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Federal disability law turns 40: some thoughts, considerations

An important milestone was reached on the final day of November, marked by the 40th birthday party of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (commonly referred to by the acronym IDEA).

As noted by an article recognizing that important occurrence, It is breathtaking to contemplate how far American thinking regarding disability and social/education inclusion has progressed over those decades.

As that media piece points out, only about one of every five students across the country with disabilities even went to school in 1970. That is truly a sad and frightening figure, especially for what it impliedly notes about the 80 percent of disabled students who did not have that opportunity.

They were kept apart from their non-disabled peers. They were isolated from social and learning opportunities. They were prominently noted as being "different." Their futures were fundamentally compromised by lack of challenge and engagement.

And that was wrong, obviously, and something that is now painfully apparent in hindsight.

The IDEA legislation and the education platform and programs it has engendered are obviously not perfect, given pressing funding issues in many school districts, sometimes incessant bureaucratic input, teacher training challenges and related problems.

The goals of IDEA are unimpeachable, though, and the opportunity for disabled students to meaningfully access educational tools and interact with peers is a priceless lifeline to a purposeful adult life.

That latter thrust of the IDEA vision -- inclusivity -- was stressed in a report released in California earlier this year.

There is strong reason to endorse that message, given evidence showing that all students -- disabled and non-disabled children alike -- are positively affected when the school doors swing wide open for students with recognized disabilities.

Parents with questions or concerns about any aspect of IDEA or learning opportunities for a disabled child can obtain prompt guidance and proven legal advocacy from an experienced education law and disability attorney.

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