In 1987, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed March “Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month” calling upon Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities” necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential.
As those citizens began living within the general community in larger numbers, programs to provide career planning, job coaching and supported employment began to emerge. 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 an obtainable goal. At the same time, due to improvements in healthcare, people with developmental disabilities were living longer, leading to questions about the lifestyle of “retirement-age” individuals.
In short, the national conversation began to address the full spectrum of services needed for people with disabilities to live secure, fulfilling lives. 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-school students into adulthood, IDEA has opened a world of possibilities.