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Spotlight: Presidents making choices on behalf of people with disabilities

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The history of the treatment of people with disabilities is peppered with acts of cruelty, bravery, dehumanization, and advocacy running along the timeline side by side.

In honor of Presidents Day, Austin Special Needs Kids Examiner would like to highlight a portion of historical decisions that have contributed to advancing rights for and establishing dignity and equal treatment of individuals with disabilities.

Enjoy a unique 'Important Rehabilitation Legislation' timeline presentation by Timetoast username: 'zenner'.

Not all Presidents have passed legislation to protect and extend rights for people with disabilities; some of those who have, have done so under intense pressure in the wake of resistance; others have had emotional, familial, and moral convictions driving the Legislation passed during their terms.

Despite these complex factors and diverse motivations, Legislative decisions in History and the Presidents who signed them into Law have made an impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities.

Data compiled heavily from, "A Brief History of Legislation", Resources for Disabled Students, Colorado State University and generally available in Legislative searches.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson
1916 --1920 The National Defense Act; The Smith-Hughes Act; The Smith-Sears Veterans Rehabilitation Act; The Smith-Fess Act (referred to as the Civilian Rehabilitation Act); the origins of legislation to recognize the obligations to persons injured in service to their country and vocational rehabilitation of disabled veterans.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
1935 -- The Social Security Act was enacted to establish an income maintenance system that targeted those unable to work; included provisions furnishing medical and therapeutic services for crippled children and made permanent the vocational Rehabilitation program; provided for continuous authorizations, increased grant awards, and increased support from the federal government.

1936, 1938 respectively -- The Randolph-Sheppard Act and the Wagner-O'Day Act recognized and facilitated the vocational potential of persons who were blind.

1943 -- The Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments (Barden-LaFollette Act) made substantial changes in the federal/state program of rehabilitation and provided for the expansion of services on a limited basis to persons who were mentally handicapped and mentally ill.

President Harry Truman signed PL-176 creating an annual National Employ the Handicapped Week.

1948 -- To aid returning World War II veterans, Congress passed legislation prohibiting discrimination based on physical handicap in United States Civil Service employment.

Dwight D. Eisenhower
1954 -- The Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments yielded a major expansion of the federal government's involvement with vocational rehabilitation and increased funding for services. Services for mentally retarded and psychiatrically handicapped individuals were greatly expanded.

John F. Kennedy
1961 -- The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) issued the first minimum requirements relating to architectural access to common structures.

Lyndon Baines Johnson
1965 -- The Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments expanded services to include person with socially handicapping conditions, such as alcoholism, lack of education, and prison records and deleted economic need as a general requirement for services.

1967 -- The Vocational Rehabilitation Amendments provided rehabilitation services for migratory workers, eliminated the state residency requirement, and supported the construction and operation of the National Center for Deaf/Blind Youth and Adults.

1968 -- The Vocational Rehabilitation Act Amendments added follow-up services for maintaining a person with a handicap in employment, provided services to family members and increased funding for services.

-- The Architectural Barriers Act required buildings constructed with Federal funds or leased by the Federal Government to be accessible to the people who were handicapped.

Richard Nixon
1970 -- The Urban Mass Transportation Act required local transportation authorities to plan and design mass transit systems to be accessible to people who were handicapped.

1971 -- The Javitts-Wagner-O'Day Act retained priority for blindness in the provision of products for the federal government and added people with severe handicaps as eligible for participation.

1973 -- The Rehabilitation Act addressed the notion of equal access of people with disabilities through the removal of architectural, employment and transportation barriers. The Federal Aid Highway Act required transportation facilities receiving Federal assistance to be accessible.

1974 -- The Rehabilitation Act Amendments included a broader definition of handicapped individuals.

Gerald Ford
1975 -- The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (eventually renamed IDEA) ensured a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) for all students with handicapping conditions. FAPE included services in speech pathology, audiology, psychological services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.

Jimmy Carter
1978 -- The Rehabilitation Act Amendments provided comprehensive services for independent living.

Ronald Regan
1984, 1986 -- Rehabilitation Act Amendments establishing professional standards for 'required personnel' providing services.

1984 -- Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act requires access to polling places used in Federal elections. The law also requires States to make available registration and voting aids, such as instructions in large type.

1987 -- The Code of Federal Regulations extended the services under the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (eventually renamed IDEA) to include school health services, social work services in schools, and parent counseling and training.

1988 -- The Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act provided states with grants to achieve systems change so that assistive devices and services will be available to under served groups, viewing each child, adult, and older adult as entitled to equal access to opportunities achieved through assistive technology.

***The original version of the American with Disabilities Act was introduced in 1988.***

George H. W. Bush
1990 -- The Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees the rights of persons with disabilities to equal access to, and non-discriminatory behavior based on disability, in employment (Title I), government services including transportation (Title II), public accommodations (Title III), telecommunications (Title IV), and other services such as insurance (Title V); inclusion, integration, accommodation and accessibility are the underlying premise.

1992 -- The Rehabilitation Act Amendments emphasized employment and independent living as primary goals of rehabilitation.

Bill Clinton
1998 -- The Persian Gulf War Veterans Act was passed to establish health care services in connection to illnesses associated with service in the Persian Gulf War.

1999 -- The Works Incentives Improvement Act (Ticket to Work) became law, allowing those who require health care benefits to work.

George W. Bush
2008 -- The Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reiterate who is covered by the ADA civil rights protections. It revises the definition of "disability" to more broadly encompass impairments that substantially limit a major life activity.

These amendments took effect January 1, 2009.

Of course, the dignity of The Office of the President of the United States was elevated by a man who used a wheelchair and commanded a nation: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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