Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

For Reporters

Are you a reporter on deadline? or 202-357-3507

If you are not a reporter, learn how to get help for yourself or a loved one or use the Contact Us form to reach us. We cannot respond to phone messages from the public left on the media line. To talk with a real person about your situation, contact the Disability Information and Access Line or the Eldercare Locator.


What We Do and Why We Do It

ACL was created around the fundamental principle that all people, regardless of age or disability, should be able to live where they choose, with the people they choose, and fully participate in their communities. By advocating across the federal government for older adults, people with disabilities, and families and caregivers; funding services and supports provided by primarily by networks of community-based organizations; and investing in training, education, research and innovation, ACL helps makes this principle a reality for millions of Americans.

ACL Today: A Snapshot

ACL was established in April 2012, bringing together federal policy and programs for older adults and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities that were previously housed in multiple organizations across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies. Our portfolio has grown significantly in the years since with the transfer of programs from other agencies to ACL. These additions include a research institute; independent living, assistive technology, and traumatic brain injury programs; paralysis and limb-loss resource centers; and programs that help people navigate their Medicare benefits and the health system.

Today, ACL’s budget is just over $2.5 billion, and the agency awards several thousand grants and contracts to help people of all ages live independently in their communities.

This work has never been more important. There are 65 million people age 60 and older. All but a tiny percentage of them live in non-institutional settings, as do nearly 57 million people with disabilities. Both populations are growing, and older Americans are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the country; by 2020, there will be more than 77 million people over the age of 60.

ACL’s leadership bios, mission statement, authorizing statutes, history, reports to Congress and more are posted in About ACL

ACL Expertise:

  • Changing landscape for older adults – nursing homes and assisted living facilities are not inevitable
  • Home- and community-based services that help people live independently
  • Challenges to community living for older adults and people with disabilities
  • Healthy aging strategies/programs, including nutrition, brain health, falls prevention, and chronic disease self-management 
  • Assistive technology
  • Particular challenges for people in rural and tribal areas
  • Preserving people’s right to self-determination: person-centered planning, impact of Olmstead, the “settings rule,” and supported decision-making
  • Inclusion and integrated competitive employment
  • Elder abuse and efforts to prevent it
  • Research and development to improve support for people with disabilities and older adults
  • Increasing cultural competency and diversity programs in our programs and networks
  • Special observances: Older Americans Month, Autism Acceptance Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, National Caregiver Month, etc.

Reporting on Aging and Disability

The language of disability and aging can be challenging. Many well-intentioned news stories end up missing the mark, or worse. Since about 1 in 5 Americans have a disability that affects daily living, it's worth getting it right. 

Common missteps include stories that:

  • Talk about a person with a disability, but quote only the people who support them: whenever possible, include the perspective of the individual at the center of the story 
  • Infantilize older adults and people with disabilities
  • Inadvertently celebrate segregating older adults and people with disabilities
  • Treat aging or disability as a "disease" or something to be cured  
  • Use language that emphasizes a person's disability, rather than the person, or which over-emphasizes the tools used by people with disabilities. For example, it's better to say that a person "uses a wheelchair" rather than to describe the person as "wheelchair bound." 
  • Covering cool technology without talking about the people who use it to participate in daily life
  • Lionizing disabled people for doing basic things. (If the person wasn't disabled, would you be covering it?)

Person-first and identity-first language

Person-first language literally means starting the description of the person with a noun that references them as an individual -- "person with a disability," "woman who is paralyzed," "man with an intellectual disability," etc.

Identity-first language incorporates the disability or identity as an adjective: blind woman, disabled person, Deaf man.

Until fairly recently, person-first language was generally preferred by most of the disability community, although there have always been exceptions (most who are deaf or hard of hearing or autistic have long preferred identity-first language.) However, in recent years, more people with disabilities have begun to describe themselves using identity-first language.

It's best to ask your story subject what they prefer. If you're unsure, AP Stylebook says to use person-first language. However, at ACL, we now alternate usage when preferences are unknown or when the subject/audience includes people with differing preferences.  


These articles and tipsheets can help you stay up to date on language preferences and avoid ageism and ableism in your reportage.

Disability-focused advice:

Aging-focused advice:

Last modified on 04/17/2024

Back to Top