Midway through its fifth decade of service, the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities has a history of leadership on issues affecting people with disabilities as it evolved through the years. It all began in 1962 with North Carolina's Developmental Disabilities Program, through the appointment of the Governor's Commission to Study the Needs of the Mentally Retarded.
The following year, the North Carolina General Assembly enacted legislation which created the North Carolina Council on Mental Retardation, an interagency advisory body designed to promote coordination among existing service delivery systems.
After the Developmental Disabilities Act was passed by Congress in 1970, earlier legislation was amended to include persons with epilepsy and cerebral palsy and each state was required to designate a planning and advisory council to be eligible for federal funds for developmental disabilities programs. The North Carolina legislature subsequently gave these responsibilities to the renamed Council on Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. The NC General Assembly also gave the Council responsibility for advising the agencies charged with administering and implementing the Developmental Disabilities Act, including promoting public awareness, new programs and interagency coordination.
With the reorganization of North Carolina state government in 1973 the Council became an independent agency within the Department of Health and Human Services under a new name; the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities, and its focus shifted from advisory to planning.
The role of the Council was modified again as a result of the 1978 Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, which redefined developmental disabilities in terms of functional limitations, such as mobility, self-care and capacity for independent living, and individuals with severe, chronic, mental and/or physical disabilities which occurred before age 22 and were likely to continue indefinitely. The new law also changed the membership requirements of the Council to ensure that one-half of the members would be persons with developmental disabilities and persons who were relatives or guardians of persons with developmental disabilities.
Later Federal legislation, such as the 1990 Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, shaped Council objectives by recognizing the commitment to enabling persons with developmental disabilities, including those with severe disabilities, to achieve interdependence and inclusion into society, and recognition of contributions other than just productivity, a term primarily related to work. Systems coordination and community education were added as additional priority service areas.
Today, the North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities is a 40-member, governor-appointed body and 60 percent of its members are people with developmental disabilities or family members of people with disabilities. Its activities are guided by the federal mandate to "promote self-determination, independence, productivity and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life" for people with developmental disabilities and their families. The Council also works to promote a community service delivery system that is personalized to meet the unique needs of each individual with a developmental disability through funding diverse grantees.