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NIH Record ECD Web Site Brings Visibility to Disability

Many NIH'ers are probably unaware that the Americans with Disability Act, a civil rights statute passed by Congress in 1990, does not apply to persons with disabilities within the NIH community, be they employees, visitors or guests. Rather, equal access to all NIH-sponsored programs, services, activities and events is governed by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. To help promote awareness of what rights and obligations the law imposes, the NIH Employees Concerned with Disabilities (ECD) recently launched a Web site as an information resource at A primary focus of the site is to work to eliminate architectural, communication and attitudinal barriers to full participation by persons with disabilities across the institutes and centers at NIH.

"We designed the Web site as a life vest," said Anne Phillips, "when we found that many NIH employees, managers and supervisors felt themselves at sea. Many people don't feel comfortable that they know how to define disability-related circumstances or whom to turn to for assistance. They also feel adrift in knowing how to structure business practices that reinforce NIH objectives such as reasonable accommodation and nondiscrimination on the basis of handicap." Phillips, a program analyst at NIAAA, is the webmaster for the site that was coauthored with ECD members Christy Compton and Gary Morin.

Anne Phillips of ECD

"This is a trans-NIH effort," Phillips said, "to champion disability awareness as a business imperative, and provide leadership for successful attainment of the vision of a diverse workforce at NIH, as well as equal access to all NIH programs and services for persons with disabilities." In addition to an NIH resource directory, the site provides a helpful tool kit of federal sector disability law and guidelines, including the Architectural Barriers Act, Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards, and case law under the Rehabilitation Act. Also available are an online discussion forum and a questionnaire to help identify access barriers. Additional material is planned for guests and visitors with disabilities.

"We have received a very enthusiastic response," Phillips continued. "There appears to be a real need for this kind of effort to put information out there that, until now, has been fragmented across different levels of management or not disseminated at all. Meanwhile, we hope people will bear with us. We know that there is a rich store of additional material to be added to the site — a sort of idea bank that can be drawn upon broadly by one and all — but ours is a volunteer effort and web-building takes time."

Phillips thanks the National Institute of Mental Health, especially Bill Fitzsimmons, Wayne Rasband and Kyle Christiansen, for providing server space to host the site, and the Center for Information Technology, especially Charles Mokotoff, for hosting the ECD web forum on disability, an online discussion area.

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