People with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, and intellectual disabilities face a large number of issues in public policy. This article is a simple overview of four major issues that NDDI will be focused on. While our advocacy will go well beyond the issues covered here, each of these issues will receive considerable attention.
According to the Arc of the United States, the lifetime sexual assault rate against women with developmental disabilities is as high as 90%. No that number was not a typo. Such a high rate within any community warrants an emergency response, given that it is an emergency. And while this is a disturbing number, something that is even more disturbing is that even the most simple steps that we could take to reduce this number are neglected by state and national legislatures.
One shocking fact is that people with developmental conditions are not guaranteed the same sexual education that other people are guaranteed in their K-12 curriculum. Changing this would make an enormous difference because people with developmental conditions could then learn the different boundaries that they are legally entitled to set with other people. By not giving them this type of education that we already provide to everyone else, we allow predators to tell their victims with a developmental condition that their discomfort is a result of their condition not because of their perpetrators illegal actions.
In the United States of America, only 18% of people with developmental disabilities have a job that pays at least minimum wage. Since employment is a mean for making income and has a significant impact on other life quality measurements such as happiness, this low number presents several problems for both the IDD community and the rest of society.
In schools across the United States, students learn about a large number of people who changed human history. And oftentimes, these people are simply made out to be normal people who were geniuses. But some of those people, like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, had neurological differences that played a large role in enabling them to make invaluable contributions to the world. This latter detail is usually left unsaid in the classroom and this is something that we need to change. It is time to require schools to specifically acknowledge probable developmental conditions in different historical figures so that the IDD community is represented fairly in history.
By not acknowledging the neurological differences that enabled a significant group of historical figures, we are depriving the IDD community of something worthy of celebration. While the strengths and weaknesses of people with neurological differences oftentimes deviate from those possessed by atypical historical figures, it is still critical for people to see that people with developmental conditions have strengths that are worthy of praise. Without this representation in history courses, people are left with a black and while developmental-disabilities-are-an-unfortunately-reality viewpoint that inspires pity towards people with developmental disabilities instead of appreciation.
Integrated Living Settings
There are still thousands of people with developmental disabilities that live in institutional settings rather than in their community, despite the fact that years of research has shown that living in the community is heavily associated with better life outcomes. A program that funds the transition of people with developmental disabilities to community settings is Money Follows the Person. While both Democrats and Republicans support this program, disability rights advocates have had to fight tooth and nail to maintain funding for it, since the last long-term authorization of the program expired in 2016. The next short-term authorization will expire at the end of 2019.