TABLE 1-1Timeline of Milestones in U.S. Disability Policy

1857 Congress created the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and the Dumb and the Blind (now Gallaudet University)
1862 Congress established veterans’ pensions based on war-related disability
1890 Disability Act of 1890 provided veterans’ pensions whether or not a disability was war related
1918 Soldiers Disability Act created vocational rehabilitation program for veterans
1920 Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act expanded the program to civilians
1935 Social Security legislation did not include disability insurance but created state-federal assistance programs that covered certain adults and children with disabilities
1943 Barden-Lafollette Act expanded eligibility for vocational rehabilitation services to people with cognitive and psychiatric impairments
1950 Social Security Act amendments extended state-federal assistance program to include “needy disabled”
1956 Social Security Act amendments created Social Security Disability Insurance to provide cash benefits to eligible workers ages 50 to 64 and adult children of deceased or retired workers if the child was disabled before age 18; later amendments expanded eligibility to younger workers
1961 American National Standards Institutes (a private group) set first minimum standards formaking buildings accessible for “the physically handicapped”
1961 President’s Panel on Mental Retardation was created; in 1963 it called for the deinstitutionalization of people with mental illness
1965 Developmentally Disabled Assistance and Bill of Rights Act passed; Medicare and Medicaid programs established; Older Americans Act included provisions related to frail or homebound older people
1968 Architectural Barriers Act required accessibility in construction or alteration of federally owned or leased buildings
1970 Urban Mass Transportation Act required local authorities to design mass transit systems to be accessible to people with “handicaps”
1972 Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program established a federal needs-based income support program for “aged, blind, and disabled” to replace state-federal assistance program; SSI recipients became eligible for Medicaid in most states
1972 Medicare coverage extended to eligible adults under age 65 with disabilities
1973 Rehabilitation Act shifted priority for vocational rehabilitation to severely disabled individuals, provided civil rights protections (including nondiscrimination in federal programs and in hiring by federal agencies and most federal contractors), and created the Architectural and Transportation Compliance Board (now the Access Board) to set facility design criteria and improve compliance with accessibility standards
1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act required free, appropriate public education for children with disabilities and authorized financial incentives to promote compliance
1978 National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and National Council on Disability created
1984Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act passed
1985Amendments to Title V of the Social Security Act changed terminology related to block grant programs from “crippled children” to “children with special health care needs”
1986 Air Carriers Access Act passed
1986 Electronic Equipment Accessibility amendment (Section 508) to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provided guidelines for federal agency procurement
1988 Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act provided state grants to promote assistive technology
1988 Fair Housing Amendments Act prohibited discrimination in housing against people with disabilities
1990 Americans with Disabilities Act provided for inclusion and nondiscrimination based on disability in several areas: employment (Title I); government services (Title II); public accommodations, including medical facilities (Title III); telecommunications (Title IV); and certain other services, such as insurance (Title V)
1990 Education for All Handicapped Children Act renamed as Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
1991 National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research created in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health (1990 legislation)
1996 Telecommunications Act of 1996 required that broadcast and cable television provide closed captions to improve accessibility for people with hearing loss
1997 Amendments to IDEA supported initiatives for transition services for young people moving from school to adult living
1998 Assistive Technology Act established grant program for states
1998 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act required electronic and information technology acquired by federal agencies to meet accessibility standards (regulations issued in 2001)
1999 Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act provided health benefits and other encouragements for people to work rather than rely on cash benefits and reinforced requirements for federal agency purchase of accessible electronic equipment
2001 New Freedom Initiative announced by executive order with a focus on access to assistive technologies, work, education, and other opportunities for people with disabilities
2004 Amendments to IDEA called for every state to develop a transition monitoring plan

NOTE: This table does not include important U.S. Supreme Court cases, negotiated settlements, or other outcomes of litigation. See Appendixes D, E, and F.

From: 1, Introduction

Cover of The Future of Disability in America
The Future of Disability in America.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Disability in America; Field MJ, Jette AM, editors.
Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2007.
Copyright © 2007, National Academy of Sciences.

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