The disability rights movement was founded decades ago, as individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families began advocating for inclusion and civil rights that were for far too long denied people with I/DD.

This advocacy led to the strong national disability rights movement we have today, with victories like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and numerous other wins that led to greater participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society.

More work to be done

While there is much to celebrate, there are still far too many people with disabilities whose lives are impacted by bias, discrimination or ignorance of people with disabilities and their abilities.

"Just like their peers without disabilities, entering the next phase in Their Lives Should be a thrilling experience, not one shrouded with fear and trepidation."

One period of life that should be full of opportunity is the transition from high school to what’s next. Yet for individuals with I/DD and their families, this can be a scary and stressful time. The supports received in school come to an end, and for many the future is uncertain; it’s often described as a time when they feel like they are falling off a cliff.

Preparing

It is essential that planning for this important time starts early. Transition planning provides the opportunity for individuals to evaluate their strengths and desires for their future, and to plan the steps necessary to achieve their goals. Whether someone has an interest in pursuing post-secondary education or career options, they need to be empowered to make those choices on their own and access the proper supports to succeed.

When it comes to employment of individuals with I/DD, we face a national crisis. According to The Arc’s national online survey, The Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) survey, family caregivers indicated that only 15 percent of their relatives with I/DD are employed. Transition activities should include career assessments to identify student’s interests and preferences, and training to develop workplace skills. The options are limitless, but there needs to be support to find the right opportunity.

Role models

Individuals with I/DD are succeeding in meaningful careers in a wide range of private businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, while others are becoming entrepreneurs with their own micro-businesses. They are attending colleges and universities with their peers, influencing public policy, actively participating in their communities in volunteer and other activities and breaking down barriers that have held them back for decades.

Just like their peers without disabilities, entering the next phase in their lives should be a thrilling experience, not one shrouded with fear and trepidation.

Their success and self-determination should inspire all of us to recommit and reignite the passion we need to achieve equity and justice for people with I/DD once and for all.