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Memorandum on Employment of the Mentally Retarded.

September 13, 1963

[ Released September 13, 1963. Dated September 12, 1963 ]

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and agencies:

In a special message to Congress on February 5, 1963, I recommended a far-reaching program designed to end our national neglect of the mentally retarded. The full benefits of our society belong to those who suffer from such disabilities, and the mentally retarded should be encouraged to participate in the productive life of their communities. This will require strengthened educational and rehabilitation programs and, ultimately, meaningful employment.

The Federal Government can demonstrate its leadership as an employer by identifying, within the context of its employment program for handicapped persons, those positions in which the mentally retarded can show their capability. I therefore urge you to examine your operations and determine the extent to which positions in your organization may be filled by the mentally retarded without any detriment to the federal service. Professional medical and vocational advice will be helpful. When appropriate positions have been identified and become available, I hope you will give full consideration to mentally retarded persons that meet the necessary performance requirements.

On the basis of exploratory work which the Civil Service Commission has undertaken, it is issuing a 2-year special authority to make excepted appointments of mentally handicapped persons to Federal positions. Use of this authority by Federal departments and agencies will greatly facilitate the development of standards and selection procedures for a continuing program which will make it possible for such persons to be fully utilized in appropriate positions in the Federal work force. I have directed the Chairman of the Commission to report to me from time to time on the progress of their efforts and the consequences of agency experience.


John F. Kennedy, Memorandum on Employment of the Mentally Retarded. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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