"MESSAGE TO DISABLED FLORIDIANS" By: Jeb Bush
December 1998, Florida
By Governor-elect Jeb Bush
"Talking with a variety of Floridians with disabilities and their families has helped understand a lot more about the lives, challenges and dreams of those with disabilities. However, I know that my education continues with everyone new I meet.
People with disabilities are no different than anyone else. They want to work, have families, and live independently. As Governor, I would work hard to create an environment that gives people with disabilities every opportunity to be independent and play an active role in their communities and in our State.
My first experiences with disability issues were visiting with adults and children with developmental disabilities, their families, advocates, and providers.
I have been impressed by the differences between persons with these disabilities who remain in their homes, receiving community-based support services and similar persons living primarily in institutional or large residential facilities. What I observe is not just a difference in expression, it's a difference in the way they act, how they respond, how they interact with the people around them, how they look, how they talk, and probably in how they will face life with its opportunities and challenges.
I am convinced that, whenever possible, Floridians with disabilities should be able to remain in their communities with their families, friends or roommates and receive the support services they require.
That way, their lives are enriched and they continue to enrich the lives of their families, friends and communities. Of course, in cases of severe and profound disabilities, there may be no option other than a dedicated residential facility. That choice should be preserved.
In order for individuals to be able to live at home or on their own, there must be an excellent, responsive network of support services available to assist them and their families. Funding needs to be shifted to provide the full range of these services. In turn, more individuals can be served and with a broader range of services, such as transportation or respite care that have often been unavailable in the past.
As Governor, I will work to allow individuals with disabilities and/or their families to have more say about what services and necessary treatments are provided, based on each person's professionally identified needs.
This is a time of setting new directions in care for people with disabilities here in Florida. I have reviewed the Governor's Task Force proposal for the future of DD services and I am waiting for an independent study on the future of developmental disability services that was contracted by the Legislature and will be released shortly. Both of these will help a Bush Administration to make detailed decisions to assist individuals with disabilities. My team will also monitor Washington legislation and work with our Congressional delegation to ensure that federal initiatives are responsive to Florida's needs.
On a separate note, I also have come to realize the importance of educating the public about people with disabilities and disability issues. Too often, people react in fear or distaste when coming face-to-face with persons with disabilities. These people simply lack the necessary knowledge to understand persons with disabilities.
If elected, I will work with state agencies and disability organizations to help erase that insensitivity. If people understand more about how to interact with persons with disabilities, their fear will be diminished. That will open up more opportunities for education, employment, and participation in community life.
In addition, I will support educational programs about disabilities in our schools. Young children are especially receptive and accepting, and their understanding will help bring about changes in everyone's misconceptions about disabilities. I would also support efforts to mainstream children with disabilities whenever possible.
Finally, my Administration will support full compliance with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This is vital, not just for the individuals themselves, but for the communities that will be enriched and blessed by their contributions and participation in community life.
I know that there are other issues that need to be addressed. The state has complex legal mandates to meet. The waiting lists need to be cut way back. The best way for me to lead on these issues is to continue to learn the people who are living those issues day-to-day, their families, and the professionals who provide the care. Let's work together to make Florida a better home for people with disabilities."