A man and a woman are seated at a table in a conference room. The man is smiling and looking toward a laptop computer on the table in front of him. The woman is looking at the camera and smiling. Her elbows rest on the table in front of her.

Koert Wehberg, PADDC Chair and Lisa Tesler, PADDC Executive Director

“The purpose of the Act is to assure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families participate in the design of, and have access to, needed community services, individualized supports and other forms of assistance that promote self determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life through culturally competent programs.”

Congress passed the first Act in 1963. In the years that followed, the Act was amended several times, most recently in 2020, and passed through reauthorization by Congress every few years. In the 1970 reauthorization of the DD Act, Congress decided to strengthen state efforts to coordinate and integrate services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Thus, Congress established and authorized funding for Developmental Disabilities Councils (DD Councils) in each state.

In order to assure the purpose of the Act, Developmental Disabilities Councils were created and charged with engaging in three main activities in support of individuals with developmental disabilities:

  • Systems Change
  • Capacity-Building
  • Advocacy

It is these three primary activities that anchor the work of the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council. We are forbidden by federal law to engage in direct services and supports other than short term demonstration projects.

Over the years the Council has recognized that the fulfillment of the act does not belong only in the realm of formal services, programs and supports, and has consequently developed a set of values which holds that the primary responsibility for change in our systems lies, not with people with disabilities, but with the generic, informal systems of community which surround them: not with “special programs for special people” but with a recognition that it is our collective responsibility as a community to build a culture of diversity which holds, with the DD Act, that “Disability is a natural part of the human condition.”

The PADDC consists of twenty-three members appointed by the Governor in accordance with federal law. Members are expected to represent a diversity of disability interests and to reflect the geographic and census make-up of the State. 60% of Council Members must be people with developmental disabilities or their family members. Five seats on Council are reserved for the Secretaries or their representatives of state agencies receiving federal funds that impact people with disabilities. Our agencies are: Department of Labor and Industry, Department of Education, Department of Human Services, Department of Aging, and Department of Health.

Additionally, the Council must have one member from each of the two DD Act “sister agencies”; Disability Rights Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania’s P&A) and Temple University-Institute on Disabilities (Pennsylvania’s UCEDD). The remaining members must include a representative from a non-profit and a local and non-governmental agency.

The Council also has additional Committee members who are not voting members of Council and are appointed by the Chair of Council.