May 19, 2021


Let’s Build Better Supports for Adults with Developmental Disabilities in DC!

First off, I want to demystify some of the acronyms used in this blog post.  In the District of Columbia, the Department on Disability Services (called “DDS”) has two divisions where adults with disabilities may be able get services. First, there is Developmental Disabilities Administration (called “DDA”), which currently provides services and supports to DC residents with intellectual disabilities (more on what that means later). Second, there is Rehabilitation Services Administration (called “RSA”), which provides “vocational rehabilitation” or employment-related services to people with disabilities more broadly.  Today’s blog is focused on the first division, namely DDA and its currently narrow eligibility requirements.

Despite DDA’s name, not all DC residents with developmental disabilities are eligible to receive DDA servicesDDA currently only provides services and supports to people who have a specific kind of diagnosis, which is called an intellectual disability.”  An “intellectual disability” does not mean any cognitive disability.  DDA generally says that, to qualify as having an “intellectual disability,” a person must have an assessed Full Scale IQ Score of 69 or below, along with two or more significant problems in adaptive functioning – all of which started before the person turned 18 years old.  “Adaptive functioning” here means the activities of daily living, such as self-care, understanding language, social skills, and self-direction, among others. 

Quality Trust regularly gets calls from DC families who are negatively impacted by the way that DC limits access to DDA services.  Many adults with developmental disabilities (such as autism and cerebral policy) who are transitioning out of schools are left without access to critical adult services.  They are prevented from further building upon the skills they learned in school and even lose them. Similarly, as more and more parents age and become unable to provide support, their adult family members with developmental disabilities cannot get access to DDA supports and services unless they also have an intellectual disability and meet the IQ score cut-off.  

Admittedly, some people with developmental disabilities who are denied DDA eligibility may be able to get DDS RSA services.  However, those services are limited to employment-related services and are generally short-term.  While some may be eligible for services under the Elderly and Persons with Physical Disabilities (EPD) waiver through the DC Department of Aging and Community Living, that funding stream is limited to getting physical assistance with tasks and does not provide the comprehensive array of DDA services, such as individualized day supports, behavioral support services, long-term employment support services, and respite, among others. 

In this sense, DC is seriously behind the times – there are only four other states that still limit DDA eligibility to people with intellectual disabilities.  Quality Trust is part of a working group that is advocating at the DC Council to change that through legislation.  We want to see the DDA eligibility requirements revised, so adults with developmental disabilities who have significant, lifelong support needs in three or more major activities of life are not denied DDA services they need, simply based on an assessed IQ score.

We ask that you join us in this effort!  You can help us bring equity to DC residents living with developmental disabilities!

  • • Join Zoom on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM for a testimony preparation and information session. See this Community Meetings flyer for more information.
  • Write to the D.C. Mayor by April 15!  The DC Council’s Committee on Human Services is drafting legislation to address the glaring inequities in the current DC government’s approach to long-term services. See this Call to Action flyer for more information, including an email template and email addresses. 
  • Testify!  The Mayor’s proposed DC budget for FY 2022 will be released on May 27, and the DC Council will hold a DDS budget hearing on Monday, June 7, 9:00 AM – 12:00 Noon.  See this Call to Action flyer for more information, including how to sign-up to testify.
  • Use the hashtags #DDEquityDC and #NotJustIQ on social media. Share your own story on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter about why this issue is important to you.
  • Reach out to as many family members and people with intellectual or developmental disabilities to share this and get them to send messages to the DC government and/or testify on June 7!

If you have questions or want to learn more, please feel free to contact me – Morgan Whitlatch, Legal Director – at or 202-459-4004.

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