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Toward Independence and the Vision of an ADA - Part 15

Overview of the Final Toward Independence Package

Such last-minute wrinkles aside, the Council was ready to release its 1986 congressionally mandated report, Toward Independence: An Assessment of Federal Laws and Programs Affecting Persons with Disabilities – With Legislative Recommendations, at its meeting in DC on January 29 – 31, 1986. The summary report consisted of 75 pages (7-by-10½-inches) of text plus 10 pages of front matter, including a Letter of Transmittal and an Executive Summary. It featured 45 legislative recommendations, addressed to the Congress and the President, in the ten topic areas. The recommendations represented a compilation of many of the best current ideas on addressing problems in each topic area. NCD prioritized the advancement of "equal opportunity laws" for people with disabilities by making the first and primary recommendation in the report a call for a comprehensive federal law prohibiting discrimination based on disability, named something like the Americans with Disabilities Act. The summary report also highlighted the Council’s general observations on priorities in federal programs:

  1. Approximately two-thirds of working-age persons with disabilities do not receive Social Security or other public assistance income.
  2. Federal disability programs reflect an overemphasis on income support and an underemphasis of initiatives for equal opportunity, independence, prevention, and self-sufficiency.
  3. More emphasis should be given to Federal programs encouraging and assisting private sector efforts to promote opportunities and independence for individuals with disabilities.

In addition, the report contained an Introduction, the section on “The Population with Disabilities,” the fold-out chart of “Key Federal Programs and Corresponding Legislative Committees,” and the list of the 45 largest federal programs affecting people with disabilities in order of expenditures.

Issued with the summary report, the Appendix to Toward Independence was made available from the Council upon request, and also by purchase from the Government Printing Office. The Appendix contained the full text of the 10 topic papers, and, at more than 440 8½-by-11-inch pages, made quite a hefty volume. The papers provided background information on the issues addressed by the recommendations and fleshed out the rationales for the recommended approaches.

The full Toward Independence package – the summary report plus the Appendix – was an honest but measured product. Although many of the recommendations were derived from previously proposed initiatives and insights, some of them were innovative and progressive. To make the various proposals palatable to a broad range of people, the Council emphasized an underlying economic rationale. The summary report noted that “the current annual Federal expenditure on disability benefits and programs exceeds $60 billion”; and that ten large public aid programs, for which eligibility is based upon inability to engage in substantial gainful activity, or significantly low income, and accordingly are premised upon the dependency of the people who receive benefits, accounted for more than $57 billion. In her Letter of Transmittal forwarding the report to the President and congressional leaders, Chairperson Parrino stated that, if the Toward Independence recommendations were implemented, "current Federal expenditures for disability can be significantly redirected from dependency-related approaches to programs that enhance independence and productivity of people with disabilities, thereby engendering future efficiencies in federal spending." These sentiments were not posturing or disingenuous. I believe that the members of the Council were quite sincere and passionate advocates in advancing this rationale, and that this view led them to approve the report and its recommendations unanimously, and enthusiastically.

Toward Independence    Toward Independence Appendix (cover)

Continue to Part 16: A Last Minute Obstacle and a Horrible Twist of Fate