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Toward Independence and the Vision of an ADA - Part 12

Preclearance of the 1986 Report?; Layout, Packaging, and Final Touches

Another issue we faced was the prospect of administrative preclearance of the report. Federal agencies generally have to submit legislative proposals, reports, or testimony relating to legislation to a review process designed to ensure that they are consistent with Administration policy and legislative priorities. This process is governed by Circular A-19 issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Executive Office of the President, and entails submission of documents to OMB. OMB in turn circulates them to other interested federal agencies for comments and feedback, and incorporates this input to provide advice to the agency issuing the document, which is directed to include the advice given by OMB in the document. According to the Circular, these requirements apply to all executive branch agencies except those that are specifically required by law to transmit their legislative proposals, reports, or testimony to the Congress without prior clearance.

The legislation authorizing the National Council specified that it was to be “an independent agency within the Federal Government,” but “shall not be an agency within the Department of Education or any other department or agency of the United States.”[1] It was expressly directed to submit reports to the Congress and the President, and the legislative history of its statutory mandate made it clear that it was being granted independent agency status in order to permit it to give honest, unfettered advice in its reports and recommendations. For some time, it had been unclear and sometimes controversial to what degree such an independent agency was governed by executive branch oversight and review processes.

In deciding how to proceed on this issue, the Council again got the added-value benefit of the legal expertise of its Research Specialist. While working at the Civil Rights Commission, I had learned that the Commission had vigorously and successfully resisted submitting its reports for administrative review and clearance. Taking my cue from that precedent, I sought to pre-empt the A-19 requirements by declaring up front that the Council was not seeking to enunciate Administration policy in this report. This was critical both to permit the Council to provide its best thinking without policy interference and to make it possible to meet the tight timeframe the Council had for issuing its report. Accordingly, in the December 17 draft, I added, on the first inside page of the summary report, the following disclaimer:

The views contained in this report do not necessarily represent those of the Administration, as this document has not been subject to the A-19 Executive Branch review process.

I also included such a disclaimer at the beginning of the Appendix.

From about the middle of December onward, work on the report focused increasingly on assembly and production. An ISBN number was obtained for the report for domestic and international reference purposes. Much of the staff work for making these arrangements was performed by Ethel Briggs. Sections of the report were sent for typesetting and then proofread carefully.

Lex and Chairperson Parrino reviewed the draft report several times and compared its contents with their notes and minutes of the August and November Council meetings to ensure that it accurately represented the consensus opinions and recommendations of the Council. On December 27, a final draft of the report was sent to the printers. Copies were sent to the Council members, along with a cover letter from Mrs. Parrino describing the production and printing arrangements, and the artistic and graphics touches that would be added; and commenting on the importance and historic nature of the report.

In the next phase – proofs and galleys – materials went back and forth from the printers to the staff and editorial consultants. Consultations with graphic layout advisers were also needed to put the chart of federal programs and legislative committees in more visually appealing form. Dark and light blue shading was added to provide contrast and aesthetic appeal to the chart. In the final published report, the chart measured 24½ by 10½ inches; its left side was attached to the spine of the report and it was folded four times to fit inside the document. Though it was a somewhat impressive feature of the report, it appeared not to have the effect desired by those members of the Council who thought that federal disability programs were too numerous and too fractionalized. Instead of dramatizing a chaotic overabundance of federal programs serving people with disabilities, in my view the chart portrayed a relatively orderly and logical structure of federal disability programs and congressional jurisdiction, albeit one with multiple parts and some complexity.

In addition to the chart, graphic layout assistance helped to smarten up a bar graph of the proportion of the adult population with work disabilities by age (which ranged from 3% for those aged 16-24 to 49% of those 75 and over) and a pie chart of persons with work disabilities by work status and receipt of federal income assistance (which showed that 63% did not receive federal assistance, 5% worked while receiving federal aid, and only 32% were non-workers who received federal income assistance). As with the chart, in each of these two illustrations different shades of blue were used to add contrast and visual appeal.

A lot more of the color blue, in this case royal blue, went into the largest graphic feature of the report – its cover. The background of both the front and back pages of the cover was bright royal blue. On the front cover, a graphic title banner featured the “Toward Independence” name of the report, with the word “Independence” prominent in very large print and “Toward” above it in somewhat smaller print; and, beneath the title, the subtitle “An Assessment of Federal Laws and Programs Affecting Persons with Disabilities – With Legislative Recommendations.” The most eye-catching aspect of the cover was a dramatic silver silhouette of an eagle in flight in the middle just below the title banner. Lex, working with DC-area artist and graphics expert Helen Barsalou, had a big hand in deciding upon the eagle depiction. Unlike the stylized eagle, standing with its wings outstretched in a very unnatural pose that appears on the Great Seal of the United States and on the Presidential Seal, the silhouetted eagle on the Toward Independence cover looks like a real bird flapping its wings heading to a perch or perhaps some prey. It not only conformed to the symbolism of the bald eagle as the national bird and emblem of America, but it also was representative of independence, moving toward a goal, and perhaps some fierce determination to reach its destination. The eagle in flight was an inspired choice for the cover image of the report.

Continue on to Part 13: Significant Additions to NCD Staff

[1] H.R. Rep. No. 98-595, at 11, § 141(b)(1) (1984) (Conf. Rep.).

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