As the nation reflects upon the life and accomplishments of former President Gerald Ford, I would hope that all parents and teachers of children with disabilities would remember his great contribution to special education. He was the president who signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children bill (P.L. 94-142) now known as IDEA. For the first time in history, public schools were required to provide a free, appropriate public education to children with such disabilities as mental retardation, learning disabilities, emotional disturbance, orthopedic and sensory impairments, and a host of health-related disabilities.

Prior to President Ford’s signing of this law, millions of these children had been excluded from public schools.

Today, we have strong programs for these children, and most are included now in regular classes.

To those of us involved in special education, this law was certainly one of his major accomplishments.

Grace Denison, Strong, professor of learning disabilities

University of Maine at Farmington