Kiosk Newsbit

January 13, 1999


12:58 P.M. EST 

                           THE WHITE HOUSE

                    Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                       January 13, 1999     
                      REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                      ON DISABILITY INITIATIVE 
                           The East Room                             

12:58 P.M. EST
             THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  Wasn't she great?  Let's give her 
another hand.  She was great.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

             On behalf of all of us in our administration, many of 
whom are here, I want to thank all the advocates for persons with 
disabilities in our audience.  I thank especially Tony Coelho; Becky 
Ogle; Paul Marchand; my great friend, Justin Dart; Paul Miller and 
others.  I want to thank all the people in the administration, those 
in the Cabinet who are here with me and the agency heads and the 
others in the White House who have done so much to help to sensitize 
me and the Vice President and others to the challenges and our 

             I say a special word of thanks to Tom Harkin, who has 
personally taught me a lot about the issues we discuss today; to 
Senator Ted Kennedy and to Senator Jeffords.  I knew if I listened 
long enough that Republican rhetoric would finally sound good around 
one issue.  (Laughter.)  And you did it today, and I thank you.  You 
were just great.  It was great.

             I'd also like to thank two great friends of this cause 
who are in the audience:  Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island, and 
Congressman Ben Cardin from Maryland.  We thank them for being here.  

             You know, a lot of things have already been said, and I 
would like to say something not in my notes.  I hope nobody will take 
this the wrong way, because everybody knows what a great enthusiast I 
am of athletics.  Most of the cameras at this hour are somewhere 
else, and I want to say, on behalf of my wife -- from Chicago -- and 
myself, that we wish Michael Jordan well.  We admire him, we like him 
very much, and we thank him for years of thrilling exploits.  
             In my life, I don't know that I ever saw another athlete 
with such a remarkable set of qualities of mind, body and spirit -- 
not only somebody who had a body that would do things no one else's 
would do, but who always expected to do whatever it was he tried to 
do.  And I think it's appropriate that the sports fans around America 
take a day or two to "ooh" and "aah" and hold their breath again, and 
be glad again.  But the courage of Karen Moore, and all the people 
like her, is greater still by far.  (Applause.)  
             I remember once, many years ago, after I lost an 
election and became the youngest former governor in American 
history -- (laughter) -- with very dim future prospects, a wise 
old country lawyer wrote me a letter.  And he said, Bill, you 
know, it takes a little bit of strength to sustain a terrible 
setback; but the real courage in life is living through the grind 
of day-to-day existence with dignity and nobility and charity.

          How much more true is that for people with 
disabilities, for whom daily existence can be a greater grind, 
for whom charity is harder to muster of the spirit because so 
many of the rest of us have been so blindly insensitive to things 
which would enable all of us to get through that daily life 

          A lot of good things have happened since the '70s -- 
Senator Kennedy talked about it -- since these gentlemen and 
others passed the Americans With Disabilities Act.  We did have a 
great renewal of the IDEA a year or so ago.  But 75 percent of 
Americans with disabilities are still unemployed.  You just heard 
why.  Millions are forced to make the impossible choice between 
going to work and keeping their health insurance.  Millions more 
lack the tools and services that could make the difference 
between dependence and independence.
          We all know working is a fundamental part of what we 
say is the American Dream.  Maya Angelou once said that work is 
"something made greater by ourselves, and in turn, that makes us 
greater."  You heard Karen, you heard what she said -- how I'm 
working, how I love being at work, oh, by the way, my family life 
is better and I don't get sick as much.  That is not an accident.  
Every single one of us, we want to be fully engaged in life.  And 
we ought to have the chance to do so.
          I like what Senator Jeffords said about how the 
Congressional Budget Office might or might not estimate this 
initiative, and I had that argument before and lost it, so I'm 
not going to get into that.  But let me ask you this.  When we've 
got the largest surplus in our history, the longest peacetime 
expansion in our history, perhaps the strongest economy we've 
ever had, if we cannot address this issue now, then when will we 
ever address it?  Now is the time.  (Applause.)
          So here is what we propose to do.  First, you've 
already heard about the landmark legislation by Senators 
Jeffords, Kennedy, Roth, and Moynihan, to assist millions of 
Americans with disabilities who want to work.  Today I am pleased 
to announce that the balanced budget I will present to Congress 
fully funds this vitally important initiative.  (Applause.)  
Americans should never have to choose between the dignity of work 
and the health care they need.  With this legislation they'll 
have a ticket to work, not an impossible choice.

          I will also continue to work with Congress to pass 
legislation I know is very important to the disability community, 
a strong, enforceable patients' bill of rights.  (Applause.)  And 
to strengthen Social Security for the 21st century, not just for 
retirees, but also for people with disabilities -- and we ought 
to do it this year, with no excuses.  (Applause.)  

          Second, we must make it easier for people with 
disabilities to get to work.  As anyone with a disability can 
tell you, it takes more than a job to enter the work force.  
Often, it takes successful transportation, specialized technology 
or personal assistance.  And the cost can be prohibitively high.  
Today, I am pleased to announce a new $1,000 tax credit so 
hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities will be helped 
to meet these critically important expenses.  (Applause.)  

          Finally, we have to give people with disabilities the 
tools they need to succeed -- we all need that.  I hope all of 
you had a chance to experience and see the amazing displays out 
there in the Grand Foyer -- from a portable computer kiosk that 
helps people with disabilities vote or find a job, to the latest 

voice recognition software that lets you use a computer without 
touching a keyboard, to a new generation of mobile telephones 
that connect directly to hearing aids, to a device to immediately 
translate music into braille.  

          This kind of "assistive technology," as it is called, 
will empower people as never before.  Today, I am pleased to 
announce that my budget will double our investment in this sort 
of technology, to make it more available to people with 
disabilities.  (Applause.)  
          We also will help states to expand low-income loan 
programs to help more people afford these promising products.  
The federal government will become a model user of assistive 
technology; we will increase our commitment to research and 
development to continue our progress.

          Increased access to health care, more assistance at 
home and in the workplace, remarkable new technologies made more 
available:  This is how we can make sure that all Americans can 
take their rightful place in our 21st century workplaces. 

          Last summer the Vice President announced our plan to 
build at the FDR Memorial a new statue of President Roosevelt in 
the wheelchair, from which he led our nation -- the wheelchair he 
then felt compelled to hide because of the negative attitudes of 
his time.  Well, we've come a long way since those days and, even 
though we in public life get to make the speeches, I think it's 
clear to all of us that you deserve the credit -- all of the work 
you have done.  (Applause.)

          People with disabilities are increasingly a powerful 
presence in America, from our schools to our businesses to the 
halls of government -- but maybe equally important, increasingly 
a welcome, comfortable, normal presence.  President Roosevelt 
said, "No country, no matter how rich, can afford to waste its 
human resources."  This is really all about living up to that 

          Thank you, Karen.  Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  
Let's go out and pass this legislation.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

             END                      1:05 P.M. EST