President expected to sign Able Act: advocates for disabled individuals to lead more independent lives

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Advocates for the disabled are celebrating after the U.S. Senate Tuesday approved sweeping changes designed to help those with disabilities live more independent lives.

The legislation will allow disabled Americans to have tax-free bank accounts to pay for needs like medical expenses, job coaches and transportation.

The so-called Able Act has been an eight-year crusade for Jawanda Mast. Her daughter, Rachel, 15, has Down syndrome. And although she goes to school with all the other kids at Olathe South, when it comes to achieving her dream of becoming a teacher, current law would require her to give up government support that she needs for some aspects of her life.

"I always say, 'Wouldn't you rather me be helping to save money to help her so that the government would not have to spend as much?" said Jawanda Mast. "It just levels the playing field to allow people to do this."

President Obama is expected to sign the Able Act, which would allow states to establish tax free savings accounts, similar to 529 college savings plans. Mast says she believes the proposal will help her daughter and other disabled individuals achieve some dignity and respect as adults.

The Down Syndrome Guild says about 1,200 families in the metro area will be eligible to take advantage of the savings plans.