Thursday, March 18, 2010

Cornell's EDI 2008 Disability Status Report Webinar: A Review

Today, I watched a webinar presented by the Employment and Disability Institute (EDI) within the ILR School (formerly the School of Industrial and Labor Relations) at Cornell University.  Elsewhere, I have outlined some of the materials available on EDI's website generally.  Among those materials, it may be worth noting that EDI occasionally offers other webinars.  EDI maintains a Current News Bulletin webpage (also available in PDF and via RSS feed) that provides notifications of those webinars as well as notices of other disability-related developments; that webpage (or PDF or RSS) appears to be the best way of keeping up with such events. (The news bulletin appears to be produced by the DBTAC for the northeastern region (as distinct from the New England region), which in turn appears to be hosted by ILR.)

Today's webinar was described as " Presents: The 2008 Disability Status Report."  The slides used in this webinar are presently available for PDF download.  As those slides indicate, the webinar amounted to a simple presentation of information that already seems to appear in EDI's Disability Status Reports.  It was, in other words, a video of a series of slides with voice-overs.

No doubt this presentation was exactly what some viewers needed:  it provided a summary of the printed data, in a format that some may find more accessible or interesting.  I also appreciate that, just as Cornell provides an essentially neutral home for other governmental materials, such as the United States Code, so also EDI may see its role in this regard as one of simply serving as a mouthpiece for the government.  But I was disappointed.  I hoped to hear the inside dope.  I didn’t want to just hear, without elaboration, that the 2008 ACS asked significantly different questions than previous years’ surveys, and that the resulting data are therefore not directly comparable to previous years’ results.  I already knew that; my previous post says so.  I wanted to hear why.

I wanted to hear, for example, that my own previous post was correct in its hunch that the data collection process was deliberately corrupted by the Bush Administration, in ways that no self-respecting statistician of disabilities can tolerate.  Or, alternately, I wanted to hear that, no, there were in fact very good reasons, beyond those I already surmised, for eviscerating year-to-year comparability.  I did not want to hear someone simply parrot the fact that, because of said evisceration, the loss of millions of Americans from the lists of the disabled did not mean that those people had actually ceased to have disabilities.  I wanted to hear that statisticians are taking countermeasures, in a bid to develop an approach that will give us an actual, halfway meaningful statistic on the prevalence of disabilities, and on other disability-related matters that the ACS should be covering.