Public Policy Priorities

Legislative Action Network

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We envision a nation whose high expectations for all people with disabilities make possible the fulfillment of academic potential, competitive employment in the community, active engagement in civic life, and full inclusion in society.

The following agenda for the 117th Congress was developed in collaboration with other organizations that hold similar values. 


We support federal funding for the program supports and services that are needed to enable people with disabilities and their families to be fully included in society.

Structural changes or reductions in federal entitlement spending threaten our constituents. Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) remain major targets to secure deficit reduction. Medicaid finances lifesaving health care and long term supports and services and the lives of the people receiving those supports are inextricably linked to any shift in Medicaid policy – at either the federal or state level.

The very lives of our constituents are at stake in these policy deliberations. Some of the changes that have been proposed to the Social Security system, such as reduced benefits and increased retirement ages, could have a devastating impact on beneficiaries.

Our public policy goals include (but are not limited to) the following.

Budget, Entitlements and Appropriations:

  • Adopting a budget resolution that sets annual revenue and spending limits. The budget resolution is the blueprint for discretionary and entitlement spending.
  • Strengthen, not weaken, vital entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, SSI, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and SNAP (food stamps).

Revenue and Tax Policy: Reform tax policy in a manner that raises sufficient revenues to finance the federal government’s role in providing essential supports, services, and benefits for people with disabilities and their families over the lifespan.


To further the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, major programs which provide supports and services must be aligned with principles of encouraging and supporting nondiscrimination; full, meaningful inclusion in community life; and economic self-sufficiency. Such programs also must be accessible and available to those who need them and must be dependable, even in difficult economic times. Medicaid and Social Security, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), provide crucial supports to our constituents; potential changes to either program, therefore, require significant attention to the potential impact on people with disabilities.

Our public policy goals include (but are not limited to) the following.

Civil Rights:

  • Protect against forms of discrimination based on disability, ethnicity, race, sex, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, familial status, age, language, national origin, genetic information, or any other protected status.
  • Protect and promote stronger enforcement of existing civil rights laws for people with disabilities, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); Fair Housing Act; Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA); the Rehabilitation Act; Help America Vote Act (HAVA); National Voter Registration Act (“motor voter”); Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act; Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act; Air Carrier Access Act; and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Voting Rights Reform: Provide strong enforcement of and adequate funding for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to address the right of people with disabilities to vote privately and independently in any federal election, to rectify continuing failures to meet the provisions of the law, and to make recommendations for improvement.

Community-Based Long Term Supports and Services: Expand, modernize, and, where appropriate, maintain national policies that provide individualized supports. Such supports should encourage individual control of services, self-sufficiency, and personal responsibility among our constituents. Such a system should avoid the need for people to impoverish themselves to qualify for services. Supports and services must be:

  • Person-centered and self-directed;
  • Inclusive of personal assistance services and technology appropriate for each individual;
  • Designed and implemented to meet individual needs;
  • Widely accessible; and
  • Provided in the community in inclusive and integrated settings.

Developmental Disabilities: Ensure that the work of the three Title I DD Act programs (University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Protection and Advocacy Agencies, and State Councils on Developmental Disabilities) reaches and sustains the goals of self-determination, inclusion, and integration for people with IDD in community settings.

Direct Support Professionals: Ensure adequate funding so that direct support professionals are paid a living wage, including appropriate benefits.

Education: Ensure non-discrimination in special education in order to avoid inappropriate over- or under-identification of disability and the overuse of segregated settings or disciplinary actions for students of diverse backgrounds.

Discipline, Restraint, Seclusion, and Aversive Interventions: Prohibit harmful disciplinary practices such as unwarranted suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the juvenile justice system and require schools to work to de-escalate minor school infractions rather than call for police department assistance.

Early Childhood, Early Intervention, and Preschool Programs: Mandate the availability of early intervention programs under IDEA (Part C); Increase funding for early intervention and preschool programs; and Enhance the development, implementation, and execution of Child Find Programs and other related resources to ensure early detection and early access to services.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Reauthorize IDEA in a way that enhances the guarantee of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): Ensure full implementation of ESSA through appropriate funding, enforcement, and monitoring of all provisions, including:

  • Full participation of students with disabilities in assessment, accountability systems, and reporting systems, including transparency about school performance for students with disabilities in state and local education agencies (LEAs) report cards;
  • Required assessments that are aligned with the challenging state academic standards for the grade in which the student is enrolled;
  • Appropriate justification for State Education Agencies(SEAs) to exceed the 1% cap on the number of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take an alternate assessment aligned with alternate academic achievement standards; and
  • Funding and full implementation of the early childhood provisions.

Postsecondary Education: Ensure students with disabilities, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, have access to all forms of federal financial aid. Ensure that all students with disabilities have access to academic courses and the full range of campus programs and activities, including integrated housing.

Education Personnel: Expand and improve in-service and pre-service personnel preparation under Part D of IDEA, ESSA, and the HEOA to address the growing special education workforce crisis.

Competitive Integrated Employment: Support implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), toward maximizing employment outcomes, and improving transition outcomes, for people with IDD. Build infrastructure and create incentives for private sector employers or other solutions that will expand work opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities in competitive integrated employment.

Vocational Rehabilitation: Increase funding for state vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs significantly above the required Consumer Price Index (CPI) level to ensure investment in transition to postsecondary opportunities, supported employment, customized employment, and workforce development programs that help our constituents find and keep jobs and have more career options; and build infrastructure and create incentives for employers that will expand work opportunities.

Employment Standards and Benefits: Support policies that expand workplace flexibility; Assure that part-time, supported, or periodic employees are included in any proposal that expands or extends fringe benefit coverage; and expand access to family and medical leave and support paid leave policies, including by mandating employers to provide a reasonable amount of paid sick leave and requiring payers to recognize these costs in their reimbursement rates.

Affordable Care Act (ACA): Ensure that the ACA is not further diminished through partial or full repeal or regulatory changes. In particular, the provisions that meet the needs of our constituents for quality, accessible, appropriate, comprehensive, affordable, portable, and non-discriminatory coverage and benefits must be protected.

Medicaid/Medicare/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Protect existing health care entitlements under Medicare and Medicaid, including Medicaid expansion.

Mental/Behavioral Health: Ensure that the most appropriate mental/behavioral health services are widely available to people with IDD who need them across the lifespan.

Medicaid: Maintain the individual entitlement to a full range of Medicaid health and LTSS for all eligible children and adults with disabilities. Oppose Medicaid deconstruction or any moves to provide states with flexibility that eliminates basic protections for eligible individuals with developmental disabilities or the imposition of entitlement caps, Medicaid block grants, per capita caps, allocations, allotments, limiting provider taxes, and other proposals that shift costs to states or other mechanisms that cause reductions.

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS): Ensure full implementation and enforcement of the HCBS settings rule for both residential and non-residential services, including adequate funding, technical assistance, appropriate individualized transportation options to ensure community integration, and other necessary supports to states.

Social Security/Income Maintenance: Protect and expand the effectiveness of income support programs and their related health coverage programs in the Social Security Act, including the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (Title II) programs, SSI (Title XVI) program, Medicare (Title XVIII), and Medicaid (Title XIX).

Emergency Management: Assure that all federal agencies, entities receiving federal funds, service providers, and other relevant organizations are held accountable for developing and participating in coordinated approaches to disaster and emergency preparedness that are efficient, non-duplicative, and address the needs of people with disabilities.

Family Support: Support federal initiatives that recognize the important role of families and the need for comprehensive family supports and ensure that any such initiatives explicitly recognize that they cannot be a substitute for creating a national solution to provide appropriate long term supports and services for persons with disabilities.

Housing: Significantly increase funding for, and protect the integrity of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, including programs that specifically support people with disabilities, such as the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program and the Section 811 Mainstream Voucher program, and other important HUD programs, including the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, the HOME Investment Partnerships program, and the Community Development Block Grant program and increase funding for U.S. Department of Agriculture housing programs as well as all other federal housing programs providing funding for people with disabilities.

Technology: Ensure that people with disabilities have information about and access to affordable, appropriate, and accessible technology throughout their lifetimes to fully participate in society.

Transportation: Increase funding for the Federal Transit Administration programs, including mass transit programs (including paratransit), Section 5310 program for the enhanced mobility of seniors and people with disabilities, and other critical programs.


The Arc, AAIDD, ANCOR, ASA, ASAN, Easterseals, NACDD, TASH, and UCP each have a rich history of building and participating in coalitions and collaborating with each other and with other organizations in pursuit of national public policy goals. Working together, we lead efforts in informing policymakers of the vast unmet needs of our constituents and in mobilizing people with disabilities, their families, and our chapters and affiliates as active players in national public policy. Many are leading members of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). CCD is a Washington, DC-based coalition of more than 100 national organizations representing consumers, family members, providers, professionals, and other advocates. Because our constituents share the same needs and interests as other people, The Arc, AAIDD, ANCOR, ASA, ASAN, Easterseals, NACDD, TASH, and UCP also participate in non-disability coalitions which help further our policy goals.

Read the full document of policy priorities (many of which are not list here).

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