Signed, sealed, delivered: two new disability laws!

Early last week the President signed Rosa’s Law. This law, named after a little girl in Maryland who has down syndrome, replaces the term “mental retardation” with the term “intellectual disabilities” in all federal health, labor and education laws.

Rosa was at a ceremony I attended on Friday with her family. Her brother was reported saying that this law is so important because what we call each other reflects how we treat each other. Wisdom from a middle school boy. Since many people with autism also have intellectual disabilities, I am hopeful that this law will influence how society welcomes all people with autism.

And then last Friday President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This law will require cell phones and smart phones to better meet the needs of individuals with visual impairments. It will also require television sets to be equipped with built-in technology that allows them to receive video descriptions (just like they currently are able to receive closed captions) without separate decoders.

I helped to get this bill through Congress and it was a thrill to be at the White House and see the president implement change with the stroke of a pen. Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark) and Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass) were the primary sponsors of this new law.

And if being at the White House wasn’t cool enough, Stevie Wonder was there too. Yes, that Stevie Wonder. The My Cherie Amore Stevie Wonder.

I know an election is approaching … and I know many of us are frustrated by the current climate in Washington. But things were different last week. The good guys scored big time, twice! Its time to celebrate!


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  1. Easter Seals and Autism » Blog Archive » Public policy year in review Says:

    […] to Rosa’s Law, children with intellectual disabilities now live in a world where the term “retarded” is no […]

  2. Lorinda Grauel Says:

    It’s great that we have 2 new laws. However, with so many of the states passing autism insurance legislation, it is imperative that we fight to have age limits removed on these services like ABA therapy. It’s the adults with autism who are going to lose out and big time! ABA is proven to work with all age groups and is a vital component to an individual being successful on a job, or in their own home, or in the community. It isn’t age discrimination, it is disability discrimination because the age limits apply ONLY if the person has autism! We have to put an end to this immediately. Seems to me that it is a violation of the U.N. policy on disabilities, but states don’t seem to care about that! What do you think?

  3. Patricia Wright Says:

    John, it is so important that your experience become known. It is difficult to read, but it will increase awareness about the challenges experienced by adults with disabilities in accessing appropriate services and supports. Easter Seals is working to promote policy changes that would increase services for individuals like yourself. You have clearly attempted to access services but I would like to think that there is more support available to you. I do hope that you have reached out to local disability information and referral organizations whom may be able to provide you additional information and potentially direct assistance to promote a higher quality life than which you are currently experiencing.

  4. John Benjamin Tatum Says:

    I am an adult with autism myself (Aspergers and rather high functioning at that, but still very “Aspie”).

    But it seems that most organizations do not think that I exist (I am 42, and after someone “ages out” of high school, we do not seem to “exist” from an Autism organization level… perhaps there is an “Adults with Autism” support group, but that is the most).

    Plus IQ can be a disadvantage, I am an Aspie, but due to my IQ level I am considered “too high functioning”.

    Plus I have Guillain-Barre Syndrome since age 7, and I am in a wheelchair due to it. So I have physical limitations as well.

    I am on Social Security Disability at $703 a month after my Medicare Part D premium (I am on 16 medications, many that Medicare does not pay for in the regular Part-D plan, and that Medicaid does not cover much except on very specific situations).

    So I am one rent increase away from being homeless (and the only place I can afford and am in now, is renting a room in a 90 year old 2 story home, with no bathroom down here, so I bathe out of the kitchen sink and use a plastic commode as my toilet).

    I myself would relocate, even with how disturbing routine is very hard for me, as well as a severe sensitivity to sound, light, and touch. Plus I am a survivor of abuse, so I do not trust human beings very well.

    I need “privacy”, but I also do not function well alone due to my physical disabilities (Osteoarthritis from all these years on crutches and leg braces have me pretty much chair bound now).

    Oh well,


  5. Katy Neas Says:

    Audrey – we are also working on federal legislation — the ABLE Act which will help families save for the future for their family member with a significant disability. We are hoping that this bill can become law next year. The goal is to make it easy for families to save – like they can for a child who will go to college.

  6. Beth Finke, blog moderator Says:

    I feel your pain — our son Gus is 24 years old now, and we feel very fortunate to have found a wonderful group home for him. Gus was still a teenager when my husband and I set up a special trust for him — when people with autism or other disabilities own or inherit property above a certain dollar value (generally $2,000) they risk becoming ineligible for certain government programs (such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid). Experts recommend families prevent assets from going directly to a child with a disability. Mass Mutual, (one of Easter Seals’ national corporate partners) offers helpful resources for people with disabilities and their families when it comes to estate planning. You can read more about this and link to some of the resources on a blog post I wrote called “MassMutual’s SpecialCare helps families with autism set up special trusts”:

  7. Audrey Shipman Says:

    Any progress is good, but what is being done for parents who have concerns about what happens to their autistic adult children when we die. What is the answer to that.
    I live in Charlotte Hall, Maryland and would like to be connected to other parents of adult autistic children.

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