Disability rights have evolved over the past couple of decades in which progress has been made in favor of disabled persons. This is best exemplified in public laws governing the rights of the Mentally Retarded/Developmentally Delayed which provide protection against discrimination and also specify requirements for special education and disability benefit program eligibility. Public laws regarding disability pertain to litigation and legislation that affect special education, civil rights, and Social Security Disability Insurance.
An important public law is PL 101-476 which is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It was reformed from PL 94-142 in 1990, mainly for wording, renaming PL 94-142 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act from former title of Education Handicapped Children Act that was established in 1975. PL 101-476 or IDEA made significant changes to policies and practices from the former PL 94-142, however was based upon it. PL 94-142 was the first law of its kind in favor of disabled persons and provided much of the structure for IDEA by the incorporation of its four major purposes.
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The four major purposes of PL 94-142 can be found in Section 601C stating that handicapped children would have (1) a free and appropriate public education with emphasis on special education, (2) the assurance of the rights of handicapped children and their parents are protected, (3) The assistance of the States to provide for education of all handicapped children, and lastly (4) to assess and assure the effectiveness of efforts to educate handicapped children.
Besides the renaming which is significant for the prevention of labeling that may be associated with discrimination, IDEA added the provision for the Individual Transition Plan (ITP) for handicapped children no later than the age of 16, added autism and traumatic brain injury as separate disability categories, in addition to the services of social work and rehabilitation counseling.
I think that this reform to PL 94-142 was important because when IDEA is in conjunction with PL 101-336 or the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was also signed into law by President George Bush in 1990, the independence and rights for this population became more established and refined. The Americans with Disabilities Act goes hand in hand with IDEA as it mandates to end discrimination of individuals with disabilities and make reasonable accommodations for people with special needs.
I find the Individual Transition Plan provision in IDEA particularly interesting because it is a long-term plan of goals for MR/DD after high school and how best to integrate the disabled individual into society. The addition to the services provided in IDEA to include social work and rehabilitation counseling is also an aspect of IDEA that I agree with because individuals with disabilities do have the tendency to develop low self-esteem and depression.
Some of these feelings of inferiority and failure may be in concurrence with their feelings of having nothing to contribute to society because they are not in employment. Therefore, social work and counseling provides a great way to maybe incorporate an Adlerian style of therapy to help some of these individuals who suffer from an inferiority complex in addition to their disability.