The National Advocate for People with Down Syndrome Since 1979

National Down Syndrome Society
666 Broadway, 8th Floor
New York New York 10012

NDSS Government Affairs Committee (GAC) Program

GAC Overview

The aim of the NDSS Government Affairs Committee (GAC) program is to help Down syndrome support organizations, parents, and self-advocates across states to join forces with NDSS to achieve positive systems change for individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities at state and local levels of government.

GACs work in collaboration with the NDSS to promote and pass state legislation and to influence the design of regulation and other policy. In recent years, many federal statutes have given an increasing amount of discretion to the states. In order to ensure that these statutes are implemented in the best interests of individuals with intellectual disabilities, these statewide Down Syndrome coalitions are critical.

NDSS is focused on creating statewide government affairs committees united in their determination to work on key policy objectives across the lifespan of individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

GAC Membership

 NDSS has established 18 statewide GACs in the following states: 

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Setting Up A GAC in Your State

The criteria for creating a GAC in your state are as follows:

  • A significant number of affiliates in the state are willing to participate
  • Attendees are interested in helping all individuals with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities through policy and systems change
  • There is a commitment to participate in follow-up phone calls after the GAC training
  • Follow-up involves teleconferences with the NDSS GAC co-chair phone conferences and on-going email or phone consultation, as needed
  • An agreement to equitably share the costs for GAC training with NDSS

What Does a GAC  Leadership Conference Look Like?

A GAC conference is a one and half day conference co-hosted by NDSS and affiliates from around each state.  In advance of the conference, NDSS will prepare background information that provides vital information participants need to know about your specific state and how your state is serving and supporting people with Down syndrome.

Sample GAC Conference Agenda

Here’s an example of a GAC conference agenda:

Day One

  • Welcome Address/Goals of Conference
  • Keynote Address (by a state legislator)
  • Effective Federal & State Advocacy
  • Overview of NDSS National Policy Center Legislative Agenda & Priorities
  • Reception & Dinner

Day Two

  • Overview of Your State’s Data and Support for People with Down syndrome (focuses on education, adult services and supports, and employment)
  • Review State Focus Group Results
  • State Resource Panel (a panel of experts from other disability organizations, coalitions, task forces, etc. that support people with Down syndrome and their families)
  • Building a State-wide Coalition & Action Plan
  • Wrap Up

For more information, please contact NDSS Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy Heather Sachs at

NDSS Resources

  • Buddy Walk
  • NDSS Yourway
  • My Great Story
  • NDSS DS-Ambassadors