Judge William J. Brennan, Jr. once noted that “Congress acknowledged that society’s accumulated myths and fears about disability and disease are as handicapping as are the physical limitations that flow from actual impairment.” Since then, the Developmental Disabilities Act, section 102(8), defined “the term ‘developmental disability’ to mean a severe, chronic disability of an individual 5 years of age or older that:According to the Developmental Disabilities Act, section 102(8), “the term ‘developmental disability’ means a severe, chronic disability of an individual 5 years of age or older that:
- Is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental and physical impairments;
- Is manifested before the individual attains age 22;
- Is likely to continue indefinitely;
- Results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity;(i) Self-care;
(ii) Receptive and expressive language;
(vi) Capacity for independent living; and
(vii) Economic self-sufficiency.
Furthermore, it is estimated that less than 20% of the US population is impacted, in some way, by a developmental disability. On the other hand, virtually every member of our society has been or will be touched by an “acquired disability.” Why? Because short of a grim alternative, we all age. Unfortunately there is no federal definition specifying the term “acquired disability.” It is vague and sometimes confusing in the minds of many people because much like a developmental disability, an acquired disability impacts self-care; language; learning, mobility, self-direction and one’s capacity for independent living. Yes, as disability advocates have known for years, despite our diversities and varying levels of ability, we are all basically the same.
This is exceptional news for long-term care. Elder Care advocates may benefit from the legacy of the disabilities rights movement and their demand for community inclusion. While disability rights advocates may now enjoy a “larger voice” and the added voting power of baby-boomers. It’s a win-win relationship that will surely bring conversations about disabilities out of the shadows and into the spotlight. In the end, the quality of America’s long-term care system will improve bringing an end to disability-inspired “myths and fears” and meeting the demands of millions of families touched by a loved one living with cognitive and physical challenges. Game on!!