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Contributed photo / Tera Roberts, middle, CEO of the Orange Grove Center, stands beside Dr. Rick Rader, right, during his virtual appointment to the National Council on Disability at Orange Grove on Oct. 15, 2020.

Dr. Rick Rader, director of the Habilitation Center at the Orange Grove Center, has been appointed to the National Council on Disability — an independent federal agency that advises the president, Congress and other federal institutions on disability policies, programs and practices.

The National Council on Disability is known for recommending and drafting the first version of the bill that would ultimately become the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990. Council Chair Neil Romano said much of the agency's work today revolves around ensuring that the promise of the ADA is a reality for all Americans.

"There are still people, states, organizations, medical groups that feel that people with disabilities' lives are simply not as valuable as other people's lives," Romano said, citing a recent example that came to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We literally knew of states that had in their emergency plans that they would not treat people with disabilities," he said.

Tennessee was one of the states that updated its standards to better protect patients with disabilities after drawing fire from disability advocates over guidelines that excluded people with "advanced neuromuscular disease" who require "assistance with activities of daily living or requiring chronic ventilatory support" from accessing critical care, including ventilators.

Rader is a longtime proponent of the need to train clinicians — from physicians and nurses to dentists and therapists — on how to better treat and care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / Dr. Rick Rader, director of the Habilitation Center at the Orange Grove Center, has been appointed to the National Council on Disability — an independent federal agency that advises the President, Congress and other federal agencies on disability policies, programs and practices.

In his new role, he will help the agency craft policy solutions for some of the most pressing issues for people with disabilities, such as improving access to medical care and employment opportunities. Rader is also the only current council member who is a medical doctor.

"He brings an awful lot of expertise, energy and understanding of the whole situation of disability to the council," Romano said. "The president appointing Dr. Rader speaks volumes of the value that he brings to the council, but also the work that he has done and continues to do at Orange Grove."

While the appointment is an honor, it's also a testament to Orange Grove for supporting Rader's ideas and programs. Some examples include expanding universal newborn screening in Tennessee and improving medical education to include training that's specific to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

"This is a great opportunity and something that any advocate would be proud to serve on," Rader said, "because the council moves mountains and because it's an organization that addresses all policies and problems for people with disabilities."

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or follow her on Twitter @ecfite.

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