The Developmental Disabilities Assistance
and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act)
Allan Bergman on the DD Act
Q5: Was the original purpose achieved?
I would have to say that the original purpose was not achieved, and it wasn't achieved in part because the resources were never sufficient to do the job. Again, 1963 the vision was we're going to eventually put hundreds of millions of dollars into this, and we're going to use the university research and assessment and training centers as the hub of the community system, and in big states we could have two or three of those, but every state would have at least one.
Well, that went pretty quickly out with the Vietnam War, so as a result, the vision got shrunken and redirected, and that has continued over time as the Developmental Disabilities Act gets reauthorized every three, five, seven years to sort of look, as we do at all things: Okay, what's working? What's not working? What do we know that we didn't know three years ago, five years ago? And, increasingly, what we're finding is people with developmental disabilities are teaching us a lot that we didn't think they could do – and that's a good thing – so they keep breaking that glass ceiling. And how do we need to rewrite the next chapter of the law to keep moving this agenda forward?
And that's really been a hallmark, starting in '63, of using this legislation as the progressive advance-the-cause, advance-the-field piece, sometimes in tandem with other pieces and education or rehabilitation, sometimes a little ahead of the curve, then beginning to drag the rest of the field along.
So I think this was the attempt with putting the councils in place to say, "We're going to have somebody begin to really look at this in every state," and as we'll see as we go forward, that focus, that role, that purpose continued to get refined all the way to the current time, but this was a real launch of something brand new. And so I think it didn't achieve what it had intended to do, but it achieved a new cornerstone in how states needed to behave.
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