The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act

The purpose of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act, PL 106-442) is to help individuals with developmental disabilities achieve independence, productivity, integration and inclusion into the community. The Act assures that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families participate in the design of and have access to needed community services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance that promote self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life, through culturally competent programs. The Act is primarily discretionary in nature and funds programs to improve community and state systems serving individuals with developmental disabilities. It does not require state compliance such as ADA and IDEA.

For more than 30 years, the programs of the DD Act have helped build the infrastructure, train the professionals, perform the research, and provide essential services that have vastly improved the lives of people with disabilities and their families. The Act was first passed in 1963 as the Mental Retardation Facilities Construction Act of 1963 (Title I, P.L. 88-164) and reauthorized in 2000 as the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (PL 106-442). In its original form, the Act provided Federal support for mental retardation research and training centers and direct service facilities for children and adults with mental retardation. Today, its programs enrich the lives of people with developmental and other disabilities across the lifespan.

The term ‘‘developmental disability'' means a severe, chronic disability of an individual that is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments; is manifested before the individual attains age 22; is likely to continue indefinitely; results in substantial functional limitations in 3 or more of the following areas of major life activity:

  1. Self-care
  2. Receptive and expressive language
  3. Learning
  4. Mobility
  5. Self-direction
  6. Capacity for independent living
  7. Economic self-sufficiency; and reflects the individual's need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance that are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated (PL 106.402, Section 102 [8]).

The Administration on Developmental Disabilities is responsible for the implementation of the Act. It funds five main programs: State Councils on Developmental Disabilities, Protection and Advocacy Agencies, University Centers for Excellence in Development Disabilities, the Family Support Program and Projects of National Significance.

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