U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper (R--Miss.) reintroduced a legislative package today that aims to redesign federal programs for individuals living with intellectual disabilities as they transition from secondary school to the workforce.
The three bills, collectively referred to as the "Transition toward Excellence, Achievement and Mobility" (TEAM Act), aim to support youth with significant disabilities from adolescence to adulthood and refocus federal resources on improved outcomes in post-secondary education and integrated employment.
By promoting meaningful post-secondary educational and employment opportunities, this package intends for intellectually disabled citizens to gain full-time employment in an integrated setting at a livable wage. The plan also seeks to produce long-term career development and community inclusion through independent living and social engagement opportunities.
"In order for individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reach their maximum potential, Congress must enact a systems change," said Harper, a third-term lawmaker and longtime champion for the disabilities community. "The current federal disability laws are hopelessly outdated and will ultimately lead to unemployment and poverty for these children."
The "TEAM-Education Act" ensures that schools are provided the necessary guidance and resources to proactively engage transition coordinators who assist America's disabled children during their public education tenure.
The "TEAM-Empowerment Act" creates an adult transition planning process and system of supports for youth and their families under the supervision of state disabilities agencies.
The "TEAM-Employment Act" seeks to stimulate a national system-change initiative, which will establish that agencies coordinate services better to produce the desired outcomes of integrated living and employment.
"This legislation helps promote an efficient blending of resources and coordination of services among federal and state agencies," added Harper. "As the father of a special needs child, I understand the need for these reforms and the urgency to act."
Harper's 23-year-old son, Livingston, lives with Fragile X Syndrome. This disorder is the most commonly inherited form of intellectual disabilities and the only known genetic cause of autism.
The Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination (CPSD) has endorsed this legislation. This advocacy group is a network of eighteen national disability organizations committed to high-impact public policy reform to promote the economic advancement of citizens with significant disabilities.