In recent years, more colleges — including Washington State University — have added programs so young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities can experience higher education.

Unfortunately, the cost to attend college programs was too high for some families, and traditional college savings programs were not an option under federal law.

A change in the IRS tax codes have paved the way for states to offer programs that allow those with disabilities to save for college or many other future expenses under their own name.

Washington is partnering with the state of Oregon to offer this program. Up until the change in the law, those with disabilities were cautioned against establishing a personal savings account as it could make them ineligible for disability funding, according to The Seattle Times.

This rule needed to be changed.

The new opportunities now available for those with disabilities made this a great time to introduce the ABLE Savings Plan in Washington. The Times reports that it allows parents and adults to set aside up to $15,000 a year for a broad range of living and educational expenses including education, medical services, groceries, rent, transportation, employment training, assisted technologies and personal support services. The ABLE account’s growth is tax-free.

“This is a groundbreaking program,” said Amy Patterson, who has a 16-year-old daughter born with Down syndrome. “We want a lot of people to take advantage of it.”

The Pattersons are using the account to save for their daughter, Emma, to go to college. Last year, Emma testified before Washington state legislators in favor of the bill, and Amy Patterson took several trips to Washington, D.C., as well to lobby for the federal legislation that allowed the states to create ABLE accounts, Seattle Times reporter Katherine Long wrote this week.

The Pattersons, who were told after Emma was born that her life choices would be limited, have since discovered people with disabilities lead successful, fulfilling lives.

“There really aren’t a lot of limits to what a person with developmental disability can do with their lives,” Amy said.

This seems to be the idea behind WSU’s two-year postsecondary program called ROAR (Responsibility, Opportunity, Advocacy, and Re­spect).  

Program co-founder Brenda Barrio, an assistant professor of special education at the Pullman campus, said ROAR will use work­shops, specialized training seminars, career development, and perhaps most important, on-campus living, to help empower students to become self-determined, independent adults.

Allowing those with disabilities to save for their own futures, so they might be able to attend college at WSU or other schools, is a winner.

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin's Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart

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