USDC Timeline


USDC Timeline

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1910: Individuals classified with intellectual disability based on Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Dr. Henry Goddard, using an adaptation of the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test, develops a category of mental retardation he called "moron." This term replaces the terms "moral imbecile" and "backward" and adds the notion of heredity.

1912: German psychologist William Stern further defines Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as a ratio of an “estimated mental age” and “actual chronological age.”

1916: Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale introduced. The scale is a modified version of the Binet-Simon Intelligence scale which was commissioned in the early 1900’s by the French government to identify children who were “en retard” and in need of additional help.

1920: The Rorschach Inkblot Test is published by Hermann Rorschach. The test is meant to produce a profile of people with schizophrenia (or other mental disorders) based upon score frequencies.

1924: Utah becomes 23rd state to pass Compulsory Sterilization Legislation of “sexual criminals, idiots, epileptics, imbeciles and insane.” (Utah Law 1925, chapter 82)

1927: Supreme Court rules in Buck v. Bell. The decision holds that sterilization of the “unfit”, including those with intellectual disabilities, is constitutional “for the protection and health of the state.”

FEEBLEMINDED: Term used beginning in late nineteenth century for disorders later referred to as mental deficiencies.

1929: Utah State Training School for Feeble-Minded —title of the original bill that passed the Utah State legislature establishing the grounds for the Utah State Training School, now known as the Utah State Developmental Center. The bill read, “An Act to provide for tie establishment, and equipping of the Utah State Training School for the care, protection, treatment and education of feeble-minded persons.”

1929: Utah Law For Compulsory Sterilization revision passes to allow Utah State Training School superintendents and board of trustees the same rights of sterilization as prisons. (Laws of Utah, 1929 Chapter 59,75)

1931: Utah State Training School opens under the direction of Interim Superintendent Dr. B.O. Whitten with 88 residents within the first month. By the end of the year there are 25 employees and 143 residents representing 16 Utah counties. (Meeting minutes of the Utah State Training School Board of Trustees Nov., Dec. 1931)

1932: Dr. Hubert H. Ramsay begins as the first superintendent of the Utah State Training School. Out-patient Saturday clinic services are established free of charge to the community for mental and physical examinations for the “feebleminded.” (Meeting minutes of the Utah State Training School Board of Trustees April, Nov. 1932)

1933: American Association On Mental Deficiency changes its name from the American Association for the Study of the Feeble-Minded.

1935: The Social Security Act signed by President Roosevelt. The Act, and its subsequent amendments, establishes a federal benefits system for elderly, unemployed, and disabled individuals. (“Disability History Timeline”. Rehabilitation Research & Training Center on Independent Living Management. Temple University. 2002.)

1935: The first sterilization cases are approved by the Utah State Training School Board of Trustees were performed at the Salt Lake County Hospital. (Meeting minutes of the Utah State Training School Board of Trustees June, July, Oct. 1935)

1936: W.P.A landscaping brings rock from Provo Canyon to create a surrounding wall with shrubbery and native trees to the Utah State Training School campus. (

1938: School building finished at the Utah State Training School. This is a designated building separate from residential areas for school curriculum to be taught to the residents. (Utah State Developmental Center Golden Jubilee 1940’s)

1938: Fair Labor Standards Act is passed with provisions permitting people with disabilities to be paid subminimum wages. (

1939: Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale introduced. The scale is an important contribution in the measurement of intelligence by using a point scale instead of an age scale and utilizing a non-verbal performance scale.

1940: World War II leaves a shortage of workers while admissions to public institutions, however, continue to increase. During this time, the parents of Utah State Training School residents are drafted by the U.S. War Department to operate the School kitchen and laundry in lieu of military service. (Utah State Developmental Center Golden Jubilee 1940’s)

1943: Study published by Martin And Bell leads to the identification of the first single gene defect, Fragile X syndrome, where the phenotype is predominantly mental retardation. (Martin J P, Bell J. A pedigree of mental defect showing sex-linkage. J Neurol Psychiatry)

1945: Post World War II there is a shortage of shoemakers, so all shoes for Utah State Training School residents are repaired in the Utah State Training School’s educational “Shoe Shop.” This provides vocational training to the residents who were working in the shop and benefits residents in need of shoe repair. (Utah State Developmental Center Golden Jubilee 1940’s)

1946: “Manual Arts” program begins at the Utah State Training School. The program allows residents to learn vocational skills like weaving, leather tooling and cobblery. (Utah State Developmental Center Golden Jubilee 1940’s)

1946: National Mental Health Act (NMHA) is passed. The Act sanctions the disbursement of funds to researchers studying the etiology and treatment of mental illness. (

1946: The Hill-Burton Act (also known as the Hospital Survey and Construction Act) authorizes federal grants to states for the construction of hospitals, public centers and health facilities for rehabilitation of people with disabilities. ( health_mh_hist.pdf)

1948: The Children’s Benevolent League Of Utah is organized by Utah Training School Superintendent Dr. Ramsay to provide support to parents of children with disabilities.

1950: Superintendent Dr. Hubert H. Ramsay retires from the Utah State Training School after 18 years of service. During his time at the School, Dr. Ramsay encouraged University classes to visit the Training School for “clinics” during which explained the various levels of intellectual disability. (Utah State Developmental Center Golden Jubilee 1940’s)

1950: "Barrier-free" building standards are established as a result of the combined efforts of government agencies and disability organizations. Standards include the provision of alternative means of access to steps, e.g. ramps and elevators.

1951: 5,767 people tour the Utah State Training School. Most visitors are students in psychology, sociology and eugenics classes interested in public awareness of the School’s population. (Utah State Training School Golden Jubilee 1950’s summary)

1952: The Utah State Training School population grows to 644, stretching the limits of existing dormitories. DR. VERNON F. HOUSTON becomes the Superintendent of the Utah State Training School. Houston creates the idea of developing a park and playground for the children of the school, which later becomes known as Fairyland Park. (A Brief History of Nursing at the Utah State Training School, Superintendent Paul S. Sagers Feb 11, 1976)

1953: The National Association For Retarded Children is established.

1954: Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a Social Security Act amendment to “...encourage better medical care for the needy aged, blind, disabled, and dependent children.” A VIDEO TOUR of the Utah State Training School is created to educate the public on the “nature of the problem with mental deficiency.” (Utah State Training School Golden Jubilee 1950’s summary)

1954: Public Law 565 increased federal funding for states from 1:1 to 3:2, allowing states to expand services to those with intellectual disabilities. ("Public Law 565" (PDF). U.S. Government Printing Office. May 7, 2017.)

1955: The Mental Health Study Act of 1955 calls for "an objective, thorough, nationwide analysis and reevaluation of the human and economic problems of mental health."(J Clin Invest. 1955;34(4):565-580)

1955: Dr. Marvin D. Armstrong And Frank H. Tyler study the effects of restricting phenylalanine intake on residents of the Utah State Training School with phenylketonuria. (J Clin Invest. 1955;34(4):565-580)

MENTALLY RETARDED: Term adopted by the American Association on Mental Deficiency in 1959 to encompass the meaning of mentally deficient, mental sub-mentality and feeble-mindedness.

1956: Compulsory sterilization laws continue in 27 states in the U.S., including Utah. FAIRYLAND PARK is constructed at the Utah State Training School, thanks in part to the donation of $80,000 in labor by Geneva Steel employees. Construction began with 40 fairy book characters made out of steel and fiberglass. (Utah State Training School Golden Jubilee 1950’s summary)

1957: A recreation program is established at the Utah State Training School thanks to the persistence Superintendent Dr. Houston. (Utah State Training School Golden Jubilee 1950’s summary)

1959: The definition of mentally retarded, which encompassed the meaning of mentally deficient, mental sub-mentality and feeblemindedness is approved by the American Association on Mental Deficiency. (Heber, R. (1961). Modifications in the manual on terminology and classification in mental retardation. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 65, 499-500 (Harvey A. Stevens (1964) Mental Retardation a Review of Research, 1)

1959: Jerome Lejeune of France makes the link between an extra copy of chromosome 21 and Down syndrome.

1960: Dr. Patrick f. Bray of the University of Utah’s College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics becomes the first neurological consultant at the Utah State Training School. Dr. Bray introduces diet and drug therapy and conducts cytogenetic chromosome abnormality studies of the residents.

1961: The American Association On Mental Retardation specifies the meaning of the term subaverage general intellectual functioning as one standard deviation below the mean on an IQ test. With the new specification, on an IQ test with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, any score below 85 is diagnostic of mental retardation. (Clausen, J. A. (1972). The continuing problem of defining mental deficiency, Journal of Special Education, 6, 97-106.)

1961: The President’s Panel On Mental Retardation submits their report summarizing 200 recommendations “to consider a national approach to the prevention and management of mental retardation.” (October 1962 The President’s Panel on Mental Retardation “Report to the President: A Proposed Program for National Action to Combat Mental Retardation. Washington, D.C.-US Government Printing Office (President’s Committee, MR 76, 52–53, 105–25)

1963: The Community Mental Health Act is signed by President John F. Kennedy. The Act provides funding for community integration of people with mental and developmental disabilities. ( national-institute-mental-health-nimh)

1964: The Hospital Improvement Program (HIP) increases funding for much needed physical therapy services at the Utah State Training School. (Utah State Training School Golden Jubilee 1950’s summary)

1964: Rubella epidemic sweeps the United States before the development of a vaccine against the disease. Of the 20,000 children born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome: 11,000 were deaf, 3,500 blind and 1,800 had intellectual disabilities. (Rubella, The History of Vaccines ( articles/rubella 11/22/2019)

1964: Utah State Training School estimates the number school-aged children in Utah with an I.Q of 70 or below in Utah to be 5,750 or 20 in 1000. (Utah State Census Reporting “Estimates of Incident of Mental Retardation in the State of Utah“ August 1, 1964)

1965: The Social Security Act Of 1965 establishes the governmental health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid, making additional funding available to the Utah State Training School. A FOSTER GRANDPARENTS pilot program is launched at the Utah State Training School. (Utah State Training School Golden Jubilee 1960’s section)

1967: Paul S. Sagers becomes the superintendent of the Utah State Training School. Sagers is the first superintendent that is non-medical, with a background focused on social work. (Utah State Training School Golden Jubilee, 1960’s section)

1968: First Special Olympic Games held in Chicago.

1968: The Architectural Barriers Act is passed to further codify Barrier-Free Building Standards. The Act requires any buildings designed, built, improved or leased using federal funds be made accessible for individuals with disabilities.

1970: A Pleasant Grove, Utah activity therapy program performs diagnostic evaluations for Alpine School District special education students, community rehabilitation clients and residents of the Utah State Training School. (Utah State Advisory Committee for Handicapped Children, Subcommittee on Residential Services, December 1970)

1970: A federal grant received by the Utah State Training School makes it possible to open five small community residential facilities. (Utah State Advisory Committee for Handicapped Children, Subcommittee on Residential Services, December 1970)

HANDICAPPED: Term originally used at the racetrack where participants played “hand in cap” to agree upon equalizing conditions for faster horses. Handicap became the preferred way to describe individuals with disabilities in the 1970s.

1971: The 4-H program at the Utah State Training School gains prominence in partnership with Utah State University Extension Services.

1972: Parent education workshops at the Utah State Training School emphasize the new motor sensory program, early education techniques, speech and hearing programs and the comprehensive vocational program. (Salt Lake Tribune “Training School Unveils Programs” Tuesday March 21, 2019)

1973: The Rehabilitation Act is passed. The Act provides a statutory basis for the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the governmental body that helps to develop and maintain federal regulations for individuals with disabilities and their families. (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act Pub. L. No. 93-112, 87 Stat. 394 (Sept. 26, 1973))

1975: The Education For Handicapped Children Act, now called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is passed. (IDEA-USD Department of Health 40-year history,

1976: The Mark K. Allen Epilepsy Center dedicated by Governor Calvin L. Rampton opens at the Utah State Training School. The Center focuses on children and adults with acute and difficult to control seizure disorders and was later renamed the Primary Children’s Medical Epilepsy Center. (News Highlights Internal USTS Communication 1970)

1978: The Elaine Sharp Center is established in Pleasant Grove, Utah as a pre-vocational and vocational workshop for the developmentally handicapped residents of the Utah State Training School.

1980: The Civil Rights Of Institutionalized Persons Act gives the Department of Justice the authority to protect people living in state institutions.

1984: The Developmental Disabilities Act is amended to specify that the purpose of programs for individuals with developmental disabilities is to assure their maximum potential through increased independence, productivity, and integration into the community. (The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights, Legislative History of the Act from Council on Developmental Disabilities)

1985: The Utah State Legislature gives the Alpine School District the responsibility of providing education to school-age Utah State Training School residents. (American Fork Citizen Newspaper “Alpine District to take over Training School education program” June 19, 1985.)

1986: 4-H Rodeo is held at the Utah State Training School with 100 resident participants, some of who participate in wheelchairs. This rodeo is complete with a rodeo queen competition, barrel races, roping, pole bending, showmanship and horsemanship competitions. (Deseret News Newspaper “Training School rodeo riders are all in the winner’s circle” August 8, 1986)

1988: Unauthorized Sterilization Of A Person With A Disability is passed by the Utah legislature. The law makes it unlawful for doctors to sterilize institutionalized individuals without ensuring that the person is capable of giving informed consent, or if they are not capable of giving informed consent, a petition must be filed with the court to authorize the procedure.(Our History, Disability Law Center history/)

1990: Robert H. Horner introduces the term Positive Behavior Support (PBS), an applied science that uses educational and systems change methods to enhance the quality of life and minimize problem behavior in individuals. (Positive Behavior Support: Evolution of Applied Science, Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, Vol 4, issue 1 Jan 1, 2002)

1990: The Americans With Disabilities act (ADA) is passed. ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and public and private places that are open to the general public.

1991: the Utah State Training School is renamed the Utah State Developmental Center.

1992: American Association On Mental Retardation changes the definition of “mental retardation,” emphasizing leeway in the use of IQ scores in diagnosis. It calls for a score of "approximately 70 to 75 or below” on a standardized individual intelligence test in order to diagnose “significantly subaverage intellectual functioning.”(Schalock, R., Coulter, D., Polloway, E., Reiss, S., Snoll, M., Spitalnik, D., & Stark, ]. (1994). The changing conception of mental retardation: Implications for the field. Mental Retardation, 32, 181-193. (Lukasson, R., Coulter, D. L., Polloway, E. A., Reiss, S., Schalock, L. L, Snell, M. E., Spitalnik, D. M., & Stark, J. A. (1992). Mental retardation: Definition, classification, and systems of supports. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation)

1997: The Arc, a community-based advocacy group for individuals with disabilities, voices concerns of discrimination based on disability as a result of the Human Genome Project. (The Human Genome Project: Examining the Arc's Concerns Regarding the Project's Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications, Sharon Davis, Ph.D., on November 12, 1997.)

1999: In Olmsted v. L.C., the United States Supreme Court holds that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

2001: New Freedom Initiative (NFI) is announced by President George W. Bush. The Initiative creates a comprehensive program to promote the full participation of people with disabilities in all areas of society by increasing access to assistive and universally designed technologies, expanding educational and employment opportunities and promoting increased access into daily community life.

2006: Over six million students, 13.6% of children in K-12 classrooms in the US have a disability that requires an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) according to the US Census of 2006.

2007: American Association On Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities (AAID) changes its name, formerly American Association on Mental Retardation.

2008: The ADA Amendments Act Is Passed to modify the definition of disability to enable a greater number of people to seek legal recourse via the ADA.

2010: New standards are designed to be more person-centered and flexible and provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to receive services in their home or community rather than an institution or isolated setting.

INTELLECTUAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES (IDDs): Term for a broad range of disorders and syndromes. An intellectual disability is characterized by limitations in intellectual functioning, while a developmental disability is a cognitive or physical impairment.

2014: The Home And Community-Based Services (HCBS) final rule for Medicare & Medicaid Services, also known as the Settings Rule, establishes requirements for home and community-based settings.

2015: The Individual And Family Services (IFS) waiver offers support to clients living with a family member in the community, with support and services to the client and family members, centered on the needs of the client and the family. (

2016: The Disability Law Center publishes “Home and Community Based Services Settings Rule: Evaluating Utah’s Transition Process” to explore findings of a year-long assessment of the State’s efforts to comply with the new Settings Rule.

2017: Admission Safe House opens at the Utah State Developmental Center. The Safe House is an intensive care unit-like facility for persons with acute needs.

2019: Dr. Frank Rees becomes superintendent of the Utah State Developmental Center.

2019: The Utah State Developmental Center serves 187 residents and 5,917 individuals are served by the Division of Services for People with Disabilities. (


“USDC Timeline,” Exhibits, accessed July 1, 2022,