The Arc Supports The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act

The Arc released the following statement in response to the introduction of S.2054, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act, introduced by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and co-sponsored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

“The rights of students, many who have a disability, in boot camps and residential programs are too often compromised due to the lack of oversight of these facilities. We applaud Senator Murphy and Senator Harkin for standing up for these teens who have suffered abuse and for their parents who in many cases were not aware that their children were being abused. Ensuring the safety of our children in residential programs should be a top priority. We urge Senators to support this important legislation,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act will help end the abuse of children in boot camps and residential programs by setting minimum standards including prohibiting the withholding of essential food, water, clothing, shelter, or healthcare; prohibiting physical or mental abuse; improving the collection of data; requiring reporting of serious injuries and deaths to the Protection and Advocacy agency in that state or territory; and requiring transparency of these programs so parents can view the records of residential facilities and make the best decisions for their children.

It Takes a Team

By Bernard A. Krooks, Past President, Special Needs Alliance

Dignity, security and personal fulfillment are essential to the quality of life that all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve. But they face a tangled social, political and legal landscape, and it often requires the coordinated efforts of relatives, friends and special needs professionals to help them map their way.

Family members, of course, play a central role, offering emotional support and encouragement, planning for long-term financial security and frequently acting as primary caregivers. For some, they’re an individual’s most effective advocates, reinforcing their point of view with intimate understanding of a loved one’s needs.

Yet all too often, dreams face constraints.  Landmark legislation has recognized the civil rights of individuals with disabilities, and great strides have been made regarding social inclusion. But these hard-won victories are incomplete, and budget debates at all levels of government threaten even the programs already in place. Self-advocates, families and their supporters –advocacy organizations such as The Arc, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the Special Needs Alliance and many others–must continue their unstinting demand that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as others to lead self-directed, satisfying lives.

Then there are the special ed teachers, speech therapists, psychologists, career counselors and many other service providers who assist those with disabilities on a daily basis to realize their potential. These committed professionals challenge, guide and applaud those they serve in order to build the skills needed for self-reliance. They help provide a foundation for the aspirations of individuals and their families.

As a child with disabilities matures, families must often balance concern for their safety and well-being with a desire to encourage their independence. In most states, individuals are considered legal adults at 18, with full responsibility for their own financial, legal and healthcare choices. Special needs attorneys are sensitive to these deeply personal matters and can guide parents in their deliberations concerning various forms of guardianship, power of attorney and health care proxy, as necessary, and in ways to optimize self-direction.

Then there are financial considerations. The specialized care required by some individuals with developmental disabilities is costly. While many expenses are covered by public programs, there are gaps, and qualifying is usually means-based.  Families, financial advisors and special needs attorneys should begin partnering early to evaluate an individual’s long-term needs, eligibility for benefits, the amount of money necessary to make up the difference between what is covered and what is not, and how to protect those funds while receiving government assistance.

Self-advocates are increasingly shaping their own destinies. It takes a team to assist them with the tools to succeed.

The Special Needs Alliance (SNA), a national non-profit comprised of attorneys who assist individuals with special needs, their families and the professionals who serve them, has formed a strategic partnership with The Arc.  The relationship is intended to facilitate collaboration at the local, state and national level on issues such as providing educational resources to families, building public awareness, and advocating for legislative and regulatory change. 

Tobacco Cessation Leads to a Healthier Heart

The heart is one of the hardest working muscles in the body, as well as the most important, which is why it’s essential to take good care of it.  Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death of both women and men in the United States and is the leading cause of disability.

While there are many factors that increase your risk of having cardiovascular disease that you cannot change about yourself – genetics, sex, race, ethnicity, family history, etc. – many deaths from cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks, strokes, and heart disease) can be prevented through healthier habits. Making a few key changes can prolong your life by many years!  One large issue that can be easily controlled to help reduce your risk is abstaining from tobacco use. According to the CDC 25% of adults with ID smoke as opposed to 17% for adults without disabilities.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US.  Smoking tobacco allows for a build-up of plaque and other deposits to gather in the arteries (and lungs), thus blocking part of the artery and slowing the flow of blood to the heart.  The heart then has to work harder to push blood through the narrower clogged arteries to the rest of body, which leads to high blood pressure.  When the plaque builds up to become a full blockage in an artery is when a heart attack, stroke, or blood clot elsewhere in the body occurs and can be deadly.

Quitting smoking can be difficult for the general population; however when a person with an intellectual disability starts smoking tobacco quitting can be especially difficult.  There are fewer programs and resources tailored for individuals with ID that explain the full risks, so they may not understand the importance behind quitting and the range of effects it can have on their bodies.  Individuals with ID can also have a harder time controlling nicotine urges.  This can cause outbreaks of bad behaviors towards the caregiver, family member, etc. who is trying to help them to quit.  Sometimes cigarettes have even been used as a reward with an individual with ID to help reinforce another good behavior, which can lead to more confusion about why smoking is harmful.

Although resources are scarce, there are good tobacco cessation programs out there to help individuals with ID to quit.  I Can Quit was developed by Monish University in Australia to help facilitate tobacco cessation sessions with the use of their guidebook and the Michigan Department of Community Health has also worked to create tobacco cessation resources for individuals with disabilities.  Learn more about their resources and the effects of tobacco through The Arc’s HealthMeet webinar on tobacco cessation.

Although quitting can be difficult for individuals with ID, starting to smoke hopefully won’t even be considered if the correct information is communicated early on. However, it’s never too late to quit – your heart, arteries and lungs will begin to repair themselves almost immediately after you stop. It only takes about 20 minutes after your last cigarette for your heart rate to start to decrease back to a normal level.  Teaching individuals these facts and leading by example will give them the knowledge to know the harmful effects that smoking can have before they begin – which is invaluable to their heart and overall health.

The Arc Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Protect Constitutional Rights of People with Intellectual Disability on Death Row

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Hall v. Florida, a death penalty case concerning the definition of “mental retardation” (or intellectual disability (ID) as it is now called) that Florida uses in deciding whether an individual with that disability is protected by the Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in the Atkins v. Virginia case that executing inmates with ID is unconstitutional as it violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Florida is clearly violating the Supreme Court’s Atkins v. Virginia ruling and the Court must reaffirm its commitment to the rights of people with intellectual disabilities in our criminal justice system. Freddie Lee Hall has an intellectual disability, and Florida’s effort to flaunt the professional standards on IQ testing to end someone’s life needs to be stopped by the highest court in our country. It is immoral and unjust,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Hall case centers on whether the state may establish a hardline ceiling on IQ, refusing to consider whether anyone with an obtained IQ above that level may actually have ID, despite the fact that use of such a ceiling undermines the purpose of IQ testing and the professional judgment of the diagnostician, among other things. In Hall, the Court has been asked to address Florida’s decision to draw the line at an IQ of 70. Based on the professional expertise of two leading professional organizations in the field, the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA), it is universally accepted that IQ test scores must be interpreted by taking into account the standard error of measurement that is inherent in IQ tests. That means that any IQ test score is best understood as a range, rather than a single score: a score of 70, for example, is best understood as indicating that the person’s “true” IQ score is most likely between 65 and 75.

In addition to IQ testing, numerous expert evaluations have documented Freddie Lee Hall’s disability. Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins, a Florida trial court found that Hall had ID “all of his life”. His family recognized his disability in early childhood and teachers repeatedly noted his intellectual disability. The lower court records also include findings of severe and violent abuse of Hall during his childhood.

The Arc has participated in a number of cases on this issue before the Supreme Court including Atkins v. Virginia. The Arc’s amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief was cited by the Justices in support of its ruling that the Constitution protects all defendants with ID. On December 23, 2013, The Arc submitted an amicus brief for the Hall v. Florida case.

Through a two-year grant for $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), The Arc is developing the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability. This project is creating a national clearinghouse for research, information, evaluation, training and technical assistance for justice and disability professionals and other advocates that will build their capacity to better identify and meet the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, whose disability often goes unrecognized. Providing accurate, effective and consistent training for criminal justice professionals is critical.

Let’s Go Out on March 29

#DDAwareThe Arc Plans for a National Day Out Event for Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is national Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and The Arc invites you to join us on March 29 in a grassroots initiative to help raise awareness about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

What should you do? If you are a person with I/DD or know someone who has I/DD, simply make plans to go out somewhere in public on Saturday, March 29. That’s all. Just plan a day out and about enjoying the things you like to do. And, in the process help raise awareness and generate some conversation about people with I/DD during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This one-day movement will serve to harness our collective power to gain allies, foster understanding, dispel myths and encourage a greater understanding among people without a disability.

Year round, The Arc works to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, learn, work and play as valued and contributing members of their communities. We fight for legislation to remove barriers to full participation and inclusion and have been successful on many fronts. But sometimes the barrier has nothing to do with the width of a doorway or an employer’s hiring practices. Sometimes the barrier is as subtle as a nervous glance from an uninformed person in line with you at the market.

So, this March 29, let’s all go out and start breaking down those social barriers once and for all. As an individual with I/DD, this is your chance to personally help raise awareness just by being yourself and participating in the things you enjoy alongside others in your community without disabilities. Make plans now to hit the movies, the park, your local shopping center or restaurant and maybe spark some conversation in the process. If you are a friend or family member of a person with I/DD, make plans now to enjoy a fun activity together in public and take the opportunity to show others that we’re all not so different after all.

Visit The Arc’s website at www.thearc.org/lets-go-out and find out more about this campaign and things you can do join in. And spread the word using the hashtag #DDAware on social media during the month of March. Follow us online at www.facebook.com/thearcus or www.twitter.com/thearcus and be sure to show us what you end up doing on March 29 by sharing your photos using the hashtag #DDAware.

Want to do more? You can help support The Arc’s national organization through a tax-deductible donation. Or you can find your local chapter at www.thearc.org/findachapter.

The Arc Reacts to Startling New Bureau of Justice Statistics on Crimes against People with Cognitive and Other Disabilities

This week, The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released a report on Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009–2012 – Statistical Tables.  Disabilities are classified according to six limitations: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living.  Among persons with disabilities, those with cognitive disabilities experienced the highest rate of violent victimization (63 per 1,000).  Violent crime against persons with disabilities was nearly three times higher than the rate for persons without disabilities.  The rate of serious violent crime—rape or other sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault—against persons with disabilities was nearly four times higher than that for persons without disabilities in 2012.

The Arc, which is running the new National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, released the following statement on the data:

“This startling data illustrates what we are hearing from self-advocates, parents, caregivers, and others within our chapter network and the disability community – people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at particular risk of being victims of crimes of all kinds.  It’s a serious problem that we must no longer ignore or treat as a peripheral issue.  In order to effectively address this silent epidemic of unaddressed abuse and victimization among people with disabilities in the U.S., we must have support from all levels of the community – disability advocates, law enforcement, victim advocates, legal professionals, elected leaders, community advocates, and people with disabilities themselves who know all too well the trauma of victimization and the devastation of receiving little or no support.

“The Arc’s new Center on Criminal Justice and Disability aims to be a comprehensive resource to help turn these statistics around so that people with disabilities can lead safer lives in their community and access support and begin to heal when victimization occurs,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc’s new National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability is the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) under one roof.  The Center launched its new website earlier this week.

Comcast NBCUniversal & The Arc Launch Multi-Million Dollar National Partnership to Enhance Technology Access and Education for People with Disabilities

Comcast NBCUniversal LogoWASHINGTON, D.C. (February 25, 2014) – The Arc, an advocate for the rights of the disabilities community, and Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) today announced they have formed an exciting new national partnership to support and expand digital technology opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Through a three-year commitment, Comcast and NBCUniversal will provide The Arc with $3.7 million in cash and in-kind support, including airtime, to promote The Arc’s public service announcements on cable and broadcast channels and xfinity.com. The Comcast Foundation is also providing $400,000 to support The Arc’s national digital training program and improve technology access and services by launching up to 12 Comcast and NBCUniversal Digital Literacy Learning Labs in major metropolitan U.S. cities.

The Arc will use the new funding to design an online resource center for cataloguing and rating apps, software and other digital resources. The 700 local chapters of The Arc nationwide will participate in designing and contributing resources to the online resource center.

“Thanks to Comcast and NBCUniversal, The Arc has a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness across the country about The Arc and the population we work with, and this partnership affords us the ability to launch an exciting new program that could change the lives of people with I/DD. By learning how to get online, people with I/DD are in a better position to gain employment, expand their social circle, and be a part of the increasingly growing community that exists online,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

“We believe that technology, and the doors it opens, can be a game changer for the disabilities community,” said Charisse R. Lillie, Vice President of Community Investment for Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast Foundation. “Through this new partnership with The Arc, we hope to connect and empower this community with technology that can improve their lives.”

Digital literacy is an important area of focus for the disabilities community and The Arc in this increasingly digital and online world. The majority of people with I/DD have limited or no access to contemporary and comprehensible information and communication technologies. In The Arc’s nationwide survey, Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (“FINDS”) in 2010, only 32 percent of people with I/DD were reported to be using computers; 13 percent communication devices; 4 percent GPS; and 6 percent video communications. This partnership will focus on assisting people with I/DD to gain access to and make effective and safe use of the Internet, including social media.

“Online safety is a big issue for all of us, and as more people with I/DD get online, it’s incredibly important that they learn to do so in a manner that protects them while allowing them the freedom to explore the online world. Our chapters are poised to provide this opportunity to people with I/DD, and I’m looking forward to witnessing how this program impacts their lives,” said Berns.

In early 2014, The Arc will be adding a new staff member to lead this new initiative. Look for updates on The Arc’s website, www.thearc.org, throughout the year as we build this resource.

The Arc Reacts to Department of Justice’s Inspector General Beginning Investigation into Storefront Sting Operations Involving People with Disabilities

Washington, DC – In response to the news that the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Inspector General will be investigating storefront stings in four of the cities that used people with intellectual disability (ID) to facilitate operations without their knowledge, The Arc released the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Inspector General is taking this important step, as we requested in our letter to the agency, to find out how these operations that used people with intellectual disability could have occurred, and we hope that the results of this inquiry are the end to this practice across all operations conducted by the Department of Justice.  Because of the unique challenges people with intellectual and developmental disabilities face in the criminal justice system, as either suspects, offenders, or victims, they should not be used as pawns or informants by ATF agents or other law enforcement officials. We are working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine how The Arc can help train federal agents to recognize intellectual disability and keep this population out of their operations,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.  “Many people needing help in the criminal justice system have disabilities that are not easily recognizable, and we hope to raise awareness among law enforcement nationwide about ‘hidden disabilities’ to increase the safety and protect the rights of people with I/DD.”

When The Arc first learned that storefront sting operations were entrapping and exploiting people with ID and then charging some for the crimes ATF agents asked them to commit, we reached out to the U.S. Department of Justice expressing our concerns.  Since then, The Arc has met with high-level officials within the DOJ and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to discuss these cases and offer assistance with training of federal law enforcement officials.

Spots Available for Self-Advocate Businesses at The Arc’s Convention

The MarketAre you an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability who has a small business enterprise? Or, do you know someone who might fit this description? The Arc is looking for self-advocate entrepreneurs to promote their business enterprises at our National Convention in New Orleans September 30-October 2, 2014.

Spots are available for you to have a table in Entrepreneur Alley, a part of The Marketplace exhibition space at the Convention. You can showcase your business to the more than 600 people we are expecting to attend. The Arc offers a highly reduced rate of only $100 per exhibit for those who sign up before June 1.

JennyLu JewelryAnd, for those who can’t travel to New Orleans, we also offer “The Market” – an opportunity for you to let us sell or promote items for you for only $50 plus 10% of gross sales.

Get more details here. Contact Sarah Kennedy via email or at 202-534-3720 for additional information or to sign up today. Remember the deadline for special rates is June 1. After June 1 rates will increase.

The Arc Reacts to President’s Executive Order Raising Minimum Wage for Federal Contract Workers, Including People with Disabilities

This week, President Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers, including people with disabilities.  This order applies to new contracts beginning January 1, 2015, and will apply to replacements for expiring contracts as well as new agreements.

“The Arc is pleased that President Obama took this step for federal contract workers, including people with disabilities.  This wage boost is an important step forward and will benefit the lives of many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping them achieve their goals of greater financial independence.  We will be communicating with the Administration to ensure a smooth phase-in of this change and to encourage the Administration to put in place the infrastructure, safeguards, and supports for people who need more significant accommodations to succeed in the workplace,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.