History records prejudice against minority members of society including persons with handicaps who were also once considered as second-class citizens. However in recent years the diffusion of knowledge and understanding diminished this separation from the societal mainstream. In the United States supportive legislation has provided improved opportunities for persons with disabilities in achieving:

  • Equal opportunities and civil rights
  • Education
  • Vocational preparation for successful entry into the work force

Children with congenital heart disease represent a very small proportion of persons in need, but they can greatly benefit from the advances achieved by others with disabilities. Legislation has opened up broad avenues toward normal living and promotes the successful transition from childhood to adulthood. Knowledge of their special status is essential for patients and parents, as well as for their physicians and all other caregivers in order to access the opportunities available.

The philosophy of equal opportunities in education and work was made evident in recent as well as earlier laws.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (PL 101-336, 1990) assures equal opportunities and civil rights for all persons with physical and mental impairments. Removing barriers in man-made structures and barriers stemming from peoples’ attitudes will make it possible for all persons with disabilities to access and experience all society has to offer.

Legislation concerned with Education

  • Brown vs. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483,493, (1954) was a historic decision of the U.S. Supreme Court directed toward racial minorities, which also set the stage for equal opportunities for others:It is doubtful that any child may be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an education is a right which must be available to all on equal terms .
  • Education for all Handicapped Children Act, (PL 94-142, 1975), has been called a BILL of RIGHT for handicapped children as it mandates an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for each student with a disability to participate in the educational programs in the least restrictive setting.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. (PL 105-17, 1997). EDLAW, , passed with the purpose of ensuring that the rights of children with disabilities are protected, and to assist the States in assuring the effectiveness of all efforts to educate children with disabilities.

Legislation concerned with Vocational Habilitation

  • Vocational rehabilitation began with the Soldiers Rehabilitation Act (1918), and the Civilian Rehabilitation Act ( 1920), which were replaced by a permanent commitment in the Social Security Act (1935). It was recognized that self-dependence in the world of work depended on physical restoration as well as education, training and guidance.
  • The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (PL 106-170, 1999) provides specialists in every State and a wide range of resources to assist youths and young adults. Remarkable international experiences in study and work could enhance the status and the employability of each participant.

Selected Web Resources