What is the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council?

Established in 1971, the MD DD Council is an independent public policy organization with the mission to advance the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of community life by eliminating barriers, creating opportunities, empowering people, and promoting innovation. The Council engages in advocacy, capacity building and systems change activities to bring about lasting change that improves the lives of Marylanders with developmental disabilities.

What federal law does the MD DD Council operate under?

The Maryland DD Council was established through, and operates under the provisions of, the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000 (DD Act). The DD Act was originally enacted in 1963, DD Councils were added in 1970, and the Act was last amended in 2000.

How is the MD DD Council funded?

The Council is 100% federally funded and receives no state funding. The Council receives an annual federal funding allocation administered through the federal Administration on  Disabilities, Office of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (OIDD)Disability Rights Maryland (formerly Maryland Disability Law Center) and Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) are also authorized and funded through the DD Act and our three organizations work collaboratively on shared priorities. Through the DD Act, Congress established these programs in every state and U.S. territory to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities; to protect their civil and human rights; and to promote their maximum potential through increased independence, productivity, and integration into the community.

Is the Council a part of state government?

The Council is in a unique situation. We are an autonomous agency within state government that operates without influence or interference from any part of state government, including the governor. This is a requirement of the DD Act, which mandates that no entity of the state may “interfere with the advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change activities, budget, personnel, state plan development, or plan implementation of the Council.”

The MD DD Council is co-located with the Maryland Department of Disabilities, which functions as our “Designated State Agency” (DSA). In this role, DOD provides the Council administrative support with things like processing of paychecks, employee benefits support, and addressing other issues related to state employment and state agency operations.

Council members (similar to board members of other organizations) are appointed by the governor after being selected and recommended by the Council.  The Council does not report to the governor. The Council’s executive director and staff are state employees, but are responsible only to the Council.

Why does the Council focus on inclusion?

This is the Council’s mission and is stipulated in the DD Act, which states:

“The purpose of this title 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 …” (P.L. 106-402. Subtitle A. Sec. 101.b.)

“It is the policy of the United States that all programs, projects, and activities receiving assistance under this title shall be carried out in a manner consistent with the principles that…individuals with developmental disabilities, including those with the most severe developmental disabilities, are capable of self-determination, independence, productivity, and integration and inclusion in all facets of community life, but often require the provision of community services, individualized supports, and other forms of assistance…” (P.L. 106-402. Subtitle A. Sec. 101.c.1.)

What issues does the MD DD Council focus on and how does it make this decision?

Every five years the Council develops what is called a State Plan, which establishes the Council’s priority goals, objectives and activities for the coming years. This guides how we allocate staff and fiscal resources to accomplish our goals and objectives. The areas we focus on are determined through extensive research, analysis, public input and discussion. We consider issues across the lifespan that impact people with developmental disabilities and their families in Maryland. Areas we consider include, but are not limited to child care, early intervention, education, employment, recreation, health, housing, transportation and long term supports and services. All activities are related to the Council’s mission. Development of a State Plan is a requirement of the DD Act and the Council reports to OIDD annually about progress on our goals and objectives.

The Council’s Public Policy Platform provides more information.

What does the Council fund?

The Council’s mission and State Plan guide how our funding is allocated. As an organization, we are focused on bringing about lasting change through advocacy, capacity building and systems change initiatives. Our goals and objectives are accomplished through the direct work of the Council and through initiatives we fund. Funds can never be used to benefit only one individual.

Learn more about Council funding opportunities.

Read about initiatives the Council currently funds.

Does the MD DD Council provide or fund direct services to people with disabilities?

No, the Council does not fund direct services. Council funding is used in a variety of ways to help us achieve our mission and State Plan goals.

By comparison, the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) is the principle state agency that funds services and supports for people with developmental disabilities in Maryland. For information about other services and resources, visit the Maryland Department of Disabilities (DOD) website.

What are Council member responsibilities? How long are terms?

Council members are appointed for five year terms by the Governor and can serve two terms. There are specific requirements the Council must meet regarding who may be appointed. In addition, our goal is to have a membership that reflects the diversity of Maryland. There is useful information in the Membership Opportunities section of this website. Check it out and contact us if you have questions.

Does the Council provide support to members?

Yes. We strive to ensure that all members have the support they need to fully participate in the work of the Council. Examples of the types of support we provide to Council members who are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members include: Transportation or mileage reimbursement to meetings, personal assistance services if not otherwise covered, support to review and understand materials prior to and/or during meetings, mentors, and small stipends under certain circumstances.

How can I apply to become a MD DD Council member?

If you support the DD Council’s mission and share our vision for Maryland and can commit to meet the responsibilities of Council members, complete and submit our membership application. When there are vacancies on the Council, the Membership Committee reviews all applications and decides who to interview based on the membership needs of the Council. We greatly appreciate all interest, but to meet the Council’s membership requirements we aren’t able to appoint all interested people.

Can I attend DD Council meetings?

DD Council meetings are open to the public and you are welcome to attend. Meetings dates and related information are posted on our website. Please note that only Council members may participate in the business of the Council and discussions are limited to Council members unless others are asked to participate. If members of the public wish to comment at a meeting, prior notice should be provided to Council staff. The Council will decide whether to add an agenda item. At meetings, Council members and staff sit at the table and others sit away from the table, which helps distinguish who may participate. If members of the public require public accommodation, please contact the Council at least five days before the meeting to allow adequate preparation time.

What are developmental disabilities?

There is a federal definition of developmental disability in the DD Act and the states vary in how they each define it. Developmental disabilities are disabilities that manifest during the developmental years (before age 22) and have a significant and ongoing impact on an individual’s life. Examples include, but are not limited to, autism, intellectual disability, and cerebral palsy. Read Maryland’s legal definition of developmental disability.

A man with a developmental disability petting a dog

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Current Annual Report