Disability Policy Organizations

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Laws and policies implemented by governments have the potential to have long-lasting effects on individuals with disabilities; disability policy organizations help provide support and a voice to issues of public concern. These organizations help frame the debate about disabilities internationally, nationally and locally.

International Policy Organizations

Policy organizations play a role in influencing official public policies and provisions as well as law makers that draft and approve legislation that affects individuals with disabilities. While these organizations do not directly provide services to people with disabilities, they do help frame the debate about disabilities internationally, nationally and locally. Following are international and national disability policy organizations to follow.

European Disability Forum

The European Disability Forum, or EDF, is an independent organization that represents an estimated 80 million individuals with disabilities living in Europe. One aspect that sets the EDF apart from other organizations is that it is operated by individuals with disabilities. Its headquarters is in Brussels, Belgium.

Formed in 1996 to address inequities faced by Europeans with disabilities, the EDF aimed to end what it saw as a charitable approach several countries took regarding providing benefits to individuals with disabilities. The EDF is in support of creating a fully-inclusive society by creating a strong and united disability movement that included creating alliances with those in powerful positions that supported its cause.

The EDF’s main focuses are access to education and services for young people and children, and enforcing the rights of individuals with disabilities to work and live independently, and ending discrimination.

One of the EDF’s primary goals is the use of European Structural Funds. These funds are part of the European Union’s plan to reduced disparities between different regions in the union; the funds are allocated to governments to implement investment in communities. The public monies equal about 43 billion euros.

The EDF developed a strategy to ensure these investments do not create more barriers that hinder access to public places for people with disabilities. The EDF also put public pressure on officials to pay attention to how the construction of new infrastructure or facilities could affect individuals with disabilities.

Through the EDF’s EuRADE program, the organization has also enhanced the participation of individuals with disabilities in research that helped determine their needs, which will influence future programs and initiatives.

To learn more about the EDF, visit European Disability Forum.

European Disability Forum
Square de Meeus 35
1000 Brussels
+32 2 282 46 00

United Nations Enable

United Nations Enable is the official website for the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is part of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations.

For more than 30 years, the United Nations has taken an interest in the human rights of individuals in its member countries. It provides the necessary research and support needed by representatives of the UN General Assembly as they implement policies and standards for member countries to follow.

The Convention was formed in 2008 to help address the needs of individuals with disabilities worldwide. Eighty-two signatories attended the opening events at the UN’s New York City headquarters.

Among the topics the Convention continues to address is how to change attitudes toward individuals with disabilities. The UN resolved that individuals with disabilities should not be regarded as people who need charity; they should enjoy full civil rights and are capable of participating in society. The Convention also serves as a human rights instrument that states that people with disabilities must enjoy all human rights, including the ability to vindicate their rights if those guarantees are violated.

United Nations Enable also supports the UN’s disabilities programs, which address equal opportunity, non-discrimination, women and children with disabilities, right to life, and the pursuit of liberty, employment and participation in all aspects of life.

To learn more about United Nations Enable, visit United Nations Enable.

United Nations Enable
Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
@ Department of Economic and Social Affairs
United Nations, S-2906
New York, NY 10017
United States of America

World Health Organization – Disabilities and Rehabilitation

The World Health Organization, or WHO, is the official health authority of the United Nations. It provides leadership on all matters of global health, and is a vital force in shaping research initiatives, setting standards, monitoring health issues, and influencing public opinion on public health.

Regarding disabilities, WHO estimates that as many as 1 billion people worldwide may have one or more special needs. WHO, after conducting research for several years, has concluded that people with disabilities face barriers, social stigma and discrimination, and inadequate access to medical services. WHO further indicated that government has a role to play in terms of addressing these issues.

Another disturbing trend detected by WHO is that children with disabilities are four times more likely to be a victim of violence.

As part of the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, WHO is supporting the implementation of standardized, mainstreamed approaches to education and inclusion in its member countries. Additionally, WHO requires member countries to provide therapies for children with disabilities, including physical, occupational, psychological and speech therapies. WHO also supports programs that offer assistive technologies that encourage full participation.

The United States is a member of the World Health Organization.

To learn more about the World Health Organization, visit WHO.

World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
+41 22 791 21 11

National Policy Organizations

Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

The Administration on Intellectual and Development Disabilities, or AIDD, is a one of the few government-based organizations that is solely dedicated to addressing the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.

As a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the AIDD ensures that individuals with developmental disabilities have full rights of participation in society; and provides financial leadership to state disability councils that ensure its objectives are met at a state-level.

The AIDD also has a grant-making arm that provides funds to state councils for various programs, including the 68 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, which connect academic research with much-needed government funding. The UCEDDs engage in research and address social issues, such as equal opportunity, interdependent relationships, housing and health care.

The AIDD also funds state Production and Advocacy systems, which provides resources for people with disabilities who seek legal empowerment. Production and Advocacy systems are available in each state, and help people with disabilities assert their civil rights, and navigate the legal system.

To learn more about the AIDD, visit AIDD.

To find the regional office nearest to you, visit AIDD.

Mailing Address:
Office of the Administrator
Administration for Community Living
Washington, DC 20201

Physical Address:
Office of the Administrator
Administration for Community Living
One Massachusetts Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
800-677-1116 Elder Care Locator

National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Service

The National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Service, or NASDDDS, is a non-profit organization established in 1964 that aims to expand services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Based in Alexandria, Virginia, the NASDDDS assists state agencies in developing effective programs and policies that benefit individuals with disabilities; the organization services as a clearing house of information and assistance that can analyze federal statutes and state laws for continuity and compliance. All policies supported by NASDDDS are individuals centered – NASDDDS believes individuals with disabilities should be treated with dignity and respect.

Full participation at all levels of society is encouraged by NASDDDS member organizations. To assess whether initiatives are having a positive effect, the association continually analyzes data to ensure state supports meet a central objective – to encourage individuals with challenges to maximize their potential.

More information about NASDDDS is available at NASDDDS.

To find information on your state’s statutes, regulations, policies, and procedures regarding the use of emergency or planned physical, chemical, mechanical, or other restraints, visit State DD Agency Policies on the Use of Restrictive Procedures.

National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Service
113 Oronoco Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

National Council on Disability

The National Council on Disability, or NCD, is a federal agency that is charged with the responsibility of advising the U.S. President, Congress and federal agencies regarding the effect of government programs and assistance on how they affect individuals with disabilities. It was established as part of the U.S. Department of Education in 1978 but was transformed into an independent agency in 1984.

Some of the issues that the NCD advises government officials and elected representatives on include housing, health care, legal issues, employment, civil rights. The NCD operates independently from other government agencies; its 15 members are appointed by the President.

The NCD also gathers, and analyzes data regarding all aspects of the disabled community and takes part in debates and talks regarding policy-making that is impactful to individuals with disabilities. They also provide tools to other government agencies to help implement policies. The NCD was the first federal agency to recommend the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, four years before the act was law.

Though most parents of children with disabilities might never come into contact with the NDC, its role in the disabilities debate is a vital one. The NCD has made recommendations on far-reaching civil rights issues, such as access to telecommunications equipment and services, hate crimes, Social Security, mental health, assisted suicide, and voting rights, to name a few.

To learn more about the NCD, or read a copy of its 5-year strategic plan, visit NCD.

National Council on Disability
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 850
Washington, D.C. 20004
202-272-2074 TTY

United States International Council on Disabilities

The U.S. International Council on Disabilities, or USICD, is an international organization comprised of federal agencies and non-governmental associations that focus on advocating for the disabled community.

This vast network-based non-profit advocates for full access and inclusion on behalf of individuals with disabilities. Through a variety of public awareness campaigns and activities, USICD has been able to positively influence policy makers to consider the civil and human rights of individuals with disabilities in all aspects of life.

Examples of USICD’s efforts include the Global Disability Rights Library, which makes digital information, books, research papers and audio visual tools to policymakers and civil rights advocates in developing countries, where disability rights are not guaranteed. Another example is USICD’s membership in Rehabilitation International, a global network of people and organizations that are dedicated to improving access to rehabilitation services.

The USICD also encapsulated all of the information from the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports that reference disabilities into a document on its website, so people interested in the state of disability rights can read relevant information in one place. Additionally, USICD members have authored several informative reports on disabilities in the United States and abroad, encompassing a wide range of nationalities, faiths and cultures.

To learn more about USICD, visit USICD.

United States International Council on Disabilities
1012 14th St. NW, Suite 105
Washington, DC 20005

Disability Organizations

sisters, one pushing her sister's wheelchair through the park

Disability Organizations

People tend to think about disability in terms of limits placed on a person’s physical, mental, social or developmental ability to function. Once people move past myths and perceptions about disability, they learn that it’s more about a person’s ability to compensate for special needs than it is about not being able to complete tasks in a predictable manner. Disability advocacy is about furthering equal opportunity for inclusion, accessibility and participation for all.
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