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Harkin Introduces Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) reintroduced the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act, legislation that builds on the work of Mrs. Shriver by reauthorizing the Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act, whose programs support people with disabilities through health, education, and initiatives around the world. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) joined Harkin in sponsoring the bill.

The bill would continue grants for classroom programs and activities designed to support schools that encourage acceptance and become models for including persons with intellectual disabilities.  In addition, the legislation authorizes grants to improve opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to fully participate in community activities, including inclusive sports and recreation programs. Finally, the act 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.

“Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a visionary advocate for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics has become a worldwide program to improve opportunities and acceptance of individuals with disabilities, and Best Buddies provides millions more with social, educational, and community engagement. The programs that she worked to build help to ensure equal opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities to lead a fulfilling, healthy, happy life, and this bill will build on her legacy and renew our commitment to those ideals,” Harkin said.

In 2010, Harkin was an original cosponsor of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Act in its first introduction. Harkin, the author of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has been a longtime advocate for people with disabilities.