On The Net
The DSSHE-L Listserv has served many purposes in the past five years, as an informational "Town Hall", as a place where products are critiqued, and even as an intellectual/emotional release with the occasional humorous anecdote. This summer, however, it served a new purpose, as a vehicle for mobilizing political influence on an important legislative matter. In June of this year before 7:00 a.m. one morning, Jane Jarrow (DAIS) informed the list membership that The Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act had been passed by both houses of Congress. She said "it was ushered through very quickly and quietly, tacked on as an amendment to the Workforce Investment Partnership Act (WIPA). The bill has now been sent to a Joint Conference Committee for resolution of differences."
What years earlier would have been one of those situations where you wake up and find that important legislation that affects you had been quietly signed into law, in the age of the Internet, was now merely a call to arms. One version of the bill would have drastically changed the way service providers conducted business, by shifting costs of auxiliary aids from State Vocational Rehabilitation offices on to College and University DSS offices.
Jane's missive directed service providers to a website where the text of the bill could be found, and urged the readers to make their bosses know what the potential impact of the bill might be. By noon of that day, Jane followed up with a web address for folks who wished to contact their congressional representatives via e-mail. At 2:00 p.m. that afternoon, Scott Lissner of Longwood College sent a copy of a memo to the list that he had sent to the decision makers on his campus. He encouraged the list members to feel free to modify it for use on their own campuses.
Memos like that had their desired effect, as College Presidents reacted and spoke with the governmental relations folks at the American Council on Education and other members of the Higher Education Secretariat. Wayne Cocchi of Columbus State Community College stated that "we are getting responses written from all levels of administration on our campus including the President."
Within minutes of midnight on the following Monday, Jane Jarrow updated the list on events that had transpired in Washington. It was evident that the voice of the DSS community was heard, but now a new message had to be sent, that opposition to the Bill was not related to a desire to shirk serving persons with disabilities. She asked for specific information on the level of service that was currently being provided on campuses across the country. The Big Ten weighed in, with Phyllis Thompson of Ohio State and Sam Goodin of Michigan responded with some level of indignation that anyone would question higher education and its commitment to meet the needs of students with disabilities.