21 & Change pursues public policy issues for the ‘People with Developmental Disabilities’ community in order to advocate for their rights.  We integrate this effort at the national level with the National Down Syndrome Society © DS-Ambassador program, the NDSS Inclusive Education Task Force, and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates.  At the state level, we are working in cooperation with organizations such as the Florida Anti-Defamation League and the Autism Society of Florida.

Our efforts span the local, state and federal levels to address their issues, advocate for support, and promote social and legal change.  With the help of like-minded parents, self-advocates and other supporters, our intent is to bring these issues to light with their political representatives.  Our role is to be an agent of real and positive change.

On the federal level, our priorities will closely mirror those of the national level organizations.  They are working everyday on Capitol Hill and across our Nation to protect and advance the rights of individuals who are ‘People with Developmental Disabilities’.  Following their lead and building support in every Congressional district and State is vital to this effort.

On the State level, we will address issues such as education, inclusion, support for the Gardiner and McKay scholarship programs, and safety and security issues that affect the lives of our loved ones.

Child with down syndrome at beauty pageant

Our 2021 Priorities for Federal Issues:

1. The Transformation to Competitive Employment Act

A bipartisan and bicameral bill that aims to support States to transition away from sheltered workplaces, eliminate 14(c) waiver certificates to employers, and eliminate subminimum wages currently authorized by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

2. Retention of Protections of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004)

Recent actions by the federal Department of Education have endangered or begun to erode hard-won protections for the right to a “free appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” for individuals with disabilities.

3. IDEA Full Funding Act 

When Congress passed and the President signed into law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1997 (reauthorized in 2004), Congress agreed to fund the States’ special education programs up to 40% of the total costs.  Since that time, Congress has failed to reach that funding goal and has only subsidized the States’ programs at an average of 16-17% of total costs.  The IDEA Full Funding Act would ensure Congress would incrementally increase these subsidies over a 10 year period until reaching the full 40% promise in the year 2028.

Our 2021 Priorities for State Issues:

1. Inclusive Education

Consistent with our #2 priority for federal level issues, our state level #1 priority is for inclusive education.  We will focus on this issue through special education advocacy by supporting parents, holding schools accountable, and pursuing public policy issues at the state level that erode or endanger the protection of our children’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) of 2004 and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

2. Students with Disabilities in Public Schools (S.B. 192 & H.B. 149)

A bicameral bill proposed to amend the current Florida Statute for the practices of seclusion and restraint on students with developmental disabilities in our public schools.  The proposed bill intends to prohibit seclusion, strictly limit the use of restraint, and initiate a pilot program for cameras in our ESE classrooms.  In cooperation with the lead organization, Autism Society of Florida, we are pursuing these changes to the current state law.

3. Offenses Evidencing Prejudice (S.B. 194 & H.B. 43)

As an active member of the Florida Hate Crime Coalition, led by ADL-Florida, we are pursuing a change in the definition of “disability” as it is written in Florida state law.  The change in the definition must be commensurate with the current federal definition as it is written in the Americans with Disabilities Act so that all Floridians with disabilities are fully protected under our state law.  People with disabilities currently make up 13.6% of Florida’s growing population and yet only a small fraction of this group is protected against hate crimes under Florida law.  This bicameral bill also includes amendments for gender, gender identity, “mixed motives”, and “in association with” hate crimes.

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