Immediate Action Needed to Manage Disability in America, Report Warns

An Institute of Medicine report on disability in the U.S. concludes that immediate action is needed to avoid future harm and to help people with disabilities lead independent and productive lives.

"[D]isability is not an unavavoidable consequence of injury and chronic disease but is substantially affected by the actions that society takes," the report, published in book form as The Future of Disability in America, states.

To better understand disability in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Education, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the Institute of Medicine to assess the current situation and provide recommendations for improvement. Building on two prior studies, the Institute's new report examines both progress and concerns about continuing barriers that limit the independence, productivity, and participation in community life of people with disabilities.

The book looks at a wide range of issues, including the prevalence of disability across the lifespan; the needs of young people moving from pediatric to adult health care; the role of assistive technology; barriers posed by buildings, equipment, and information formats; and the financing of disability-related research. One chapter is devoted to the challenges involved when a person with disabilities moves from child to adult status, examining child and family characteristics that may affect these transitions, public policies that complicate matters, and approaches to health care transitions for young people with disabilities.

Noting that over their life spans most Americans will experience disabilities or will have family members who do, the report sounds a call for more generous funding of disability-related programs, the reduction of barriers to health insurance for people with disabilities, and strengthened enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), among other recommendations.

The Future of Disability in America may be read for free online or purchased in book form. Go to: Article Last Modified: 08/30/2007