PFAWF Launches Disability Rights Initiative, Becomes Home For ADA Watch And Wired On Wheels

Neas names Jim Ward PFAWF’s Director of Disability Rights

Today People For the American Way Foundation launched a major initiative to work for the civil rights of people with disabilities and named Jim Ward its director of disability rights. Ward, who comes to the newly created position while continuing as executive director of two disability rights projects – ADA Watch and Wired On Wheels – will now operate those programs as projects of PFAWF. PFAWF is a national civil rights and constitutional liberties organization with more than 500,000 members and activists.

Formed to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities, ADA Watch is a coalition of more than 400 national, state, and local disability rights organizations. ADA Watch monitors and educates about issues surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act, including legal challenges and other threats to its enforcement and interpretation. The ADA Watch grassroots network mobilizes Americans with disabilities and others on behalf of the ADA and other laws promoting equality of opportunity.

The second project, Wired On Wheels, operates on the Internet and allows people with disabilities and their friends and family to share information about how accessible public accommodations are. Calling restaurants its "first frontier," WOW! allows users to check or rate the accessibility of thousands of restaurants across America. The WOW! database, which will quickly move to include other businesses – and polling places – offers a valuable public policy tool to advocates, policymakers, and others by providing a barometer to gauge how the ADA is or is not being implemented.

"For more than a decade, the ADA has improved the quality of life of millions of Americans with disabilities," said PFAWF President Ralph G. Neas, who helped coordinate the national campaign to enact the Americans with Disabilities Act while executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "I believe that helping implement and preserve the ADA is vital work. People For the American Way Foundation and Jim Ward will be key players in tracking the evolution of the ADA and threats to it. I am excited about Jim’s coming to People For, and about People For’s commitment to this area of civil rights. All Americans must continue to understand that disability rights are fundamental civil rights."

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Said Ward, "People For the American Way Foundation already feels like home. ADA Watch and

Wired On Wheels – in fact, the entire disability rights community – will benefit from People For’s passion for civil rights and its infrastructure to support this kind of advocacy work. Together we will work aggressively to ensure that, 11 years after the ADA’s signing, its vision becomes a reality for all."

Ward comes to PFAWF with more than 20 years of experience in disability, mental health, advocacy, and electoral politics. Most recently he served as the director of public policy at the National Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems, the network of federally mandated disability rights centers.

It was at NAPAS where Ward helped found ADA Watch. ADA Watch’s coalition and national advisory board include organizations such as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, ADAPT, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Organization on Disability, the Disability Rights Council, The Arc, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the National Association of Protection and Advocacy, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and the National Disabled Student Union.

Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Justin Dart Jr. will continue to serve as the honorary chair of the ADA Watch advisory board.

For more information about People For the American Way Foundation, visit PFAWF on the Web at www.pfaw.org. ADA Watch is on the Web at www.adawatch.org, and Wired On Wheels is at www.wiredonwheels.org.

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