Preamble: The Maryland Disabilities Forum presents the following six (6) principles as a basis for discussion, decision making and action; informing systems change, policy setting and provision of services and supports for Marylanders with disabilities. Each principle is important in its own right, yet the principles are inter-related and must be addressed on a coordinated basis in order to achieve the most effective outcomes.
While it is essential that children are provided with an early start to integrated child care and educational opportunities, access to appropriate and affordable health care must also start early in a person’s life to ensure that they are able to fully participate in the educational process. Additionally, addressing these principles on a coordinated basis will undoubtedly increase the quality of outcomes and cost efficiencies across individual items. For example, an individual who is gainfully employed will be in a better position to live independently and may require less housing supports.
Supporting greater independence and economic well-being among Marylanders with disabilities has far reaching benefits; for individuals, their families, local communities, business, governments, and the general public. Addressing the following six principles will provide a basis for ensuring that Maryland has a well educated, productive, working, taxpaying and fully participating citizenry – a citizenry that is diverse and inclusive; contributing to a better quality of life for all Marylanders.
1. People with disabilities need to receive supports and services in their communities where they live, work, play, vote, attend school and worship. Maryland’s policies governing the funding of such supports and services must reflect a commitment to this principle.
Honor people’s choices. Funding should enable people with disabilities to choose where to live and to participate fully in their communities.
Focus funding on community options: expand home and community based services (HCBS) funding; change programs at the state and federal level to reduce institutional bias and to divert people from placement in institutional settings.
Commit to funding non-medical care, supervision and assistance in the home of the person or in the community to achieve increased independence, productivity and inclusion in the community. Personal support services include, but are not limited to, personal assistance services, assistive technology and interpreters.
2. People with disabilities need accessible and affordable housing throughout Maryland. Maryland’s current housing availability is insufficient.
Strengthen Maryland’s building code to fully incorporate the principles of universal design, including visitability.
Create incentives to increase the development of accessible and affordable housing stock.
Create/expand stipends and other subsidies for accessible renovations to assist homeowners or rental occupants.
3. People with disabilities should have a level of employment equal to the general population. Maryland’s policies governing employment must support efforts to access meaningful employment and opportunities for career advancement.
Champion a cultural shift in societal expectations for career achievement among people with disabilities.
Address the severe inadequacy of transportation services to get to and from work on a timely basis in a more comprehensive manner both within jurisdictions and across existing regional systems.
Increase resources directed to promoting and supporting integrated employment, including provision of funding for “job placement” services.
Support zero tolerance for disability based employment discrimination.
Expand employment opportunities in state government, including entry level positions for transitioning youth.
4. Individuals with disabilities should have access to a level of transportation services that enables timely access to a full array of community services and activities, including but not limited to medical care and employment.
Create an accessible, coordinated statewide system (region-to-region and within regions) of transportation.
Improve the maintenance of sidewalks, bus stops, train stations, and other transportation access infrastructure and enforce laws related to public rights of way.
Improve the overall availability of basic transportation services throughout Maryland, including ensuring full accessibility and availability of Paratransit services.
5. People with disabilities need increased access to affordable health and mental health care to fully assure their well-being and quality of life.
Ensure that Marylanders have the right and access to preventive health care; regardless of their income level, disability or employment status.
Fully fund Medicaid, including Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT); and full funding of mental health services.
Provide all citizens a choice and parity in their health and mental health coverage.
Provide universal and affordable prescription drug coverage, and coverage for appropriate durable medical equipment and supplies.
6. Children and young adults with disabilities need a full complement of supports to achieve successful learning in the most integrated setting.
Provide access to academic and extracurricular activities for persons with disabilities; including parents, family, friends, and teachers.
Increase commitment to funding all necessary in-class and other school system supports for students, teachers and administrators.
Allocate funding for the purpose of transitioning youth from the school system into the community, including but not limited to transition to employment.
Provide essential training and skills development for transition personnel and community partners.