DD Councils and P&As: Trailblazers for Inclusion

By Sara Newell-Perez: For Entire Post, Go Here…

This month we celebrate two milestones for people with developmental disabilities, their families, and the country: 50 years of State Councils on Developmental Disabilities and 45 years of Protection and Advocacy (P&A) systems. As two parts of the trio of programs that make up the Developmental Disabilities Act network on the ground in every state and territory, these programs have worked alongside individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) and their families to increase opportunities for community living. Both milestones offer us the chance to collectively reflect on, and celebrate, how much a group of dedicated self-advocates, family members, and professionals working together can achieve. 

A half century ago, the lives of individuals with ID/DD looked quite different. Many had few, if any, opportunities to live, work, learn, and ultimately, thrive in the community. People with ID/DD and their families were rarely at the table when decisions were being made about policies and systems that impacted their lives. The work of Councils and P&As have transformed our communities and our country. This has resulted in empowered individuals with ID/DD who are advocates for themselves and are a voice of influence creating long-term solutions for others.

Since their creation 50 years ago tomorrow, Councils have harnessed the strength of their communities and their connections to individuals with ID/DD, families, providers, and state agencies to expand the skills, resources, and access of people with ID/DD and their families. Today, we have seen how this advocacy has translated into improvements across the life span in a host of areas – from education, to healthcare, employment, transportation, housing, and community supports. Over time, we have seen how supporting innovation, educating policymakers, and building the leadership capacity of individuals with ID/DD can drive needed change.

In 1975, P&As were added to the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act as a result of growing public awareness of the appalling conditions faced by many people with ID/DD living in institutions. P&As have served as both a shield against abuse and neglect and an advocate for rights. Over the years, they have offered individuals with ID/DD a critical legal advocacy resource to assist them when they are facing discrimination or are experiencing abuse or neglect. Over the past 45 years, P&As have been involved in a significant number of landmark cases and today they work to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1999 decision in Olmstead v. L.C. Their monitoring work remains crucial to ensuring people with ID/DD live free of abuse and neglect.

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