Policy & Advocacy

NDSC Position Statements

The NDSC Policy & Advocacy Team is comprised of disability policy professionals who are experienced, well-connected, and highly regarded national subject matter policy experts and leaders. The Policy Team regularly consults with the engaged, experienced, and bipartisan NDSC Public Policy Advisory Council that represents a diversity of viewpoints and experiences. The following NDSC Position Statements have been formulated by these entities and approved by the NDSC Board of Directors. They are used to uphold NDSC’s mission, advance NDSC’s policy goals, and serve to inform our constituency, stakeholders and the general public about the prevailing organizational view on key issues.


NDSC Position Statement on Employment

The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) believes that employment should be an expected life activity for individuals with Down syndrome, and that individuals with Down syndrome should have the individual and systemic supports necessary to enable them to find, keep and succeed in careers in the community based on their preferences, interests, and strengths. We are committed to advancing policies that:

  • Empower individuals with Down syndrome to make informed choices about their work and careers by providing individualized exploration of and experiences with inclusive, community-based employment and by presenting all information needed to make informed choices in an understandable way;
  • Build infrastructure and transition supports needed to phase out the issuance of subminimum wage certificates while increasing opportunities for competitive, meaningful, integrated employment and putting in place safeguards to protect the interests of any people affected by this shift;
  • Increase employment opportunities in integrated, meaningful, community-based settings that contain the proportion of disabled people in the general population, pay all employees at least the minimum wage in their state, and offer benefits commensurate with their positions;
  • Provide sufficient financial, personnel and other resources including training opportunities to support inclusive meaningful, employment opportunities in the community and be flexible enough to foster collaboration and braiding of employment-related funds;
  • Increase access to and capacity of supported and customized employment services funded through Medicaid and other mechanisms;
  • Promote the Employment First framework, as defined by the Department of Labor, to align policies, service delivery practices, and reimbursement structures to commit to integrated employment as the priority option with respect to use of publicly-financed day and employment services for youth and adults with significant disabilities;
  • Encourage and incentivize businesses to improve hiring practices and/or reward retention of employees with Down syndrome and other disabilities;
  • Increase opportunities for apprenticeship and work-based learning experiences by facilitating the coordination of school-to-work transition programs, higher education, and community-based employers;
  • Minimize transportation barriers to employment;
  • Facilitate opportunities for self-employment and business ownership;
  • Provide individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities ongoing opportunities for and information about job advancement, career development, benefits and retirement;
  • Provide training in best practices to staff of employment and school-to-work transition programs to help individuals with disabilities find and keep jobs, receive on-the-job training and guidance in acquiring workplace social skills; and
  • Allow for an environment of “continued attachment” for individuals who have successfully achieved partial self-sufficiency but require continued public assistance to offset the tremendous costs of certain long term supports related to their disability.

View Position Statement as a PDF

Inclusive Education

NDSC Position Statement on Inclusive Education

The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) believes that all students, including those with Down syndrome, have the right to an education designed to help them make progress in the general education curriculum for the grade in which they are enrolled, should have an opportunity to meet the requirements for a regular high school diploma, and should be prepared to pursue postsecondary education and/or competitive integrated employment. In addition, except in rare circumstances, students with Down syndrome should be educated in the general education classroom, with appropriate services, supplementary aids and supports, in the school the student would’ve attended if not for the disability. Alternative placements should be considered only when education in the general education classroom cannot be satisfactorily achieved because of a specific issue related to the child’s disability and not because the system is failing to provide the services, supplementary aids and supports needed for a free, appropriate public education.  Decades of research demonstrate that students with disabilities and their peers benefit academically and socially and have improved long-term outcomes when educated using inclusive best practices.[1]

NDSC recognizes that parents and self-advocates can and do make a variety of decisions about educational placements based upon individual needs. However, we also recognize that those who are seeking an education in the general education classroom face significant systemic obstacles. (Recent studies demonstrate that only 17% of students in the intellectual disability category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and 3% of students who are taking state alternate assessments are being educated 80% or more of the day in the general education classroom.)[2] Therefore, NDSC must work to promote policies that support inclusive education opportunities for students with Down syndrome, including the Least Restrictive Environment provisions in IDEA that consider the general education classroom as the presumed placement unless it is determined that a particular student cannot be educated satisfactorily in that environment even with supplementary aids and services.

[1] The Segregation of Students with Disabilities, Chapters 5 and 6, National Council on Disability

[2] Where Students with the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities Are Taught Implications for General Curriculum Access, Harold Kleinert, Elizabeth Towles-Reeves, Rachel Quenemoen, Martha Thurlow, Lauren Fluegge, Laura Weseman, Allison Kerbel

NDSC is committed to advancing policies that:

  • Recognize all students with Down syndrome as general education students first, who also happen to receive special education services, and therefore must benefit from the high academic expectations for all students expressed in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), as well as their rights under IDEA (including when public funds are used to educate them in private schools);
  • Provide training opportunities for administrators, teachers, and specialized instructional support personnel to have the pre-service preparation and ongoing professional development to implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and Universal Design for Learning (www.udlcenter.org), and provide the necessary accommodations, modifications and other supports to ensure progress in the grade level general education curriculum alongside nondisabled peers to the maximum extent possible;
  • Evaluate students with Down syndrome for – and give them access to any tools and services needed for communicative competence;
  • Fully inform self-advocates and their parents as members of the IEP team;
  • Align the IEP planning process with the academic and functional goals needed for a life of integration in all aspects of the community: for elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, social life, independent living, and employment for the same wage and opportunities for advancement of any other in that position (competitive integrated employment);
  • Prepare students with Down syndrome for self-determination and self-advocacy at as young an age as possible;
  • Prevent the use of restraint, seclusion and other aversive interventions that deny people their humanity and rob them of their dignity;
  • Enable students with Down syndrome to access extra-curricular activities provided by the school, with supplementary aids and services as needed;
  • Prepare students with Down syndrome for inclusive postsecondary education and competitive integrated employment prior to leaving secondary school, with the development of job skills being accomplished through paid apprenticeships, work-based learning opportunities and other integrated job opportunities, for pay if possible;
  • Do not preclude students with Down syndrome, including those who participate in alternate assessments, from attempting to meet the requirements of a regular high school diploma;
  • Enable students with Down syndrome to receive a meaningful exit credential if they do not earn a regular diploma;
  • Promote the development of and funding for high-quality inclusive higher education opportunities;
  • Execute a transition process that provides a smooth pathway to adult life; and
  • Provide to students with Down syndrome and their families all the information needed to enable them to access adult services as they exit secondary education.

View Position Statement as a PDF

Transportation for Students with Disabilities

NDSC Position Statement on Transportation for Students with Disabilities

NDSC supports the U.S. Department of Education guidance issued in November 2009, QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON SERVING CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES ELIGIBLE FOR TRANSPORTATION. This important guidance makes clear that“Transportation is a related service as defined by 34 CFR §300.34(c)(16) of the IDEA regulations and can include travel to and from school and between schools; travel in and around school buildings; and specialized equipment such as special or adapted buses, lifts, and ramps. A child’s individualized education program (IEP) Team is responsible for determining both if transportation is required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education and related services, and how the transportation services should be implemented.” Transportation may also include travel training.

At NDSC we unfortunately hear reports from families that individualized decisions are not always made at IEP meetings and instead “blanket” district policies are used, that students with disabilities are sometimes not allowed to travel on the “regular” school bus, and that needed aides are not always provided. The guidance, which can be found at https://sites.ed.gov/idea/files/OMB_08-0101_Transportation-11-4-09_FINAL-1.pdf, clearly specifies a number of important points, including the following:

  • “The IDEA does not require LEAs to transport children with disabilities in separate vehicles, isolated from their peers. In fact, many children with disabilities can receive the same transportation provided to non-disabled children, consistent with the least restrictive environment requirements in 34 CFR §§300.114 through 300.120.”
  • IEP teams should consider various strategies and “districts should explore options for integrating children with disabilities with nondisabled students, especially when the children with disabilities are in the same location and have the same schedule as children without disabilities. This option may require the utilization of a lift-equipped vehicle for the regular routes or the addition of a monitor or aide.”
  • If the IEP Team has included transportation as a related service in the child’s IEP to enable the child to benefit from special education and related services, “then it should include transportation for required after-school activities, such as community service activities that are required by the school, as well as for activities necessary to afford the child an equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.”
  • “If the IEP Team determines that transportation is required to assist the preschool child to benefit from special education, and includes transportation as a related service on the child’s IEP, the LEA would be responsible for providing the transportation to and from the setting where the special education and related services are provided.” This includes transportation to/from private day care.

NDSC strongly encourages school districts to follow this important guidance and encourages parents to read the guidance to ensure that the IEP team makes appropriation decisions on transportation.

View Position Statement as a PDF

Housing and Community Living

NDSC Position Statement on Housing and Community Living

The National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC) believes that individuals with Down syndrome, like all Americans, have a right to live in their own homes, in the community. Adults should control where and with whom they live, have the freedom to choose their daily routines and activities, and they should have opportunities to rent or buy their own homes. We are committed to advancing policies that:

  • Empower individuals with Down syndrome and their families to make informed choices about where and with whom they live, and respect individuals’ choices. “Informed choice” should include providing understandable information about the benefits of living in inclusive settings in the community, opportunities to meet people with disabilities who are living in their own homes, and other experiences in inclusive community settings;
  • Safeguard the health and safety of individuals with Down syndrome wherever they live, while recognizing their right to take risks and exercise choice and control;
  • Promote the full inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome in typical community settings and alongside peers both with and without disabilities;
  • Increase access to, and coordination of, home and community-based support systems funded through Medicaid and other mechanisms;
  • Expand affordable housing programs and reduce waiting lists;
  • Minimize transportation barriers that restrict access to the broader community;
  • Provide supports, education and training to improve the ability of individuals with Down syndrome to live as independently as possible;
  • Protect individuals with Down syndrome from housing discrimination so they have opportunities comparable to those of people without disabilities to rent or buy their own homes; and
  • Improve the coordination and implementation of the complex systems of supports and services for adults with Down syndrome and other disabilities.

View Position Statement as a PDF