PUBLIC LAW 106-402–October 30, 2000
114 STAT. 1677 (PDF)

The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) is the fundamental law that supports and enhances the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families.

The DD Act focuses on the estimated 5.4 million children and adults in the United States and territories who have developmental disabilities. It provides:

  • Federal financial assistance to states and public and nonprofit agencies
  • Financial aid to community organizations that serve individuals and families with  developmental disabilities
  • Helps create and improve opportunities for people with disabilities to be independence, productive, and self-determined
  • Grant funding to support initiatives in civil rights protections, education and early intervention, child care, health, employment, housing, transportation, recreation, family support, and other services.

What are developmental disabilities?

Developmental disabilities are severe, life-long disabilities. They arise from mental and/or physical impairments that manifest before age 22. They are likely to continue indefinitely. Developmental disabilities result in significant limitations in three or more of the following areas:

  • self-care
  • comprehension and language
  • skills (receptive and expressive language)
  • learning
  • mobility
  • self-direction
  • capacity for independent living
  • economic self-sufficiency
  • ability to function independently without coordinated services (continuous need for individually planned and coordinated services)

Individuals with developmental disabilities use individually planned and coordinated services and supports of their choosing (e.g., housing, employment, education, civil and human rights protection, health care) to live in and to participate in activities in the community.

What makes up the network?

State Councils on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD)

State Councils are federally funded programs that identify the most pressing needs of people with developmental disabilities in their State or Territory. Councils work to address these needs by changing systems and capacity building efforts that promote self-determination, integration and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities.

Council efforts include:

  • training
  • technical assistance
  • barrier elimination
  • coalition development and citizen participation
  • informing policymakers
  • advocacy, capacity building and systems change
  • demonstration of new approaches to services and supports

State Protection and Advocacy Agencies (P&As)

A formula grant is given to states based on population, financial need and need for service. The P&As provide services to those with developmental disabilities based on goals listed in the DD Act, which was based on public input. The Statements of Goals and Priorities that drive the work done by P&As include:

  • the protection of and advocacy for legal and human rights
  • the provision of information and referrals
  • the investigation of complaints of rights violations against individuals with developmental disabilities
  • the effort to resolve complaints through mediation, alternative dispute resolution and litigation

National Network of University Centers for the Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Services (UCEDDs)

This discretionary grant is awarded to public service units of universities or public or not-for-profit entities associated with universities. The grant supports the running of the center, and additional funds go toward the core activities of:

  • interdisciplinary training
  • community service (e.g., training, technical assistance, exemplary services)
  • research
  • information dissemination

These centers support activities that address various issues like prevention, early intervention, and supported employment. They represent a broad range of disabilities.

Additional grants may be awarded to UCEDDs to carry out national training and other initiatives. Current training initiatives are supporting post-secondary education opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and enhancing self-determination skills. There are two grants to UCEDDs to focus on partnerships with institutions serving minorities.

Projects of National Significance (PNS)

PNS funds provide grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements to public and private, non-profit institutions; in turn, these entities provide opportunities for those with developmental disabilities to contribute to and participate in all facets of community life. Funds also support the development of national and state policies that reinforce and promote the self-determination, independence, integration and inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities.

These projects focus on current and emerging issues affecting people with developmental disabilities and their families. Some issues transcend state and territory borders but must be addressed on a local level. Examples are:

  • family support activities, including those for military families
  • data collection and analysis
  • technical assistance to State Councils and UCEDD programs
  • programs to enhance the participation of minorities in initiatives in developmental disabilities
  • programs to help youth with developmental disabilities moving from school to the work-force and post-secondary education
  • programs to develop self-advocacy and leadership skills among people with developmental disabilities
  • projects that create opportunities for community economic development

Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

The Administration on Developmental Disabilities also oversees three disability-related grant programs. These programs help individuals with the full range of disabilities to vote by providing:

  • access to voting facilities
  • private and independent voting experiences
  • training for poll workers and election volunteers on promoting access and participation
  • providing information and outreach on access to polling places


Date posted: March 29, 2011. Content created by The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities. Last updated: March 21, 2018.

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