Warwick Post: Langevin Introduces Bill Improving Emergency Preparedness for People With Disabilities

Warwick Post: Langevin Introduces Bill Improving Emergency Preparedness for People With Disabilities

By Rob Borkowski

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), and Peter King (R-NY) have introduced legislation that would create an advisory committee to improve U.S. emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.

“I understand the extra fear and uncertainty that individuals with disabilities often associate with emergencies – I’ve felt it myself,” said Langevin, co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus. “During disasters, it is critical that we have appropriate equipment, treatments and personnel that reflect the needs of our most vulnerable populations. This legislation will ensure that people with disabilities have a seat at the table during disaster preparedness policy making. After all, people will disabilities need to be included in disaster planning from the outset, not as an afterthought.”

“Disasters affect all populations differently. From Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Maria last year, it is clear we are not doing enough to protect vulnerable populations, including Americans with disabilities,” said Thompson, Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security. “Having HHS revisit its preparedness planning to include the needs of those with disabilities ensures no one will get left behind. I thank my colleague, Mr. Langevin, for seeing the need for this legislation and for introducing it today.”

“When a disaster strikes, it is imperative that our Federal, State and local officials have the knowledge and a clear plan to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities,” said King. “I want to commend my good friend Rep. Langevin on this legislation. It is critical.”

This bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a 25-member National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities in All-Hazards Emergencies comprised of federal and local officials with expertise in disability-related policy and at least four individuals with disabilities that have substantial experience in disability inclusive emergency management.

The advisory committee would be charged with evaluating existing policy and providing recommendations to ensure the coordination of care for those with disabilities during disasters.

Transportation Today: House advances legislation to protect expiring FAA programs

Transportation Today: House advances legislation to protect expiring FAA programs

BY CHRIS GALFORD

By an overwhelming majority, the U.S. House voted this week in favor of keeping Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs at risk of expiration in September.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, or HR 4, is heavily focused on consumer protections and does much more than simply maintain the status quo. Rather, it sets a minimum size for aircraft seats, prohibits passengers from being removed once seated, demands airline transparency over compensation policies for unforeseen events like delays, lost luggage and overbooking, and establishes what is essentially a bill of rights for passengers with disabilities. It also, thanks to an amendment from U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI), requires a review of airport and airline personnel training, if they are the ones assisting those with disabilities.

“I am proud that this bill makes substantial progress in expanding the rights of all Americans to travel with dignity,” Langevin said. “As someone who knows firsthand the challenges of flying with a disability, it is important that we have a modern framework to prevent discrimination. Air carriers have made substantial progress since the 1980s, but with over 30,000 complaints still being filed annually, we have a ways to go before we can achieve the goal of truly equal access to the skies.

Along with the new additions, the bill reauthorizes FAA programs to continue for another five years. It flat funds the Airport Improvement Program and requests better integration of drones into the U.S. airspace. Notably, it also drops a much-debated effort to privatize the air traffic control system.

“Rhode Islanders have seen the benefits of expanding service at TF Green Airport, and funding from the FAA has been an important part of our improvement projects,” Langevin said. “I also hope the Senate will take a more robust view toward drone regulation by including the bill Senator Whitehouse and I introduced to provide clear criminal penalties for recklessly operating drones in a way that endangers safety.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate floor for further consideration.

Portsmouth Daily Times: Joint letter urges forgiveness of loans

Portsmouth Daily Times: Joint letter urges forgiveness of loans

By Staff Writers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – If Congressional lawmakers are able to persuade U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see things their way, parents of students who borrow money and then become totally and permanently disabled may have their loan debt erased.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos requesting the discharge of Parent PLUS Loans taken out on behalf of students who become totally and permanently disabled. They were joined by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Congressmen Peter Roskam (R-IL), Ron Kind (D-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL).

“Federal law already recognizes that the difficulties that befall someone who sustains a total and permanent disability necessitate a pathway to student loan forgiveness. Parents also deserve access to this debt relief,” the lawmakers wrote. “When a child becomes totally and permanently disabled, parents should not be forced to continue bearing the burden of student loan debt.”

When a student borrower becomes totally and permanently disabled, they are discharged from having to repay most federal loans. Parents who borrow funds on their child’s behalf, however, remain liable for the debt even when their child sustains a total and permanent disability. The average Parent PLUS loan in 2016-2017 was $15,880, an immense cost for parents to bear while also caring for their disabled child.

Last December, Portman introduced Domenic’s Law (S. 2258), legislation to allow a parent whose child develops a total and permanent disability to qualify for student loan discharge. In May 2017, Langevin introduced the bipartisan PLUS Loan Disability Forgiveness Act (H.R. 2270), a similar bill in the House.

The Hill: Progress made by ADA is under attack by Congress

The Hill: Progress made by ADA is under attack by Congress

Op-Ed Written By Congressman Jim Langevin

As the first quadriplegic to serve in Congress, I’ve spent the last 17 years navigating the hallways of our nation’s Capitol Building in a wheelchair. My ability to enter the House chamber, cast my vote, and carry out my responsibilities as a member of Congress was made possible by extraordinary leaders who fought for passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights law that protects Americans from discrimination due to a disability and promotes inclusion within our society.

However, the more than quarter century legacy of the ADA is being threatened. Today, the House of Representatives will vote on the cynically named ADA Education and Reform Act (H.R. 620), harmful legislation that fundamentally weakens the protections of the ADA.

The ADA Education and Reform Act is marketed as a bill to aid ADA compliance and promote greater inclusion for people with disabilities. Make no mistake, though, this bill undermines years of progress for the disability community by preventing disabled individuals from asserting their rights under the ADA. Ironically, H.R. 620 adds legal barriers, including long court wait times, to a law that is all about bringing down barriers — and we have had more than 27 years to comply. The excessive requirements and extensive waiting periods decimate the right to public accommodations for an entire vulnerable population and set a dangerous precedent for the future. After all, justice delayed is justice denied.

The sponsors of the legislation point to some unscrupulous lawyers who have taken advantage of certain laws that allow monetary awards for violations of accessibility standards. However, these are state laws – suing for damages is not permitted under the federal law. Instead of addressing this problem at its source, proponents of the bill are opting to reduce accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in schools, restaurants, public transportation, commercial facilities, recreational sites, sales or rental establishments and more.

I remember what it was like before the ADA became law. We did not have access to public buildings, employment opportunities were scarce, and there were no legal protections against discrimination. I remember wanting to attend certain schools, family functions, or even professional events, but my participation was always dictated by the barriers I encountered. Each lost opportunity was a reminder that I am not like everyone else. Even if our country was founded by a belief that we can celebrate our differences while finding strength in our commonalities, I – like so many people with a disability – should not be limited because I cannot have a seat at the proverbial table of life – no matter the occasion.

Despite the sea of change brought by the ADA, people with disabilities continue to face significant obstacles to meaningful inclusion. I do not wish to go back to a time where discrimination was commonplace and accepted under our laws.

We must not undermine the fundamental rights of people with disabilities by passing this misguided bill that encourages businesses to ignore the ADA. Every vote of support will be a message to people with disabilities that we are not equal or worthy of the same civil rights protections as other individuals. The stakes could not be higher for people with disabilities and everyone who looks to our elected officials to fight for what’s right and reject all forms of discrimination. After nearly three decades of amazing progress, let’s not turn back the clock.

Langevin represents Rhode Island’s 2nd District and is co-chair of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus.