March 2, 2017

by: Emily Hastings

March is 30th year of I/DD awareness

For the last 30 years, March has been known as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The declaration was made by former President Ronald Reagan and tremendous strides have been made over the years to promote and protect the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

In 1987, it was estimated that there were 4 million people in the United States living with a developmental disability; it’s now estimated there are over 7 million.

According to Public Law 106-402, a developmental disability means a severe, chronic disability that is attributed to mental or physical impairments that occur prior to the age of 22 and are likely to continue indefinitely and result in substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities.

This can include intellectual disabilities as well as cerebral palsy, autism, autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, developmental delay, fetal alcohol syndrome and other syndromes and neurological conditions that can result in the impairment of general intellectual functioning or adaptive behavior similar to that of a person with intellectual disabilities.

With passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, workplace discrimination against people with disabilities became sanctionable.

The expectations of young people with developmental disabilities and their parents began to shift. Productive, self-directed lives within the community increasingly became the goal, and, increasingly, an obtainable goal.

Not only are there strong organizations — The Arc, Easter Seals/United Cerebral Palsy, the Autism Society, and etc. — but individuals with I/DD have become some of the strongest advocates over the years.

These individuals were instrumental in getting former President Barack Obama to sign Rosa’s Law in 2010, which eliminates outdated and derogatory terminology, such as “retarded,” in federal legislation

Passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2004, further cemented the resolve of self-advocates and their supporters. With its guarantees of early intervention, special education and services to transition high schools students into adulthood, IDEA opened a world of possibilities.

In North Carolina, children in the school system have access to educational supports through their individualized habilitation plan. These protections come through IDEA.

Adults with I/DD do not have an entitlement in the current system. Individuals who want support services must apply through their Managed Care Organization. In the seven western counties this is through Vaya Health, formerly Smoky Mountain Center. Supports are then provided according to each person’s individual service plan.

For information on potential grant funding to support services and programs for individuals with disabilities, contact the Evergreen Foundation at

This article was shared from The Mountaineer
On March 1, 2017


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