restraint in schools.  The abstract:

Seclusion and restraint are aversive behavioral practices used in schools for control and punishment. The practices were first used in psychiatric hospitals as a means of control over patients. Eventually, the practices began being used in schools alongside other aversive and exclusionary discipline practices, including corporal punishment, suspension, and expulsion. Limited research has explored the connection between policies governing the use of seclusion and restraint and practices in schools. Grounded in organizational theory, this study analyzes the impact of policies on seclusion and restraint practice in 18 states through a multi-phase analysis. The first phase of the analysis explored trends in practices across the U.S. related to discipline, seclusion and restraint, and inclusion of students with disabilities using geo-mapping. After identifying the 18 states for further review, the second phase used a quantitative analysis to identify predictors of seclusion and restraint in each state and with pooled data of all the selected states. The final phase reviewed policies from each of the 18 states on seclusion and restraint to identify similarities and differences. The findings suggest that seclusion and restraint practices will not disappear from the repertoire of teachers simply through policies and mandatory prevention. However, gradual steps must be taken to connect stakeholders and shift from a culture of discipline and control to prevention and inclusion. Policy and research must be utilized as levers to make this change possible