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Release: July 25, 2000

Symposium will focus on improving employment opportunities for the disabled

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- How to evaluate workforce initiatives and improve employment prospects for persons with disabilities will drive discussions among attendees at The Summer 2000 Researchers' Symposium July 27 to Aug. 2 at Oakdale Hall at the University of Iowa's Oakdale Campus.

The weeklong conference of scholars, social science researchers and others is timed to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the passage of The Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into federal law on July 26, 1990.

Finding additional ways for improving the economic future for those with disabilities for their and the national economy's benefit is needed, says Peter Blanck, UI law professor and director of the UI's Law, Health Policy & Disability Center, which will lead the national symposium.

Disability Center co-director and UI law professor Len Sandler says the ADA has been effective in opening certain doors and providing opportunities for persons with disabilities, but adds, it's still debatable whether the law has created the widespread employment opportunities many thought that it would.

"The ADA has opened opportunities for students to go to college, fostered changes in transportation, education, communications and technology services," among other things, Sandler says.

But, he says, "it's embedded in the culture and in the minds of many that the disabled aren't attractive or qualified employees. Those attitudinal barriers are greater threats to independence and equal opportunity than physical barriers individuals encounter."

The symposium will feature as panelists: Katherine Seelman, director, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research; Michael Morris, director, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workforce Investment and Employment for People with Disabilities. Others include Carol Gill, Officer of the Society for Disability Studies and assistant professor, human development, University of Chicago.

The symposium is also sponsored by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, the UI's Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

All meetings will be in the Gold Room at Oakdale Hall. For more information, contact James Schmeling, associate director of the Law, Health Policy & Disability Center at (319) 335-4833.