The U.S. Department of Education’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Celebrates
Access to the Arts and the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Photo credits: U.S. Dept. of Education
On July 22, 2015 the U.S. Department of Education’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series danced into the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts celebrating the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), and the 40th anniversary of the Very Special Arts (VSA). Let’s Read! Let’s Move!, a sub initiative of the first Lady’s Let’s Move! program, aims to engage children between the ages of 3-7 in summer learning through reading and physical activity. On this day the theme of the event was “Dance is for Every Body.”
Photo credits: U.S. Dept. of Education
Over 140 children from various organizations, including the Beacon House, Edward C Mazique Parent Child Center, Lollipop Kids Foundation, Friendship Public Charter School, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Kingsbury Day School, filled the Grand Foyer and Opera House steps of the Kennedy Center where they learned that anyone can participate in the arts. This was especially evident through various guests and performers throughout the day.
Photo credits: U.S. Dept. of Education
A trio of ballerinas from the Washington Ballet @THEARC Performance Ensemble gracefully guided Secretary Duncan and his friends into the Grand Foyer. His friends included White House Executive Director of Let’s Move! Deb Eschmeyer, Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, Mario Rossero, Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center, and Lawrence Carter-Long, a performer in Heidi Latsky’s critically-acclaimed GIMP dance troupe. With the ballerinas holding up large-print pages, they read a book titled Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and illustrator Guy Parker-Rees about Gerald the Giraffe who did not dance like the rest of the animals. However, he learned to dance to his own beat. Mr. Carter-Long, an internationally-recognized dancer with cerebral palsy, talked about his connection with Gerald in that they “both had wobbly knees.” He then showed off the brace on his leg. When a child asked the readers “How do you find the right music for you?” he answered, “You’ve got to listen to it and feel it inside of you.” In closing the Let’s Read! part of the event, Ms. Eschmeyer asked the children what they did for exercise, which had many shouting activities such as running, football, basketball, soccer, and dance.
Photo credits: U.S. Dept. of Education
Photo credits: U.S. Dept. of Education
Afterwards, the Surgeon General, along with the ballerinas and other guests, led the children to the Millennium Stage, where he was joined by a bhangra dance troupe, Dholi Ram. After teaching them several moves, children of all abilities joined in a mini bhangra flash mob to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk.”
Continuing the Let’s Move! portion of the event, Septime Webre, artistic director of the Washington Ballet, helped the children “create a ballet” using everyday morning actions such as brushing your teeth, getting out of bed, eating your cereal, etc. Kennedy Center Dance Teaching Artists, Alison Crosby, Fred Beam, and Antoine Hunter, both of whom are deaf and used interpreters to communicate with the children, brought the event full circle by leading the children in a jungle jamboree, where, following the story they heard, they “waltzed like warthogs, rock ‘n rolled like rhinos, tangoed like lions” and most of all, learned to dance to their own beat, just like Gerald.
In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is excited to announce accomplishments aimed at improving the lives of and expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.
First, just today at the Department’s 25th ADA Celebration, OSERS Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin highlighted a timely new funding announcement:
Today, OSERS announced a new funding opportunity, the Accessibility of Computers and Web Sites through an Automated Personalization Computing Project (APCP), to create the infrastructure we need to make it easier for any person of any age with any disability to more easily use any web enabled device at school, at home, at work, or in the community. This funding opportunity, totaling up to $20 million over five years, will implement a pilot demonstration of automated personalization for individuals with disabilities who are using information and communication technologies. Individuals with disabilities will be able to access communications and information technology on a secure basis no matter where they are (at school, work, home, or in the community), what kind of computer they work on (e.g., desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, kiosk) or what software platform (e.g., PC, Mac, Android, iOS) they are using, as long as it is an APCP-enabled computer with Web access. OSERS is looking forward to receiving and evaluating applications and making the award by the end of this September, 2015.
In July 2014, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA), which seeks to improve the nation’s workforce development system and strengthens the services provided by the 2,500 American Job Centers to workers, employers and job seekers. WIOA reauthorized the 3.4 billion dollar Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which provides employment supports and training to one million individuals each year seeking high quality employment. WIOA established the Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities. All three agencies responsible for implementing WIOA—the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services—have taken strides to ensure that people with disabilities have improved access to services and employment outcomes.
OSERS has featured a “Know It 2 Own It” Blog every month over the past year leading up to the 25th Anniversary of the ADA the U.S. Department of Education’s main Homeroom Blog. “Know It 2 Own It” is a campaign that featured monthly stories to encourage the general public to learn more about the disability rights movement and history that led to the passage of the ADA.
In 2014, OSERS’ Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) awarded a five-year, $9 million grant to the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts, Boston for a Job-Driven Vocational Rehabilitation Technical Assistance Center. Also in 2014, OSERS’ Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSEP) and RSA funded a joint Technical Assistance Center, the National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (NTACT), to improve postsecondary and employment outcomes for all students with disabilities.
The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) administers PROMISE, a $211 million program. PROMISE is an interagency collaboration of the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Labor and the Social Security Administration, is a 5-year grant program under which state agencies have partnered to develop and implement six model demonstration projects that provide coordinated services and supports designed to improve the education and career outcomes of children with disabilities who receive supplemental security income in eleven states.
Over the past several years, OSERS has implemented a revised accountability system under the IDEA known as Results-Driven Accountability, which shifts efforts from a primary emphasis on compliance to a framework that focuses on improved results for students with disabilities, including performance on assessments, graduation rates, and early childhood outcomes.
OSERS supports Bookshare, the world’s largest collection of accessible titles online. The service is free to students who are blind, visually impaired, or certified as having a print disability. Bookshare has a total of 301,000 education titles with 350,000 students with its services. In addition, the Administration participated in the successful negotiation of the Marrakesh Copyright Treaty to increase access to print materials for the world’s estimated 340 million blind, visually impaired, and other persons with print disabilities. The United States played a leadership role in negotiating this treaty, which should help reduce the global shortage of print materials in accessible formats such as Braille, large print, and accessible digital files, while maintaining the integrity of the international copyright framework.
Bookshare is also working to ensure image that descriptions are also shown in Bookshare titles, increasing their accessibility working through the DIAGRAM Center, a research and development center whose goal is to improve the way image and graphic content for accessible instructional materials (AIM) is produced and accessed so that students with print disabilities are provided equal access to the general education curriculum.
In 2012, the OSERS awarded a five year $25 million grant to the SWIFT Center to assist states and local school districts successfully implement and sustain inclusive schoolwide reform in kindergarten through grade 8. The SWIFT Center provides intensive technical assistance to improve the practices within schools that lead to success for all students, including those with disabilities and the most intensive support needs.
In 2013, OSERS issued guidance regarding the bullying of students with disabilities. The guidance makes clear that the bullying of a student with a disability that results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit constitutes a denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA that must be remedied.
In 2013, OSERS issued guidance affirming the importance of Braille instruction as a literacy tool for blind and visually impaired students, clarifies the circumstances in which Braille instruction should be provided, and reiterates the scope of an evaluation required to guide decision of Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams in this area. Additionally, the guidance identifies resources that are designed to help strengthen the capacity of the state and local personnel to meet the needs of students who are blind or visually impaired.
A November 12, 2014 joint guidance and accompanying FAQ by OSERS, the Office of Civil Rights, and the U.S. Department of Justice, ensuring educational agencies understand the different requirements under IDEA and the ADA and its Section 504 with respect to children with a hearing, vision, or speech disability. While IDEA requires that schools make available free appropriate public education (FAPE), consisting of special education and related services, Title II has a specific effective communication requirement for individuals with disabilities – requiring schools to ensure that students with disabilities receive communication that is as effective as communication with others through the provision of appropriate auxiliary aids and services.
OSERS Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) currently supports 28 personnel development programs that prepare professionals to provide special instruction for children with visual impairment and blind.
Examples of work topics and products include:
working to develop standard measures and competencies for completing braille course work in the Unified English Braille Code (UEB),
development of CEC standards for teachers of the visually impaired, and
a survey of the university programs on curricula in technology, requirements, measures of competency, and more.
The Accessible Television Portal project opens access to free, video-on-demand children’s television programming for thousands of students who are blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing.
Some projects in this area are designed to support the education of children with sensory disabilities by providing support for captioning and video description of educational materials that are appropriate for use in educational environments.
Stepping up projects support efforts to scale up the use of existing, technologies and accompanying instructional strategies in educational environments. An example is: Improving Literacy and Technology Skills Using the Braille Challenge Mobile at the California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA), and the Braille Institute of America (BIA). The main goal of the project is to support the development of literacy skills of children who read braille by creating and disseminating a mobile app, the Braille Challenge Mobile App (BCMA), and incorporating evidence-based instructional strategies and supporting the development of reading and writing skills.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), I would like to share with you my story of how Early Intervention helped my family and me.
My name is Kelly and I am the proud mom of 9.5 year-old twin girls. They are happy, healthy and growing!
It wasn’t always this way. They were born premature. Their birth weights were 3.02 pounds and 3.15 pounds. Megan did a 3 week neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay and Mackenzie 2.5 months. Upon discharge the nurse said, “We called Early Intervention (EI) to come and work with you and the girls.” I was in such a haze; I said, “Ok, great.”
A week later, after our appointment had been confirmed, four people showed up at my house – an occupational therapist, physical therapist, Developmental Specialist, and Director of my local center. They explained the program to me and answered all my questions. We had a long road to get the girls to where they should be. Each week my team would come and work with me, the girls, and my husband. They helped us read cues, strategize sleep problems, and showed us exercises we needed to help the girls grow. We had many, many appointments with the doctors that EI helped me with. We were with the program for a full three years. As I got more comfortable and more involved with each session, I was asked to participate in a parent program for parents. I attended the seminar by way of the Parent Leadership Project (PLP) in conjunction with Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). It was life changing for me.
I met amazing people, heard profound stories and felt like I wasn’t by myself in this. After attending I wondered if every family getting EI or not could have a feeling like I had at the seminar – to feel included, empowered, and ready to do what needed to be done. With help from the PLP, I started speaking at public hearings, EI staff meetings and trainings, and other venues. I shared my story with the people that needed to hear it most. As time progressed, I was appointed to the Massachusetts Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) as a representative for Boston. This was so meaningful for me. I could connect with EI providers, doctors, DPH staff members, and other parents and help other families in my community. Soon my time was over as an ICC rep, and from there I have attended and helped many other families with Individualized Education Programs (IEP), special education laws, placements and other issues surrounding special needs and education. I have become a better mom, advocate and community member as a direct result of my involvement with Early Intervention, PLP and DPH. I use the skills I learned from PLP to advocate for my daughter, now in 3rd grade. I also use the skills Early Intervention taught me when I meet with doctors and in my personal life and business life. I am forever grateful to the EI staff who believed in my family and me.
Now, my children attend a charter school in the City of Boston. My daughter, who is in an inclusion classroom, is doing amazing! She can self advocate for her needs and loves school. The school works with me, her doctors, and psychologists so we can all agree on her needs for the classroom. Her twin sister also attends the same charter school. She is doing amazing as well! She sings in the choir, plays baseball and has a lot of friends. She is known as the social butterfly. Looking at her and back at her early days, I can’t help but be proud and grateful that this preemie girl is thriving! At one time everything was a struggle for her, and now it comes with such ease. This is all because of Early Intervention.
U.S. Department of Labor’s WIOA Blog site; and the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Web site.
Today, July 1, 2015, marks the day that many of the provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) take effect. This new law has the potential to make a tremendous difference for tens of millions of workers, jobseekers and students across this country. WIOA’s transformation of our publicly-funded workforce system means that all of us—federal and state partners, governments, non-profits and educational and training institutions, must be pressing for innovations to ensure:
the needs of business and workers drive our workforce solutions
one-stop centers, also known as American Job Centers (AJCs) provide excellent customer service to both jobseekers and employers and focus on continuous improvement; and
the workforce system supports strong regional economies and plays an active role in community and economic development.
July 1st is about “opportunity.” It’s about implementing strategies to help workers and jobseekers achieve their full potential. Through our AJCs and other service locations, the public workforce system will meet people where they are, whether they’re young adults just starting out, or experienced workers whose need to retool their skills to succeed, whether they are a person with a disability or someone who faces other barriers to a job. Our aligned services need to help each of them build a meaningful career and achieve economic independence.
Now is the time for action among all workforce partners. It is truly a new day for the American workforce system.
Some states and local areas are already hard at work implementing the law and laying the groundwork for big changes and big ideas. Some have formed new partnerships and are creatively aligning workforce resources. Others are redesigning customer service strategies at the nearly 2,500 local AJCs.
But we still have much work to do to realize the full vision of WIOA.
Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going
Through town halls and virtual stakeholder events, we listened to you. The U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, in consultation with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, incorporated your feedback into proposed regulations and will continue to do so as we review comments and develop final regulations. We have released early Operational Guidance and technical assistance tools, including a set of Quick Start Action Planners, to help you assess your readiness to implement WIOA and identify areas of strength and focused areas for improvement. And we will continue to issue program guidance throughout the year to operationalize WIOA.
Now that most of WIOA is in effect, we will continue to support the public workforce system as state and local officials transform their systems. Here are the steps we’ll be taking this year to implement WIOA and provide assistance for states and local areas across the country:
Providing states opportunities and information to develop State Implementation Teams that will allow workforce system programs to share specific challenges, conduct in-person planning, and connect more directly to the right resources.
Rolling out the Innovation Opportunity Network (ION) (workforce3one.org), an online learning and teaching community which is a partnership of programs and services, designed to help all levels of workforce development professionals, stakeholders, and partners connect with peers throughout the public workforce system who are working to implement WIOA. ION will provide training and technical assistance, focused on themes the partners have identified as a priority: change management, strategic boards, regionalism, customer-centered service delivery, talent development strategies, system alignment and other topics. Tools include an Act Now webinar series, Voices of Experience videos and podcasts, a community of practice site, virtual events related to WIOA operating guidance. Get engaged by visiting ion.workforce3one.org
Our work has never been more important, and we want to make sure every partner and every region has what you need to succeed. We look forward to working with you to realize the vision of WIOA!
WIOA Updates and Resources
For WIOA updates and resources, please visit OSERS’ WIOA Web page.
Additional information can be found on the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education’s (OCTAE) WIOA Web site and the Department of Labor’s WIOA Web site.
Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, U.S. Department of Labor
Johan Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education
Michael Yudin, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education
Janet LaBreck, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education
Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Administration of Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services