Laws and Policies

supporting the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities & their families

Navigating the vast array of services and supports available to individuals with disabilities and their family members can be complicated. The different programs, services, and policies can make you feel like you are swimming in alphabet soup. 

We have mapped out select policies, regulations, and declarations pertaining to the rights of people with developmental disabilities. Click on a bullet below to read more or scroll down to view them all.

Federal Policies, Programs and Regulations

Below is a shortlist of the policies and regulations that govern education, employment, community living and participation for people with developmental disabilities.

  • Developmental Disabilities Act (DD Act)
  • Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
  • Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE)
  • Employment First 
  • Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Rules
  • Money Follows the Person
    • Olmstead Supreme Court Decision of 1999 (Olmstead v LC )
    • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
    • Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA)
    • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

    Developmental Disabilities Act of 2000 (aka the DD 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.

    DD Act programs in every state and territory empower individuals with developmental disabilities and their families to help shape policies that impact them. DD Act programs conduct important research and test innovative new service delivery models. They work to bring the latest knowledge and resources to those who can put it to the best use, including self-advocates, families, service providers, and policymakers. DD Act programs also investigate cases of abuse and serve as advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

    Learn more about the DD Act here: 

    Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

    Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law on December 10, 2015. The following are some of the provisions that will help to ensure success for students and schools.

    • Upholds critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students, requiring all students in America be taught to high academic standards, preparing them to succeed in college and careers.
    • Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments
    • Maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools.

    For more information go to:

    Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)

    The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) helps job seekers and workers access employment, education, training, and support services to succeed in the labor market and match employers with skilled workers they need to compete in the global economy. WIOA also increases individuals with disabilities access to high-quality workforce services to prepare them for competitive integrated employment. It requires better employer engagement and promotes physical and programmatic accessibility to employment and training services for individuals with disabilities.

    For more highlights on additional reforms to the workforce system go to:

    Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act)

    Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act) – An ABLE account is a tax-advantaged savings account that qualified individuals with disabilities will be able to open as a result of the passage of the ABLE Act of 2014 and subsequent enactment of state ABLE laws. Earnings on ABLE accounts will not be taxed. Contributions to the account may be made by any person (the account beneficiary, family and friends) and may or may not be tax deductible depending on the specifics of the state ABLE law. For more information by State, go to:

    Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Rules

    Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) – The final Home and Community-Based Services regulations set forth new requirements for several Medicaid authorities under which states may provide home and community-based long-term services and supports. The home and community-based setting provisions in this final rule establish a more outcome-oriented definition of home and community-based settings, rather than one based solely on a setting’s location, geography, or physical characteristics. The regulations are intended to enhance the quality of HCBS and provide additional protections to individuals that receive services under these Medicaid authorities.

    For more information go to:

    Money Follows the Person (MFP)

    Money Follows the Person has a long history of supporting the rights of individuals with disabilities to live in the community. The program provides funding so that individuals who are living in nursing facilities and institutions wishing to transition to living in a home in the community can do so with proper supports.

    For more information go to:

    Olmstead Supreme Court Decision of 1999 (Olmstead v LC )

    The Olmstead Decision was a landmark Supreme Court Decision that happened in 1999. In this case, which was supported by the Americans with Disabilities Act, it was decided that individuals with disabilities receiving publicly-funded services and supports have the right to receive them in the least restrictive environment in their communities appropriate to their needs.

    For more information go to:

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires schools to service the educational needs of eligible students with disabilities.

    • The primary goal of IDEA is to to protect the rights of children with disabilities. IDEA ensures students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), just like all other children. Schools are required to provide special education in the least restrictive environment. That means schools must place students with disabilities in general education classroom whenever possible.
    • To give parents a voice in their child’s education. Under IDEA, you have a say in the educational decisions the school makes about your child. At every point of the process, the law gives you specific rights and protections. These are called procedural safeguards.

    Learn more at 

    Americans with Disabilities ACT (ADA)

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. It guarantees equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities in public accommodations, employment, transportation, state and local government services, and telecommunications. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.

    Learn more at

    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

    Section 504 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The law prevents agencies that receive federal funding from discriminating against people on the basis of disability.

    Learn more at

    Rights Declarations

    Below are two important declarations that relate to the rights of people with disabilities. We stand behind these declarations and believe everyone should be educated about them. 

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Every person is a member of the human family and therefore has inherent dignity and certain inalienable rights. As members of a single, human family it is incumbent upon all to treat every person as a brother. The right to life, liberty, equality before the law, freedom of thought and movement and the chance to work are just a few of the basic rights which should be afforded to all people irrespective of gender, race, age, ethnicity or disability.

    At PCS we embrace the spirit behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    The Rights of People With Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access

    In a world now largely driven by technology and one in which communication and access to information often portals through digital devices, it’s important to work toward universal access to these tools of daily living and societal inclusion. For the 28 million U.S. citizens with cognitive disabilities, access to these tools is important. At PCS we work daily toward increased integration for the cognitively disabled and that means we look upon access to technology as a fundamental issue.

    To read the official Rights of People with Cognitive Disabilities to Technology and Information Access, click here.

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