American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
American Association of People with Disabilities
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
Purpose and structure
The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is the largest cross-disability membership organization in the nation. The agency serves multiple purposes, the most fundamental of which is advocacy. Established in 1995, the agency's original objectives were twofold: (1) to be a voice for and implement the policy goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) -- which had been enacted in 1990 -- and (2) to unite a wide diversity of people with disabilities into a community, bringing together the many disability-specific organizations that made up the landscape. The American Association of People with Disabilities holds that joining the diverse constituencies of the disability community -- people with physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, sensory disabilities, psychiatric disabilities, and chronic health conditions -- helps these different interest groups to find common ground, which strengthens their resolve and conditions the way to bring about change (ADPD, 2011; Freire, 1998). The American Association of People with Disabilities is a 501( c) (3) organization. The key subcommittees and associated target agendas of the non-profit are: (a) Membership and benefits; (b) Policy; and (c) Operations. The governance model is typical for non-profit and corporate organizations. Leadership consists of a Board of Directors, and COO / Executive Vice President, and President / CEO positions.
Mission and values. The American Association of People with Disabilities was intended to unite not only people with disabilities, but their families, friends, and supporters. The interests of the American Association of People with Disabilities extend to the political, economic, and social realms. The mission of the American Association of People with Disabilities is "to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities" (AADP, 2011). Just as other national advocacy agencies do, the American Association of People with Disabilities collaborates with local, regional, and national organizations whose primary work is advocacy, with faith-based organizations, private business, institutions of higher education, public educational systems, and all branches of the United States government. In 2008, the American Association of People with Disabilities worked tirelessly to educate lawmakers and build grassroots support for the American Disabilities Act Amendment Act, which was enacted as a major milestone in the prevention of discrimination against people with disabilities. The Act restored ADA coverage to millions of Americans by clarifying the definition of the term "disability." Four Supreme Court decisions "that had inappropriately narrowed the protection of the ADA" were overturned by the American Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008. Once again, American people with epilepsy, cancer, diabetes, depression, and other conditions that had been interpreted out of the original American Disabilities Act were covered by the second ADA Amendment Act.
Written Policies and Contracts
Employee Training and Development
In addition to the basic advocacy work of the agency, the American Association of People with Disabilities keeps employment issues at the forefront of their efforts. The organization is committed to "reversing the persistently high percentages of people with disabilities who are not working but are ready, willing, and able to work" and to a general effort of improving employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities in order to support the economic independence and sufficiency of people with disabilities (AADP, 2011).
The roots of the agency run deeply into the arena of employment rights and opportunity. The American Association of People with Disabilities was established by Paul G. Hearne, whose dream it was to create a national organization that would give a stronger pubic voice and more consumer power to people with disabilities. He also wished to cultivate promising people working in the disability rights movement as potential leaders. Hearne had a lifelong disability but was able to achieve "success as a nonprofit executive, foundation president, federal agency director, and mentor to countless people with disabilities" (AAPD, 2011). Hearne manifested his passionate advocacy for increased employment opportunities and improved employment outcomes for people with disabilities by establishing an employment agency for people with disabilities in New York City called Just One Break. In addition, he established The Dole Foundation for Employment of People with Disabilities in Washington, D.C.
As would be expected of an organization dedicated to improving the employment opportunities and employment outcomes for people with disabilities, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the internal recruitment and hiring practices of the agency are exemplary. The American Association of People with Disabilities is a strong supporter of practices that bring about the development and implementation of improved rates of hiring, retention, promotion,, and advancement of people with disabilities. Within the organization, many most key positions are held by people with disabilities, including the President / CEO and the Chairperson of the Board of Directors. The agency holds that a disability can happen to anyone at any time (Dalai Lama, & Bstan-'Dzin-Rgy, 1999), thus making it important for employers to make integral to the workplace those employment practices that consider the needs of all employees, including the potential and future employees who will have disability-related employment needs. A belief of the American Association of People with Disabilities is that, "By promoting equality and full access for people with disabilities, employers will create a more productive and cost effective work environment for all employees" (AAPD, 2011). Through the Campaign for Disability Employment that the agency administers, it challenges American employers to think differently through this promotional message: "At work, it's what people can do that matters" (AAPD, 2011). This campaign is a collaborative initiative designed to promote awareness and recognition of the talents, skills, and value that employees with disabilities bring to the workplace.
Recognition programs. In 1999, the Milbank Foundation for Rehabilitation established the Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards. This initiative was a gesture to honor Hearne as a former board member of the foundation, to honor Hearne as a friend, and to support Hearne's lifelong goal of identifying, supporting, and recognizing those emerging leaders with promise to make a substantive difference in the field of cross-disability civil rights (Buskey & Pitts, 2009). In 2000, the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) and American Association of People with Disabilities supported the award together. Two individuals are selected whose passion, life, and work mirrors the legacy and life of Paul G. Hearne. Award recipients are honored at the annual AAPD Leadership Gala through presentation of a short documentary film that chronicles the special work of the featured leaders. A fiscal award of $10,000 accompanies the honor, and it is provided with the intention that the funds will help the leaders to continue to make progress in their work, to have opportunity to network and meet with disability leaders on a national level.
Decision-making and implementation. Few organizations can claim that they have no to little policy slippage in the implementation of their regulations regarding employment (Lipsky, 1980; Wildavsky, 1979: Pressman & Wildavsky, 1984). But, fairly, this can be said of the American Association of People with Disabilities. Decisions are made with full awareness -- across the organization -- that what is carried out by the American Association of People with Disabilities is highly visible and will have an attentive and critical audience (Surface, 2009). It is imperative that policy coherence is evident and that decision-making is as free from arbitrariness as possible.
One support to coherent policy implementation is that the policies and the practices are philosophically and feasibly aligned. The body of expertise that is needed by the agency in its advocacy work is the very same set of skills and knowledge held by people with disabilities who apply for jobs with the American Association of People with Disabilities Training of agency employees regarding the implementation of employment policies and practices is inherently a part…