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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release August 6, 1996


Today, I am pleased to sign into law S. 1757, the "Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act Amendments of 1996." This legislation would extend for 3 years the authorization of appropriations under the Act.

During the 25 years since its enactment, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act has made a crucial difference in the lives and futures of Americans with developmental disabilities and their families. Through this Act, Federal funds support the development and operation of developmental disabilities councils, protection and advocacy activities, university-affiliated programs, and projects of national significance. This crucial investment has provided the structure to assist people with developmental disabilities to reach their maximum potential.

When first conceived by President Kennedy, Dr. Elizabeth Boggs, and others, the primary emphasis of developmental disabilities programs was on access to institutional facilities. Today, the focus is on helping people to obtain the support they need to make choices about how to live, particularly in family or community settings. The developmental disabilities programs emphasize fundamental system change, including legal services and advocacy and capacity building at the State and local levels. They also continue to spur progress and create opportunities in the everyday lives of children and adults with developmental and other significant disabilities in ways unimaginable a generation ago.

Beginning in the mid-seventies, individuals with disabilities and their families began to work for, and gain passage of, key Federal and State legislation regarding educational access, barrier-free design, and employment. The resulting legislation has helped to open doors that had been slammed shut for decades. It was once common for people with disabilities to be denied access to community schools, swimming pools, banks, restaurants, and even to the voting booth. Today, these actions are not only illegal, but would be considered beyond the pale by the American people.

Americans with disabilities are helping to redefine what it means to have a disability in America and what it means to be a full, contributing citizen. I am pleased to support continuation of the developmental disabilities programs that have meant so much to Americans with disabilities.



August 6, 1996.

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