From a public policy and community service point of view, the 1970s saw a number of major changes in definition and perspective:
- The federal government recognized the broader concept of "developmental disabilities" which made funding available to people with a wider range of disabilities.
- The AAMR, then the federal government restricted the term "mental retardation" to exclude people with higher IQ scores. Among other consequences, this led to a very large number of children being excluded from special educational services.
- The federal government definition of developmental disability shifted from a categorical or labeling/diagnostic definition to a concern with the severity of functional limitations.
- The impact of the social and physical environments on the dignity and quality of life of individuals came to be more deeply understood and laid the foundation for understanding the extent to which the social and physical environment holds people back.
- The clarion call of people with disabilities themselves – "We are People First"