CommunicationFIRST Asks White House to Improve Communication Equity

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Last month, CommunicationFIRST responded to the White House Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Request for Information about how to make the US government’s policies and work more equitable. 

Our comments include 12 recommendations

The first three recommendations ask the government to begin counting people with speech-related disabilities, like it counts people with the other two main types of communication disabilities impacting vision and hearing. We point out that not counting us sends the message that we do not count enough to be counted. It also makes it impossible for policymakers to address the challenges, barriers, and discrimination we grapple with each day. Not counting those who struggle most to have a voice renders us even more invisible. To fix this, CommunicationFIRST asks OMB to work with other federal agencies to examine what data already exist, paying specific attention to those in our population that are the most marginalized, including people of color and those who do not speak English as their primary language. 

The next two recommendations ask the government to take steps to ban the use of IQ tests with people who cannot speak and have other motor disabilities. IQ tests are not evidence-based for us, and can lead to us being mistreated, segregated, and inappropriately educated. IQ tests have been shown to be especially harmful for people of color and people who do not speak English. 

Our sixth recommendation is that the government should look carefully at how people with expressive communication disabilities are discriminated against in all areas of government and society and to put in place guidance and training to help improve equality of opportunity for all. 

The final set of recommendations deal with improving stakeholder engagement. We recommend that the government do a better job of making sure people with communication disabilities are consulted and given a leading role in decisions about federal research and policy. We recommend the creation of a National Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Empowerment. We recommend that AAC users be hired more and also included in government advisory committees and that they should reflect the racial, linguistic, cultural, and disability diversity of our community. And when people who rely on communication tools and supports provide valuable expertise, they should be paid fairly for that work. 

You can read CommunicationFIRST’s full response (11 pages) to the White House Office of Management and Budget’s request for information on equity here.