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Mission and History

NCD’s Mission and History


NCD’s mission is to be a trusted advisor, in collaboration with people with disabilities to:

  • The President
  • The Congress
  • Federal entities
  • State, tribal communities, and local governments; and
  • Other entities and organizations

NCD fulfills its advisory roles regarding disability policies, programs, procedures, and practices that enhance equal opportunity by:

  • Convening stakeholders to acquire timely and relevant input for recommendations and action steps
  • Gathering and analyzing data and other information
  • Engaging and influencing current debates and agendas
  • Identifying and formulating solutions to emerging and long-standing challenges; and
  • Providing tools to facilitate effective implementation


NCD has a proud history. It was first established as the National Council on the Handicapped, a small advisory Council under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Rehabilitation by the Comprehensive Services and Disability Amendments Act of 1978. The Council later transferred to the Department of Education by the Department of Education Organization Act of 1979, then became an independent agency in 1984 by Public Law 98-22, the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1984 and finally, had its name changed by Public Law 100-630, the Handicapped Programs Technical Amendment Act of 1988 on November 7, 1988. NCD was charged with reviewing federal disability programs and policies. In 1986, NCD recommended enactment of an Americans with Disabilities Act, and then drafted the first version of the bill introduce in the House and Senate in 1988.

The Council is an independent federal agency and is composed of nine members – four appointed by leadership in Congress and five appointed by the President. NCD provides advice to the President, Congress, and executive branch agencies to advance policy that promotes the goals of the Americans with Disabilities Act – equality of opportunity, economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and full participation in all aspects of society – regardless of type or severity of disability.

Since enactment of the ADA in 1990, NCD has continued to play a leading role in analyzing the needs of people with disabilities. 

A more comprehensive history of the agency is detailed in NCD’s 1997 publication titled Equality of Opportunity: The Making of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Authorizing Statute

NCD was statutorily created in 1978 through amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. 780 et seq.). The authorizing statute specifies the agency’s duties, administrative powers, appropriations, and parameters regarding NCD Council and staff. The statute was amended by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (P.L. 113-128) in 2014.

An official website of the National Council on Disability