Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Bending the Arc of Disability History Toward Rights, Freedom, Social Justice, and Belonging

Presented by Allan Bergman

Alan Bergman

The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities is pleased to present Allan Bergman offering a video training series "Bending the Arc of Disability History Toward Rights and Freedom". For over 6 ½ hours Mr. Bergman covers more than two centuries of progress in disability history and policy. The series is divided into nine sections and allows the user to browse by topic. The nine sections are:

Section 1

Section 1. A Brief History of Disability (1800s to 1979): Allan Bergman begins this history by defining public policy and then reviewing key events dating back to the 1800s in America. The Vocational Rehabilitation Act, enacted to help returning World War I veterans, was reauthorized several times during the 20th Century. In 1927, the US Supreme Court ruled in the Buck v. Bell sterilization case, upholding Virginia's sterilization statute. The Social Security Act, passed in 1935, was amended several times, each time adding more services for people with disabilities. Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 US Supreme Court decision, not only affected segregated settings for racial groups but also served as the foundation for disability rights and disability lawsuits. During the 1960s and 1970s, federal laws expanded dramatically and included passage of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Education Act).

Section 2

Section 2. A Brief History of Disability (1980 to 2022): In Section 2, Allan Bergman traces the intense pace of federal laws during this time period and outlines all changes that occurred. Mr. Bergman highlights the addition of Centers for Independent Living in 1978 and passage of the first waiver legislation in 1981. Early Intervention services were established in the federal Education Act in 1986. Supported employment was initiated through the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1986, multiple improvements were made in the 1992 Amendments, and customized employment was added in 2014. The Fair Housing Act included disabilities in 1988; the Technology Related Assistance Act passed in 1988; and the Americans with Disabilities Act passed in 1990. The 1999 US Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. LC & EW, established the right to live and receive services in the most integrated setting. The Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002. A final lesson, emphasized and demonstrated throughout Section 2, is that disability policy is not partisan.

Section 3

Section 3. Values and the Federal DD Act and Education Act: In Section 3, Allan Bergman presents a case study, showing that the values first enacted in the DD Act led to major shifts in the values expressed in other federal disability legislation. For example, in 1984, the DD Act presented the three goals of increased independence, productivity, and integration in the community; and then added self-determination and inclusion in the 1990 reauthorization. Each of these terms has been defined and now appears in other federal laws. Similarly, terminology in the Education Act has evolved. Mr. Bergman concludes Section 3 with an important quote from Steven Covey, "Reducing a child to a test score is the worst form of identity theft we can commit in school."

Section 4

Section 4. Values and the Federal AT Act and Transition: In Section 4, Allan Bergman explains that transition is a journey, not a place or a program. In 2004, transition, as defined in both IDEA and the Vocational Rehabilitation Act; should be based on the student's strengths, preferences, and interests; and transition planning should involve a large group of people who will support the student. Mr. Bergman then describes the impact of the US Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District – that students with disabilities receive a quality education that provides equal opportunities for academic achievement… A "merely more than de minimis" benefit is not enough. The number one predictor of employment as an adult is paid work experiences during the school years. Assistive technology and the right to assistive technology are described, and Mr. Bergman quotes, "For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible."

Section 5

Section 5. Values and Employment: In Section 5, Allan Bergman provides a comprehensive overview of the changes in presumptive eligibility and presumptive employability in the 1998 Rehabilitation Act Amendments, as well as opportunities for applicants and eligible individuals to exercise informed choices throughout the rehabilitation process. He describes informed choice and how the Rehabilitation Act was incorporated into the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. New definitions have been added to the employment vocabulary including competitive integrated employment and Employment First. Bergman completes his policy review with several research findings supporting increased efforts to employ individuals with disabilities.

Section 6

Section 6. Current Topics and the Integration Mandate: In Section 6, Allan Bergman describes the integration mandate as it appears in the Americans with Disabilities Act and reinforced in the Olmstead decision. The Department of Justice (DOJ) defined the "most integrated setting as a setting that enables individuals with disabilities to interact with non-disabled persons to the fullest extent possible." The DOJ also defined "segregated settings" in a June 22, 2011 Guidance Document and "segregated work settings" in an August 15, 2022 Guidance Document. Mr. Bergman then cites several policy frameworks and court decisions that support the concept of most integrated setting.

Section 7

Section 7. Integration and Postsecondary Education: In Section 7, Allan Bergman describes postsecondary education as an option for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This Section is based on the research and training efforts of Think College, a federally funded training and technical assistance center. In 1998, there was no legislative support for inclusive higher education; in 2021, in comparison, there were 309 programs. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who completed a college program were more likely to be employed. The many keys to success affect a broad range of life activities, including future-focused planning; high expectations; dignity of risk; voice and choice by the student; inclusive K-12 education; getting a job; using natural supports; and sharing success stories with others.

Section 8

Section 8. Integration and Living in the Community: Allan Bergman begins this Section by describing the primary purpose of the Administration for Community Living, "People with disabilities have the right to live in a home of their choosing, with people whom they care about, that is integrated into a community that values their participation and contributions." He identifies the states without large state institutional settings and reviews the principles of supported living and the size of settings. Mr. Bergman then explains disparities that still exist in housing policies including economic and policy barriers. He urges the viewer to read and understand the Final Rules, adopted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), that are now in effect for home and community-based waiver services, and include the requirements for person centered planning.

Section 9

Section 9. A Call to Action: Allan Bergman begins this final Section with the powerful quote: "Life is not a program, and a person is more than a diagnostic label." He then implores everyone to raise their expectations about people with disabilities by using language that is powerful, positive, and communicates dignity and respect to all. Mr. Bergman reviews the key attributes of an authentic leader; and urges all key stakeholders to be prepared, engaged and vote in the process of assuring and securing positive public policy changes. He also provides a federal policy agenda for the next several years that includes: fully funding IDEA; prohibiting restraint and seclusion; expanding employment; substituting the term "most integrated setting" for "least restrictive environment;" expanding assistive technology; supporting families; increasing the number of certified benefits planners; expanding supported decision-making; increasing the accessibility, availability, and affordability of housing; addressing the workforce crisis; and reducing the waiting list.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center, the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 2001MNSCDD-03, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects with government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official ACL policy.

This website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL),  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $1,120,136.00 with 83 percent funded by ACL/HHS and $222,000.00 and 17 percent funded by non-federal-government source(s). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.