The aging and disability networks are made up of local, state, and national organizations and committed advocates working to support older adults and people with disabilities. Some organizations focus on a particular type of disability, age group, or type of service, whereas others have a more comprehensive mission.
ACL helps support these networks and the programs and services they provide, including the following:
- Aging and Disability Resource Centers - These centers provide information and counseling to help individuals make informed decisions about long-term services and supports and help accessing programs.
- Americans with Disabilities Act National Network - This program funds 10 regional centers for providing information, training, and technical assistance to individuals, businesses, and agencies with rights and responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Area Agencies on Aging - These agencies address the needs of older adults at the regional and local level through services and supports (like home-delivered meals and homemaker assistance) to support independent living.
- Assistive Technology - These programs support making assistive technology devices and services more available and accessible to individuals with disabilities and their families.
- Centers for Independent Living - These centers provide tools, resources, and supports for integrating people with disabilities fully into their communities to promote equal opportunities, self-determination, and respect.
- Protection and Advocacy Systems - These state systems work to protect individuals with disabilities by empowering them and advocating on their behalf to defend their personal and civil rights.
- Senior Centers and Supportive Services for Older Adults - This program provides grants to states and territories that fund multi-purpose senior centers that coordinate services for older adults, such as congregate meals, community education, health screening, exercise and health promotion programs, and transportation.
- State Councils on Developmental Disabilities - These self-governing organizations identify and address the most pressing needs of people with developmental disabilities in their state or territory through conducting advocacy, facilitating systems change, and capacity building efforts to promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion.
- State Units on Aging - These state-level agencies develop and administer plans to provide assistance for older adults, families, and in many states also adults with physical disabilities.
- University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities - These grants are affiliated with universities to serve as liaisons between academia and the community for advancing research, information sharing, and community services.
There are many similarities in the services and supports older adults and people with disabilities need in order to live independently. Increasingly, the aging and disability networks are working together at state and local levels, and ACL is frequently asked for help in forging these new collaborative relationships. Together, the communities have a larger voice and are more successful advocates than any of the networks on its own. At the same time, the networks retain the unique elements of their individual missions.
There are issues that affect both people with disabilities and older adults, and we join forces to address them. However, there also are issues that affect only older adults, or only people with disabilities, and ACL continues to develop and manage programs and advocate for the individual populations, as well.