Monday, January 23, 2012

Critics Question Obama Choice For Disability Committee

A presidential appointment this week to a federal disability committee is drawing backlash from a group of self-advocates.
President Barack Obama said early this week that he would appoint Autism Speaks executive Peter Bell to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
The committee of 21 citizens and 13 federal representatives is tasked with advising the president and the secretary of health and human services on issues affecting Americans with intellectual disabilities.
Bell’s appointment is now drawing criticism, however. Members of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network say they are disappointed in the selection of Bell who they call “anti-vaccine.” Specifically they cite Bell’s previous role as head of Cure Autism Now, which merged with Autism Speaks in 2007.
“Bell’s appointment shows such contrast to the forward motion the Obama administration has shown in the areas of autism and disability as a whole,” said Melody Latimer, director of community engagement for the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. “The link between autism and vaccines has long been discredited, and so an appointment placing an anti-vaccine leader in a position to influence a greater audience and re-open the issue is disappointing and ill-advised.”
Bell declined to comment on the allegations. In the past, however, he has spoken up about the possibility of a link between autism and vaccines. In one example from his days at Cure Autism Now, Bell disputed the findings of a 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine that dismissed such a link.

Read more of Michelle Diament's Disability Scoop article HERE.

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