Meet The Arc Audi Racing Team

By Heidi Reinberg

When I first read about The Arc Audi Racing Program, it seemed like a perfect, organic melding of individual moxie, nonprofit derring-do, and corporate social initiative.  Here was a race-car driver – Don Istook – who was inspired to share his love of racing with those with I/DD, and The Arc and Audi came along for the ride.

And what a ride it was!  The roar of the engines, the thrum of activity in the pit and on the sidelines, the colorful blur of the cars as they sped past at lightning speed– the excitement of my first day at the races was equally matched by the sheer exuberance of our Arc Audi crew.

Though I’m currently making documentaries, I’ve been involved in nonprofit and volunteering my entire life – since I was 13, I’ve believed that, whether it’s over a day or over the course of several years, each of us has the capacity to make a difference in someone else’s life.   That belief has been borne out time and time again in my work with such terrific organizations as City Cares of America, The Fresh Air Fund, The Bronx Documentary Center, and, now, with The Arc and The Arc Audi Racing Program.

A very special thanks to Trudy Jacobson and Kristen McKiernan from The Arc’s national headquarters and to Marti Sullivan, Meredith Manning, and Pat Napoliello of The Arc San Francisco for their assistance in making this film happen.

Heidi Reinberg

Heidi Reinberg

About Heidi Reinberg:
A lifelong organizational wonk, Heidi Reinberg has consulted for a wide variety of charitable organizations, advising on topics ranging from nonprofit startup to board development and fundraising to volunteer management and corporate partnerships. Her work covers a broad swath of issues: animal welfare, foster care, reproductive rights, public health, human rights, and developmental disabilities.

In the late ‘90s Heidi decided to put her skills to creative use and began producing social-issue films for HBO, PBS, and LOGO, among others. At present, Heidi is partnering with Oscar winner Ross Kauffman (Born Into Brothels) as Executive Producers of a series about conflict photographers; the project is currently in development as a fictional series at NBCUniversal. She recently founded Heidi Reinberg Big Idea, LLC to support visionary social entrepreneurs by providing project management services.

Helping Dreams Come True While Helping the Environment

eRecycling at The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties Inc.By Caleb Wilson, Vocational Director, The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties Inc.

A valuable lesson we have learned through our efforts of connecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to community-based employment opportunities is that the idea of creating a business around someone’s interests and abilities is not commonplace. Some individuals have always dreamed of being their own boss and owning their own business.  Keeping that in mind, The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties started assisting individuals in creating their “Dream Job” of owning their own business.

The Arc and Walmart Foundation’s eXplore eRecycling Initiative has made it possible for us to assist a small group of individuals experiencing disabilities with starting a business that helps residents and community businesses/organizations recycle their old electronics in an environmentally sound way. From the development of the business plan and policies, The Arc eRecycling of Clarion and Venango Counties has truly been an effort led by these employees.

To comply with Pennsylvania’s Covered Device Act, we have held two free e-waste drop off days in both Clarion and Venango Counties.  These events brought in over 4,000 pounds of old electronics that do not work or that people simply do not wish to own anymore.   Additionally, several local city offices have started referring their residents to The Arc eRecycling for their needs and this has given us the opportunity to recycle hundreds of computer monitors and televisions.  With a motto of “We take anything with a plug” each day customers have the ability to drop off any electronic.  In order to meet the interests of some employees, The Arc eRecycling of Clarion and Venango Counties started creating catalogs to resell old electronics that are still in working condition.  This not only allows the business to help the environment but to help individuals find reasonable priced electronics.

My Sister was Bullied by a Radio DJ

Update: Since this blog post was written, the DJ made an on-air apology and announced that his station will be working with local developmental disabilities organizations on an awareness campaign.

By Alex Standiford, Guest Blogger

Hello, my name is Alex, and I have an older sister, named Kellie.  Kellie is 30 years old, and can easily be described as the most loving, caring, and wonderful person I have ever met.  She sees the world very differently than most of us– without cynicism and with complete and utter hope.  To Kellie, each and every person is good, unless proven otherwise.  Anyone who visits her, no matter how frequently, is always greeted with a “Hi!,” an endless, gut wrenching hug, and a sincere declaration of love.  My sister is truly a beautiful person in both body and spirit whose outlook on life I can only hope to someday attain.  In many ways, I look up to her.  My sister passionately loves music and dancing and growing up I remember countless times that I would open her bedroom door to find her dancing and singing at the top of her lungs in front of the mirror.

You may wonder what makes Kellie so special, what makes her story different from any other big sister you or someone you know may have? Well, Kellie happens to have Down syndrome. If you know anything about Down syndrome you know that it is something that unique people, like my sister Kellie, are born with and will live with for their entire lives. Kellie, despite some hardships and challenges she has faced, has always persevered and been positive, friendly, and happy just being who she is.

On Monday, January 21st, my sister was faced with yet another instance of feeling like she was different, or that the fact that she had Down syndrome made her somehow less than other people. On the 21st she accidentally phoned in to Mo’s Radio Show on the Q92 Radio Station based out of Alliance, Ohio, where her manner of speaking was rudely scrutinized and unapologetically berated by both Mo and countless individuals who were “tuned in” at the time.  Mo opportunistically exploited my sister’s imperfect speech through his radio show and made her an object of amusement for all of his listeners– including people that knew Kellie.

“No, say it real slowly. I want to try to figure this out. It’s a little game.”

Anyone would have been embarrassed to be both accidentally aired on the radio and ridiculed for something which one has no control over. What Mo and countless listeners did not consider is what this experience felt like for Kellie. Kellie is self-conscious about her Down syndrome and has expressed her insecurity throughout her life.  Sometimes, she will ask, “Why do I look different?,”  and other times, “Why do I talk funny?”  When it comes with dealing with tough social situations, such as speaking with an unknown person when she accidentally dials the wrong number, she will fumble over her words out of general embarrassment that all people feel in such instances.  Most of the time, people will understand, at least to some small degree, and will deal with the situation with as much compassion and tact as possible.

When it comes to dealing with difficult emotional situations, Kellie processes her feelings very outwardly.  Everyone has an emotional range, and Kellie has the capacity to become so hurt that she will cry for days.  Being the epitome of an optimist Kellie trusts and assumes that everyone is trustworthy and kind.  When someone breaks that trust, it hurts her in a way that is far deeper and more powerful than I could ever understand.  I imagine it feels like the most intense betrayal or the greatest heart break I could ever experience. It is earth-shattering.

Knowing this, now considering the reality of what happened that January afternoon, try to understand the emotional pain, heartbreak, and confusion that my sister had to feel for the sake of public entertainment.  Undoubtedly Mo and the radio studio will continue to hold on to the argument that “the ‘host’ wouldn’t have aired the call had he known the situation in advance,“ that Mo “would NEVER do this with any sense of malice,” but what other sense could there have been in this situation? Mo himself stated, “You don’t know who Mo is? Okay, so I can laugh at you and you won’t know who to call and say you‘re offended. (laughs) Very good.” It was quite clear that Mo knew what he was saying and doing was offensive and inappropriate, but that did not stop him.

“You don’t know who Mo is?”

“No.”

“Okay, so I can laugh at you and you won’t know who to call and say you‘re offended. (laughs) Very good.”

Whether or not the call was made from an individual with Down Syndrome, an individual with a speech impediment, or some foolish prankster looking for attention, the direction and focus of the aired conversations were centered on something that is hurtful and demeaning to numerous people. Essentially, it was entirely ignorant to air the call into live radio at all. The situation would have never escalated had the “host” simply said to Kellie, “I’m sorry, I can’t understand what you’re saying,” or “This is Q92, I think you have the wrong number.” Whether intentional or not, this experience was real and it caused a great deal of hurt to many people, not the least of all to Kellie and it should have never turned out this way.

Luckily for Kellie, she has a strong, supportive family to help her through this time. What I don’t want to see happen is Mo or another jockey like him believe it is appropriate when “somebody calls my show with a little speech impediment– I have a little fun.” The next child or adult to become the focus of this cruel bullying may not be as lucky as Kellie. It could easily be someone who is defenseless to the act, someone who has no one to stand up for them—a child aired mistakenly on the radio who becomes an object of mockery and bullying at school or an adult with a developmental disability who lives alone in a group home. It is never appropriate to make someone who is different from you a bull’s eye on the target of your “humor”. We try to teach our children tolerance and love, but then what hope can we have for them to adopt this mentality when they can hear and see the adults around them blatantly ignoring the lessons they teach.

View the complete radio transcript or view Kelie’s Story on Facebook.

The Arc of the Mid Ohio Valley responds to local incident involving restraint and seclusion

By The Arc of the Mid Ohio Valley

It is our position, at The Arc of the Mid Ohio Valley, that every child deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, be free from abuse and bullying, and that policies restricting the use of restraint and seclusion should apply to all children, not just children with disabilities.

Furthermore, The Arc of the Mid Ohio Valley believes that all individuals involved in the education of students with disabilities must:

  • Ensure that students with disabilities are not subjected to unwarranted restraint or isolation and must ensure that any behavioral intervention is consistent with the child’s civil rights.
  • Ensure that teachers and related services personnel, as well as their representatives are prepared to teach and/or support students effectively in the general education curriculum and in inclusive settings to the maximum extent appropriate, alongside students who do not have disabilities.
  • Develop Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that build on student strengths, meet the student’s needs, and offer supports and services necessary to achieve success, that ensure students are served in the least restrictive environment (LRE), as determined for each student.

As outlined in West Virginia Code, the legislature charges school administrators, faculty, staff and volunteers with “demonstrating appropriate behavior, treating others with civility and respect, and refusing to tolerate harassment, intimidation or bullying”, which is any intentional gesture, or any intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act, communication, transmission or threat that creates an emotionally abusive educational environment for a student.

With respect to this recent incident involving a 15-year old Wood County student who has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome, it is important to point out that individuals with autism spectrum disorders are three times as likely as their typically-developing siblings to experience bullying, according to a recent national survey.

According to the survey of parents by the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) and Johns Hopkins University researchers, 61 percent of kids with Asperger syndrome have experienced bullying. In comparison, 28 percent of children with autism and 37 percent of children with other autism spectrum disorders have been bullied, parents reported.

Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. Autism is often described as a ‘spectrum disorder’ because those with the diagnosis are affected in many different ways and to varying degrees.

The Arc of the Mid Ohio Valley is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring satisfying and productive lives for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through programs and services, they empower, encourage, and assist those individuals to live, learn, worship, work and play, in their community.

LifeCYCLE Project – Changing Lives and Improving the Environment

By Greg Gates,  The Arc of Lee County / Kreider Services

From the outside, 629 Palmyra Road Dixon Illinois looks like a facility that would be home to a manufacturing operation. Walking inside the front door reveals an environment that is changing lives.

The greater vision for this recycling site, as explained by Jeff Stauter, our president and chief executive officer of Kreider Services, is to cultivate an economic development incubator and to offer people with disabilities the chance of being employed by the business and perhaps serving as owners of their own businesses.

“Think of it……why place limits on what people with disabilities are able to do,” asks Stauter. “Unfortunately they’ve already had enough barriers placed around them. We know that we have persons who are quite capable of doing some great things if they are given the opportunities to do so.  This new operation will recycle electronics, cardboard, plastic, food scraps, polystyrene and office paper,  and my hope it will serve as a model for others to pattern their operation after,” adds Stauter.

Current national figures show that 80 percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not  employed.  The “LifeCycle Project” as it has been named by Secure Recycling Services will create 20 jobs initially  for persons with disabilities. The persons hired for these jobs will be trained by project staff on collecting, dismantling, sorting, and inventorying electronic waste.  For instance, they are learning how to take apart a CPU, power supply, keyboards, or computer mice.    And others will be dismantling power cords for the copper wiring inside.

At Kreider Services, we understand the concern for the individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability who aren’t receiving funding assistance from the state anymore. They’ve fallen through the cracks……at the same time, they haven’t yet been developing the skills that will help them find the sustainable jobs they need.

As the electronic recycling efforts are expanding at our Palmyra Road location, the lives of people with disabilities are being changed indeed.  In the transition from working in a sheltered workshop environment to taking on jobs at the recycling site, at the start of the new year, five people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be working alongside “regular” employees at the SRS division.   After talking with Andy, one of the new workers, an incredible statement was made.  “My family is so excited for me to get this job…….. I’m no longer a ‘client’,”  he voiced with the most joyful pride. To hear his enthusiasm and to realize the deeper meaning of that simple statement is truly monumental, don’t you think.

Thanks to a project of The Arc and the Walmart Foundation, the eXplore eRecycling Initiative has provided funding to ten grant recipients across the nation of which Kreider Services/The Arc of Lee County was one. The local project has allowed for the expansion of Kreider Services’ existing electronics recycling operation and has provided paid employment for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Andy.

President of our local Arc chapter, Lee County Illinois, Jill Polivka had commented, “This is a great opportunity for individuals with disabilities in our community.”   Our partnership with The Arc will help make our recycling efforts even stronger.   The recycling industry is an open market of opportunity; it’s the perfect avenue to find the much needed employment potential for not only people with disabilities …but for our community in general.

Beyond the electronics recycling, the LifeCycle Project will help educate school children and the general public about the proper disposal of their computer, television or similar equipment.  Recycling Coloring and Activity books will be distributed to local grade schools. We will also be hosting a gallery opening at The Next Picture Show art gallery of original artwork created from recycled electronic material. Plans also call for working directly with local Walmart stores on educating their patrons on how to recycle their used electronics by having a number of individuals demonstrating the “de-manufacturing” of the outdated electronic equipment.

Need has always been considered the mother of invention… in this trying economic climate… what an exciting potential it may reveal. We shall live and learn as we move forward. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

For additional information, please visit the project’s website here.

“Bob, Would You Like the Chance to Meet with Vice President Biden?”

Vice President Joe Biden has lunch with Americans to discuss the importance of middle class tax cuts, at Metro 29 diner in Arlington, Virginia, Dec. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Vice President Joe Biden has lunch with Americans to discuss the importance of middle class tax cuts, at Metro 29 diner in Arlington, Virginia, Dec. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

By Bob Hage, advocate from The Arc of New Jersey and father of two daughters with I/DD

It was a typical Saturday for our family – I was shuttling our 13-year-old son Vann from a hockey game, while my wife Odette Adrian was home with our girls, Annika and Maya.My cell phone rang, and it was Marty Ford with The Arc’s national office.What she said was anything but typical…

“Bob, would you like the chance to meet with Vice President Biden?”

Our Family and the “Fiscal Cliff”

Marty had the opportunity to suggest a few names of people whose families included people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to meet with Vice President Biden about the potential impact of taxes going up in January. I’m sure you have seen all over the news the dramatic “fiscal cliff” countdown, as leaders in Congress negotiate with the Administration on whether or not to extend tax cuts for the middle class. If they don’t extend the cuts for the middle class, then families like mine could see a $2,000 or more tax increase in 2013. And that could have terrible consequences on our family’s ability to pay for disability-related expenses.

My beautiful 9-year-old twin daughters, Annika and Maya, are the light of my life. Both my girls have severe developmental disabilities and are non-verbal and medically fragile. We’ve been involved with The Arc since Annika and Maya were very young – The Arc of New Jersey has given us a place to go with questions and has served as a vital link to other families like ours and resources and information that we couldn’t do without.

So Marty’s question had barely sunk in before I was calling Odette and we were drafting our family’s biography to submit to the White House. While we have been involved with The Arc nationally, as part of their re-branding initiative in 2011, we had never had this kind of chance to advocate on behalf of Annika and Maya and millions of families like ours ever before. This was huge, and while Marty warned that many other organizations were responding to the White House’s request and we may not be chosen, I had a feeling that this was our chance to make a big impact.

Fast forward five days, and I was on a train to Washington, DC for a meeting with Vice President Biden. I huddled with the staff of The Arc’s national office, who gave me top-secret information about where I was to join the Vice President and the other meeting attendees. We had all assumed it would be at the White House – but it turned out that I was having lunch at a diner in Arlington, Virginia. Security is always top of mind when the Vice President is involved, so I couldn’t even tell Odette where I was going!

The Big Meeting

The next day, I joined six other Americans for a candid, in-depth discussion with Vice President Biden. It’s an experience I will never forget. I had brought along a photo of Vann, Annika, and Maya, and I shared it with the Vice President. He immediately smiled, as any proud father would, and connected with our family’s story. Annika and Maya have defied so many expectations, and I’m immensely proud of my girls.

I shared with him that Annika and Maya go to speech therapy, which has been instrumental in moving them from being totally dependent on liquid tube feedings to eating all their nutrition from pureed foods. Currently, speech therapy’s primary goal is to help Annika and Maya learn to chew so they can eat solid food.

Both girls participate in weekly music and gymnastics classes for children with special needs. While music and gymnastics is recreational for most children, it is vitally important to Annika and Maya’s development. The music class focuses on building finger strength and coordination through piano and helps the girls to vocalize through singing. The gymnastics class concentrates on building muscular strength and endurance which is especially important for children with low muscular tone.

But if we were to face a tax increase in the thousands of dollars, some of their therapies and classes that help them develop could be cut from our family’s budget.

Not only did Vice President Biden listen, he clearly understands the challenges families like mine face, and I walked away trusting that he will do everything he can to protect my daughters’ future.

Please join me in being a strong advocate on behalf of The Arc – join The Arc’s action community today.

The Arc of Madison County eRecycling Program

By Joyce Rinaldi, The Arc of Madison County

While The Arc of Madison County has worked hard to help individuals obtain employment in businesses throughout our community, we have also developed businesses to create new work opportunities. Our most significant success has been with our recycle and an on-site paper shredding businesses. With these programs, we have employed over 100 individuals with disabilities as sorters, material handlers, and on-site shredding personnel.

With our newest endeavor, we are excited to partner with The Arc’s eXplore eRecycling Initiative, funded by the Walmart Foundation, to place more individuals with disabilities to work! With this grant, we will be recycling and shredding metal products, circuit boards, cell phones and computer hard drives. By working with community stakeholders (individuals, local businesses, etc.) to recycle electronic equipment, it allows us to empower the individuals we serve and conserve natural resources, protect public health and the environment.

Our e-recycling employees work extensively in the community, engaging one-on-one with our customers. This structure has provided a maximum benefit to both employees and customers. We have received only the most enthusiastic feedback from our customers to this end and have enjoyed seeing the relationships they have been able to establish. It is also important to note that all employees associated with this particular initiative earn at least minimum wage, which further facilitates independence.

While taking a community leader on a tour of our facility last week, I noticed excitement was in the air. As we came upon several recycle workers, they could not contain themselves. They just had to show this person the new additions to our recycling program, our truck and new hard drive destruction equipment.  They explained how we received a grant from The Arc of the United States; how we would be recycling (and destroying) new items like hard drives and cell phones; and how other people “like me” will get to work. I did not have to say anything as the workers sold the program. It is exciting to see the “ownership” in the program. It also reminded me that their commitment is what has made our recycle and shredding services successful. Commitment to their job and to our community, in the services we provide.

Helping a Community Go Green!

By Kerry Mahoney, The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport

Cut the Cord: The Newburyport eRecycling Project

The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport has partnered with The City of Newburyport to implement The Newburyport eRecycle Project. In addition to job training and employment for adults with I/DD we are busy at work educating area residents on the impact e-waste has on the environment and City.

We have developed a multimedia approach to educate the residents in the goals of the project:

  • To demonstrate the abilities of people with I/DD
  • The impact and benefit eRecycling has on the environment
  • The benefit to the City of Newburyport.

In addition to press in the local papers we have reached out to the local cable station and radio station to raise awareness. A student with disabilities from Newburyport High School is assisting us in producing a film about the project through the local media station. This film will be on the websites of The Arc of GHN, City of Newburyport and their contractor-Electronic Recyclers International’s website. This student along with his sister (a graphic design major at UMASS/Amherst) also created a logo for the project. (Attached) A message is listed on the local cable news announcing the project along with a trivia game with prizes about eRecycling to capture viewer’s interest. The local radio station had us as special guests with an interview on air.

The staff attends social events arranged by The Chamber of Commerce to network with other businesses. To meet the needs of the business community we have established a separate date during the week for them to drop off their electronics. The Chamber member newsletter distributes announcements about the project to over 800 members via email.

On Saturday our eRecycle employees will be at the local grocery store displaying a table full of electronic waste and distributing information on ewaste as well as the opening celebration at the Newburyport Recycling Center on October 6th. The eRecycle employees are also busy at work constructing a scarecrow complete with electronic cords to be placed on a lamppost in downtown Newburyport during the Harvest Festival.

The Arc of Nassau County New York Develops eWorks

By Karleen Haines, The Arc of Nassau County New York

Workers at

Workers at The Arc of Nassau County New York’s eWorks program recycle parts of a personal computer.

The Arc of Nassau County New York (AHRC Nassau) over the last two years has developed a small business providing e-waste recycling to local organizations, titled AHRC eWorks. eWorks hires adults with intellectual disabilities as dismantlers to inventory, sort, clean work areas, dismantle electronic items, and label pallets. Though this position requires specific skill sets and flexibility based upon the types of electronics to be dismantled, several individuals have achieved great success.

Thanks to The Arc’s eXplore eRecycling program funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation, eWorks was recently able to offer another employee – James – this work opportunity. James is an older gentleman who recently came to AHRC Nassau and immediately showed great ability within eWorks. As a result of attaining this position, James is hopeful and excited about the possibility of setting aside money to find a modest apartment where he can live more independently.

Also, it appears that this opportunity for advancement has also encouraged James to “come out of his shell”. Now while at work, James has become more sociable with his fellow employees. We here at AHRC Nassau are hopeful that James and other current and future employees will all be able to share in similar positive experiences.

Standing up for Voting Rights

By Steve Larson, Senior Policy Director, The Arc Minnesota

The voting rights of persons with disabilities are in jeopardy across the nation.  Laws and constitutional amendments to restrict the access of people to the polls have been passed in numerous states already.  Here in Minnesota, voters will decide in the November elections whether to require all voters to have a photo ID and to change other Election Day procedures that will create unnecessary barriers to voting.

In Minnesota, challenges to voting rights have also surfaced in the courts.  Fortunately, disability advocates saw a victory in an August 17 ruling by the U.S. Federal Court in St. Paul.  U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed a lawsuit filed by several state legislators, individuals, and organizations who have worked to restrict voting rights.  The lawsuit asked the court to limit the right to vote of people under guardianship, including people with disabilities.  If the lawsuit were upheld, it would have run counter to current Minnesota law, which presumes that people with disabilities retain their right to vote, unless a court specifically takes that right away.

The Minnesota Disability Law Center, the federal protection and advocacy agency in this state, filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief to the judge hearing the case. It cited the legal and legislative basis for the presumption that people with disabilities under guardianship have the right to vote. The Arc Minnesota signed on to this brief, which the judge said provided a “comprehensive overview and history of Minnesota guardianship law.”

The plaintiffs who filed this lawsuit will appeal the judge’s ruling.  In the meantime, The Arc Minnesota and other disability advocates are celebrating this victory in the courts.  Our efforts will continue to protect the rights of people with disabilities to have a voice in whom their elected officials are.  These will include statewide efforts to defeat the voter restriction amendment on this fall’s ballot, and educating the public and the media about the right of people with disabilities to have a say in issues that touch their daily lives.  Let’s all fight efforts like these that push people with disabilities back into the shadows of society.