(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser joined disability services leaders and advocates in recognizing March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month under the theme of See Me for Me. The Mayor also participated in a ceremonial signing of Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2018, which was passed unanimously by the Council of the District of Columbia last month. The Act brings Washington, DC, in line with national best practices on community residential-based services for people with disabilities. The Mayor formally approved the legislation last week.
“DC prides itself on being a place that prioritizes inclusivity and diversity,” said Mayor Bowser. “Celebrating Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and putting the Disability Services Reform Amendment Act into law speaks to our DC values of inclusiveness and appreciation of people from all backgrounds. While this Act restores civil rights and self-determination for Washingtonians with disabilities, we must continue to explore innovative strategies to ensure all District residents with disabilities are given a fair shot at prosperity.”
A 1987 presidential proclamation designated March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The proclamation called upon all Americans to provide the “encouragement and opportunities” necessary for people with developmental disabilities to reach their potential. More than 6 million Americans and nearly 10,000 residents of the District of Columbia have developmental disabilities.
The Disability Services Reform Amendment Act of 2018 ends mandatory civil commitment for people with moderate to severe intellectual disabilities as a condition to receiving certain residential services. People who are currently committed can choose whether they want to remain committed or not, and ending commitment will not change any supports a person receives. This creates a formal supported decision-making process, which is less restrictive than a guardianship and allows people with disabilities to identify a supporter to assist them with decision-making.
The Act also establishes a new formal complaint process for people to use when unhappy with their supports or service providers. A person independent of the Department on Disability Services (DDS) would investigate the complaint, report findings and make recommendations to DDS. Support services will continue while the case is being reviewed and the process prevents the agency or a provider from taking action against a person for filing a complaint.
Sponsoring offices and organizations for this year’s Washington, DC, celebration include the DC Office of Disability Rights, DC Developmental Disabilities Council, University Legal Services, Georgetown Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities and Project, Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities and The Arc of DC ACTION!