Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren commits support to disability legislation in first meeting with Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disability
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren today set goals to improve employment and housing policies for people with disabilities.
The president listened to members of the Navajo Nation Advisory Council on Disability and the Northern Arizona Tribal Disability Coalition in his state room. Joining them was Navajo Nation Council Delegate Eugenia Charles-Newton and Native American Disability Law Center Attorney Austin Moore.
“Let’s make something happen,” said President Nygren. He was referring to the advisory council’s request to be assigned a single point of contact within the president’s office that will help advance policy changes in the Nation.
The president said he would identify a member of the staff whose “heart is in the right place.” That way, communication will be responsive to the advisory council’s messages and requests.
Mr. Hoskie Benally, a community and government liaison for the law center, said the advisory council first provided input for a personnel policy update in 2018 that was inclusive of people with disabilities.
However, none of their recommendations were reflected in the eventual update to the personnel policies manual.
President Nygren also listened to the numerous stories of individuals not receiving accommodation they needed because buildings or programs don’t consider people with disabilities in planning or basic direct services.
With a large portion of the Navajo population that is considered disabled, the group advised, there needs to be greater focus on making sure people who are disabled can live independent lives with the proper accommodations.
“To my understanding, NHA only has like five percent that is ADA compliant,” said Elton Yazzie of the Northern Arizona Tribal Disabilities Coalition. “To me, that’s a very, very low number.” He said when you think about the elderly, veterans, the disabled and those with non-visual disabilities like seizures induced by smell, that number should be far higher.
“I’m glad that you have your own champion, Honorable Charles-Newton on the legislative side,” the president said.
Speaking to the coming fair season, Delegate Charles-Newton led into her commitment to reintroduce two bills that establish building standards and another that appropriates atl east $11 million to bring Navajo Nation buildings into accessibility compliance.
“We invite the people to these events but we don’t take into consideration that not everyone will be able to attend because it doesn’t accommodate them,” Delegate Charles-Newton said.
President Nygren said leadership from the Division of Community Development and the Division of Human Resources will be in contact with the advisory council as the divisions consider updates to their program rules and planning efforts.
“It’s a little embarrassing when you walk into the president’s office and it’s not even ADA-compliant,” the president said. “I’m looking forward to working with my sister, Eugenia, we’re going to really champion this.”