Saturday, March 14, 2009

Special Assistant for Disability Policy...and Arts?


When Kareem Dale's name showed up in my Google Alerts today, I expected to have a disability update for you, since Dale was recently named the president's special assistant for disability policy. But no, the article from the New York Times was about a new role for Dale -- in a new White House position overseeing arts and culture.

I don't know about you, but in my office, lots of people are taking on multiple roles as budgets tighten and staff departures often create vacancies that can't be filled. The question about Dale's most recent role is whether it will distract him from his duties in disability policy or enhance those duties. For example, what is the role of arts and culture for people with disabilities? What effect can art and music therapy play in education for people with special needs?

Yesterday I met with an organization called Rock Against Cancer, which creates music therapy and other music programs for people with cancer. Their challenge is to communicate the mission as an integral part of treatment, and not just a nice add-on. Especially in this economy, "nice to have" items may be the first things to be cut, and the last to be funded. I've also seen the power of arts and music programs in special education.

What do you think? Is the White House asking Dale to take on too much, or will the two roles complement each other?
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