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The Importance of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired, Disability Type, Education & Teaching, Learning Disabilities, Public Policy/Advocacy

The passage of the Educating all Handicapped Children Act (now known as IDEA) in 1975 marked a major milestone in the advancement in civil rights for people with disabilities. While specialized schools for individuals who were blind or deaf had been operating since the 18th Century, many individuals with disabilities never received an education. In the times they did, it was in isolation from other students without disabilities. Segregation was the norm.
Group of college studentsWith the passage of EAHCA the opportunities for individuals with disabilities was change for the better, forever.
EAHCA required that all schools receiving federal funds change the way they educate students with disabilities. The new law required schools to develop programs to effectively educate these students. Students were to be included in all school activities in the "least restrictive environment," the isolation was to be left in the past. Perhaps the greatest change was in opening the decision making process to parents and requiring new procedures to make the process fairer, and focused on the most appropriate solution for the child. The final major change was the size of the federal commitment to funding special education programs. Today federal special education funding is $11.5 Billion a year. Only Title 1 funding for low income schools and Pell Grants for low income college students consume more federal education spending. This federal commitment to special education has been a significant driving force in ensuring schools have the resources needed to support students with disabilities. LA-4495_LRToday EAHC act has been amended and improved and is now known as the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which was itself amended by the Individuals With Disabilities Improvement Act. The early core goals of EAHCA have been expanded to include a full educational life program from early intervention to post school transition planning. Millions of Americans, many of whom would have been relegated to little more than isolated warehousing, have received an appropriated education and can more fully contribute to their community as a result of EAHCA 11030848_10206401053374840_998438674113519958_nEdward Bray is the Director, Public Policy & Advocacy for Learning Ally. He has over 20 year experience advocating and organizing to promote educational improvement, job readiness, and community based economic development. Ed is a founding member of the parent grassroots organization Decoding Dyslexia New Jersey and is constantly inspired by his daughter's perseverance overcoming dyslexia.