Skip to main content

Zoom Text:


While the Kennedy administration brought attention to the "problem" of mental retardation, the Johnson administration actually accomplished broad changes for persons with disabilities. President Johnson's civil rights agenda and War on Poverty also affected people with disabilities. The War on Poverty, initiated through the Equal Opportunity Act of 1964, launched such programs as Head Start, the Neighborhood Youth Corporation, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). These programs also indirectly assisted persons with disabilities and their families.

President Johnson also created the President's Committee on Mental Retardation , which continues to assure that the national government does not overlook the problems of public policy and private initiative.


In October 1967, the National Association for Retarded Citizens (NARC) sponsored a National Youth Conference on Mental Retardation in Portland, Oregon; another national conference was held in October 1968 in Detroit, Michigan. Following the second conference, a new national organization, Youth-NARC, was created. The purpose of Youth-NARC was "to serve as a friend of mentally retarded persons... to help the retarded learn to live in, work in, and attempt to better his world."

A national plan to combat mental retardation

In 1969, Youth-NARC published an orientation handbook which contained the following suggestions for working with adults with disabilities:

Talk to him. Listen to him. Find out what he thinks, how he feels, what he wants to do. Help him be part of the bigger world ... encourage him to do everything he can for himself.

At that time, more than 70,000 volunteers between the ages of 13 and 25 were involved in Youth-NARC projects.


While the main focus of Youth-NARC was training volunteers who could work with persons with disabilities, it was discovered that "the retarded themselves may be trained in leadership." While Youth-NARC may be largely forgotten, it had a strong influence on the development of the self-advocacy movement.