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New Law Expands ACL’s Capacity to Serve Americans with Disabilities

October 10, 2014
Kathy Greenlee, Former Assistant Secretary for Aging and ACL Administrator

Today, President Obama signed the "Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act" into law. This bipartisan bill, which recently passed the U.S. Senate by a vote of 95-3 and the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 415-6, makes important changes to disability programs authorized under the Rehabilitation Act and the Assistive Technology Act, including the transfer of three programs from the Department of Education to the Administration for Community Living (ACL). With this law, the Independent Living programs, the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, and the Assistive Technology Act programs will move to ACL.

This is an exciting development that will benefit both the transferred programs and ACL's current efforts, with strong alignment to implement our mission—to maximize the independence, well-being, and health of older adults, people with disabilities, and their families and caregivers.

When the ACL was established in 2012, we brought together HHS’s Administration on Aging, the Office on Disability and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities into a single entity, in order to focus on both the shared interests of older adults and people with disabilities, while acknowledging and continuing to address the unique needs and differences across the populations we serve. ACL strives to ensure that all Americans, regardless of age or disability, can live, work, learn, and play in their communities with the services and supports they need to be fully participating and contributing members. The transferred programs all make important contributions to this work in unique ways.

The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (formerly known as the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research) supports applied research, training and development activities to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities through comprehensive and coordinated research programs designed to maximize the inclusion, social integration, employment and independent living of individuals with disabilities of all ages. As part of the scientific community, the Institute makes important contributions to the overall knowledge of rehabilitation medicine, engineering, psychosocial rehabilitation, community integration, employment, family support, and other outcomes for persons with disabilities.

Independent Living empowers individuals to live independently in their communities through two programs: Centers for Independent Living, and Independent Living State Grants. The approximately 500 Centers for Independent Living are consumer-controlled, community-based, and cross-disability nonprofit agencies providing an array of independent living services. The State Independent Living Councils are composed of gubernatorial appointees who represent people with significant disabilities and other independent living stakeholders. The councils have the primary responsibility for developing and implementing a state plan to ensure appropriate planning, financial support, coordination, and other assistance to individuals with disabilities.

In today’s world, technology plays an increasingly important role in ensuring that people with disabilities have equal opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of our society. The Assistive Technology program increases access to assistive technology devices and related services for individuals with disabilities of all ages.

These programs represent important investments in disability program and policy. HHS and the Department of Education will partner on a thoughtful and carefully constructed transition that ensures continuity, while minimizing disruption and maintaining focus on our mission. We look forward to engaging with all of our stakeholders as this process evolves, and to working together to improve community living for all Americans with disabilities and older adults.

To learn more about ACL and our work, explore our website (

Last modified on 05/06/2020

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