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The passage of the Social Security Act in 1935 during Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration was very important because of its long range implications for people with disabilities and families. The Act created a national insurance system for people who are elderly; established a federal-state unemployment insurance program; granted aid to states on a matching basis for dependent mothers and children, people with disabilities, and people who are blind; and supported public health services.

Prior to 1970, Congress passed other legislation that reflected a growing recognition of disability issues, and efforts were begun to address and respond to some of these issues:

1950

A public assistance program for people who are "totally and permanently disabled" was added to the Social Security Act. Each state determined eligibility standards and assistance levels according to standards set out in the Act. The program was state administered with financial assistance from the federal government.
1954 The National Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1920, which established a system of state vocational rehabilitation agencies, underwent major revisions and became the Vocational Rehabilitation Act.
1958 Financial support was provided to colleges and universities under P. L. 85-926 for training personnel in leadership positions about teaching children with mental retardation. In 1963, this legislation was expanded to include grants for training higher education teachers and researchers in a broader array of disabilities.