WASHINGTON, DC – Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) this week introduced the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act, legislation that builds on the work of Mrs. Shriver—a legendary advocate for people with disabilities—by reauthorizing the Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act, whose programs support people with disabilities through health, education, and global initiatives. The legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Peter King (R-NY).
“Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a forceful advocate for people with intellectual disabilities. Her longtime support of and commitment to the Special Olympics and Best Buddies helped millions of Americans with disabilities live their lives to the fullest,” Harkin said. “The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act honors her legacy by ensuring that these programs can flourish, and in turn, continue to encourage worldwide acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities.”
“The Special Olympics and Best Buddies programs are critically important to empowering people with intellectual disabilities and helping them to meet their great potential,” said Blunt. “I’m proud to support the expansion and development of these programs, which make a profound difference in the lives of so many Americans with disabilities.”
The bill would reauthorize grants for classroom programs and activities designed to support schools and integrated recreational programs that encourage acceptance and become models for including persons with intellectual disabilities. In addition, the legislation would reauthorize grants for the “Healthy Athletes” program, which works to improve access to health care for Special Olympics participants. Finally, the legislation would provide support for the Best Buddies Program, which uses social and employment models to increase the self-esteem, confidence and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Mrs. Shriver, who passed away in August 2009, founded the Special Olympics and was a longtime supporter and board member of Best Buddies.
In 2010, Harkin was an original cosponsor of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act in its first introduction, and sponsored it again in 2011. Harkin was the Senate sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and currently serves as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.