We applaud the hundreds of disability rights leaders, advocates, researchers, and organizations on the frontlines of the disability justice movement who urged NIH to designate people with disabilities as a “health disparity population.” Their bold leadership and steadfast commitment to health equity ensured that NIH responded and took this step to dramatically expand access to funding for research into the disparities in the health of people with disabilities. The greatest expertise, research, and planning can now be put in place to address the significant inequities that have prevented one of the largest populations in the United States from receiving quality care and experiencing optimal health outcomes. This decision has set the tone for NIH and further emphasizes the most important mantra in the disability justice movement: “Nothing about us, without us.” Building a culture where all people have a fair and just opportunity to reach their best health and wellbeing can only be achieved if people with disabilities have a seat at the table to inform and advance policies, regulations, laws, and initiatives that address disability rights, accessibility, and inclusion.
The NIH decision comes also as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the landmark civil rights law that requires equal opportunity for people with disabilities and served as a foundation for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These policies and practices represent important progress to dismantle structural ableism—and famously, the denial of the regulations in 1975 served as an impetus for the modern disability rights movement. As a Foundation committed to health equity and inclusion, we commend efforts to ensure these groundbreaking laws are fully realized.
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About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States. In partnership with others, we are working to develop a Culture of Health rooted in equity that provides every individual with a fair and just opportunity to thrive, no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they have.
We're working to create equal opportunity to pursue a healthier life so that race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status no longer plays a role in our health.
Achieving Health Equity
As health disparities in the U.S. continue to grow, RWJF's health equity toolkit provides resources, data, and examples of communities working to achieve better health for all.
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