PHILADELPHIA – The City recently took substantive steps to provide stronger structure and accountability for how the city serves persons living with disabilities.  According to recent Census data, an estimated 16 percent of Philadelphia’s residents are people with one or more disabilities. Mayor Kenney recently signed Executive Order 7-17, which formally established the Mayor’s Office on People with Disabilities.  The Executive Order reorganizes the work for people with disabilities so that there is a permanent office operating to advance strategic policies and programs.  The order also re-established Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities that will report to the Office.  The Office and the Commission report to the Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Nolan Atkinson, who heads the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, which oversees the Mayor’s Office on People with Disabilities said, “We look forward to providing expanded services to the community of people with disabilities  under these structural changes.

Within the new office structure, two new positions were created to proactively advance best practices, policies and programs for people with disabilities, including a City-wide Title II ADA Coordinator to help ensure full accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities in City services, and a Constituent Services Coordinator under MOPD to help connect residents to City services.

Daniel Lopez, Jr., joins the City as the Title II ADA Coordinator.  Mr. Lopez has over 27 years of experience in Accessibility and ADA Consulting.  Daniel served as the former ADA Coordinator for the City of Brownsville Texas, and the City of El Paso Texas.  He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) degree focused in Finance from the University of Texas-Pan American.  Mr. Lopez also has a wealth of experience in code compliance as a Usability/Accessibility Specialist for the International Code Council (ICC) and as one of the first licensed Registered Accessibility Specialists by the State of Texas in 2001.

Claudia Tasco was hired as the Constituent Services Coordinator for the office.  Having served most recently at Consortium Adult Mental Health Clinic, Ms. Tasco provided administrative support for the organization, and ensured compliance with Federal, State, local and agency requirements. Within this post she oversaw and managed the creation and distribution of psychological reports for patients with mental and physical disabilities.  Ms. Tasco is a graduate of Philadelphia High school for Girls received associates degree in Business from Philadelphia Community College. She was also a Peer Specialist at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital for 9 years, helping people with life changing injuries cope with a new outlook on life.

“I applaud Mayor Kenney and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for their work and significant headway in diversifying Philadelphia’s economic landscape and leveling the playing field for all who are seeking to do business here,” said Councilman At-Large Derek Green. “This progress is remarkable. Now that the OEO will be receiving certifications from USBLN and The Enterprise Center, we can guarantee more accountability and thus, more opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs – disabled, minority and woman-owned alike.”

The City has also engaged a firm, Milligan & Company, LLC, to prepare an up-to-date citywide ADA self-evaluation report and transition plan to help identify and eliminate barriers to programs for people with disabilities as they seek to use local government services and programs.

City of Philadelphia also recently announced that the City will now accept Disabled Business Enterprise (DSBE) certifications from the United States Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and The Enterprise Center.

“With the addition of  two new staff members, the Executive Order for the Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities, the citywide self-assessment and transition plan and efforts to equitably create more opportunities for individuals with disabilities who are business owners, the Kenney Administration is moving in a direction of access and inclusion to better support and serve people with disabilities in the City of Philadelphia,” said Charles Horton, Executive Director with the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination civil rights legislation passed in 1990 that prohibits state and local governments from perpetuating through its program access, budgetary allocations, employment, contracts, polices, delivery of services, infrastructures (owned or contracted) and all remaining City functions or actions from discriminating against persons with disabilities.