Explore Genesee ARC and Its Growing Trash and Recycling Business

A worker with Genesee ARC’s Trash and Recycling Center helps recycle e-waste.

Submitted by Shelley Falitico, Genesee ARC

Here at Genesee ARC, we have been in the trash and recycling business for nearly 30 years. In fact, we have been the exclusive provider of this service to residents of the city of Batavia since 1983. Batavia is our county seat and has a population over about 16,000 people.

Over the years, Genesee ARC has continually employed as many as 20 people with disabilities through this successful work program, and quality satisfaction surveys conducted over the last quarter century have consistently rated our service exceptional!

This has been a very busy and exciting time for the Genesee ARC Trash and Recycling Center as we have recently moved to a larger, more modern facility. The move coincides with increased marketing efforts to expand the amount of recyclables we collect, and the wonderful news that we are one of ten agencies in the nation to receive an eXplore eRecycling Grant from The Walmart Foundation and The Arc.

We began picking up and recycling e-waste since last year in order to prepare for an impending New York State law requiring e-recycling in our communities. Since the first of this year, we have collected several tons from City of Batavia residents. That’s a lot of televisions, scanners, monitors and keyboards that have NOT ended up in a landfill!

The eXplore eRecycling Grant will allow us to expand on this success and plans include offering an e-recycling drop off service to residents in each of our County’s thirteen towns and six villages. We are currently in the process of developing the E-Waste Apprentice position. In the weeks to come, we will be designing a marketing plan to help guide our eXplore eRecycling initiatives.

How The Arc – Los Angeles & Orange Counties Helps Employ People with Disabilities

By Kevin P. MacDonald, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc – Los Angeles & Orange Counties

An employee at The Arc Los Angeles and Orange Counties new dollar store in the City of Long Beach, called Just-A-Buck, helps a customer check out.

It is an exciting time in Southern California for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD)!  On July 20, we celebrated the opening of a franchise to further our mission of employing people with I/DD. With an unemployment rate of 85% for people with developmental disabilities and state funding at a standstill for years – we decided to find a creative way to employ people with disabilities in our community.

Partnering with a New York based franchise called “Just-A-Buck” and with the assistance of a local benefactor we were able to make this dream come true.

The store employs 5 people with I/DD, each of them earning a salary at or above minimum wage, working alongside employees without disabilities. The employees participate in all aspects of making the store a success.  The new store will also provide an added bonus: to have people come into the store and see our workers and what they are capable of instead of their disability, you just can’t measure that! We believe that work gives everyone, especially those with disabilities, purpose and dignity and it helps them achieve independence and economic self-sufficiency.

To learn more about the store visit our website: www.thearclaoc.org. Also, if you live in the Los Angeles area stop by and visit us: 141 E. Willow Street in Long Beach at the Wrigley Shopping Center (Willow & Long Beach Boulevard).

Our Friend Mikayla – Our Journey to Bring this Book to Schools across Pennsylvania

By Kim Resh, mother to Mikayla Resh

Our Friend Mikayla

It is a certainly a most amazing accomplishment that Our Friend Mikayla, the book inspired by my daughter and written and illustrated by her third grade classmates, is now in every public elementary school in Pennsylvania. Still, I’m really not entirely surprised. I believe in kids. I always have. And if at any time I had doubts, kids have always renewed my faith.

No matter how certain we were of our decision to include Mikayla in a regular education classroom, we were afraid of how the other kids would react and respond to her. But our fears were unfounded. From the very first day, the children wanted to push her in her wheelchair, sit next to her at lunch, even turn off her feeding pump when it alarmed. So when they grew old enough to write their story, I knew theirs was a message worth sharing.

I’ve always said that even if the book was never published, the time we all spent working together was an incredible experience. Our honest discussions were priceless and are clearly portrayed through the kids’ writing. When I edited their words into one story, I was surprised at how easily the book wrote itself. And to be honest, almost everything else has fallen into place with equal ease.

I wrote one grant for publishing. That was approved, and another organization asked to help. Individuals and families privately donated copies of Our Friend Mikayla to their own school libraries. It was obviously more difficult to find donors for a statewide distribution program so I am grateful to Walmart and Air Products for their grants, which respectively afforded the printing and mailing of books across the state.

Still, am I surprised every public elementary school finally has a copy? No, humbled and most appreciative, but not surprised. It is all about the kids. They are smart. They understand more than adults at times. Young children are innocent and pure, capable of unconditional friendship and compassion. If learned young, these lessons last forever. By including our students with and without disabilities in the same classrooms, they will teach other life’s most important lessons. Our Friend Mikayla is not just a book, it is a wonderful example of what is possible in every school across the state, country, and beyond.

Charging through Belle Isle Raceway with The Arc!

By Laurie Istook, wife of driver Don Istook

The Arc Audi Racing Program

As Don and I tour the country for the Pirelli World Challenge, we have had the opportunity to meet many amazing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) through The Arc Audi Racing Program. Most recently we were in Detroit at the Belle Isle Raceway. We were joined by staffers and self-advocates from The Arc of Western Wayne County.

The time leading up to the race and prepping with our new friends from The Arc was wonderful. From teaching them about the car, to having them help Don and his team get ready for the race it was an exciting time for all of us. The real highlight came after the race when Don won the “Hard Charger” award for the race. He won because he moved ahead of more cars during the race than any other driver.

While accepting his award on the winner’s podium, Don dedicated it to my brother Mark and our visitors from The Arc.  He let everyone know that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be “hard chargers” too if they are just given the chance.

We look forward to more races, victories, and of course to continuing our work with The Arc and their local chapters.

Meet Teddy: Self-Advocate, Entrepreneur and Inspiration

By: Annette Downey, Director of Community Living Services of Oakland County in Ferndale, Michigan

Teddy Fitzmaurice is a 28 year old energetic entrepreneur with Down Syndrome who promotes human rights and disability advocacy.  Teddy lives in his own apartment and loves to play his music loud and watch TV whenever he wants. He enjoys taking care of his bunnies, Chloe and Amy, walking, running, biking, swimming, and hanging out with his many friends.

Teddy began his own business, Teddy’s Ts, in 2006. He sells T-shirts that come in many sizes, along with a multitude of buttons. Teddy has taken his business around the country including Washington DC, Chicago, New York, San Juan, St. Louis, and Columbus just to name a few of his stops. He also displays his shirts in several stores.

The logos displayed on Teddy’s t-shirts and buttons promote improved quality of life, social justice, and equality for all. Teddy promotes community living, self-determination, inclusive education, and people first language. His merchandise proudly displays messages such as “Label Jars, NOT People”, “Shred the word – R E T A R D E D” and “Disabled, Sexy, and Proud!”.  Teddy uses a variety of creative methods to share his vision and passion for advocacy.

Always the happy salesman, Teddy is eager to attend every conference he can to sell his shirts.  Teddy’s products are creative and inspirational, and they promote disability rights and social justice.  To check out his product line, please visit Teddy’s T’s website www.teddysts.com or register for The Arc’s 2012 National Convention & International Forum and purchase one of his t-shirts in Entrepreneur Alley!

The Arc of Alameda County Shifts Gears

Race Group Shot of The Arc of Alameda County

By Richard Fitzmaurice, Director of Community Relations at The Arc of Alameda County

It was loud.  It was smelly.  It was crowded.  It was the thrill of a lifetime!

Eleven of The Arc of Alameda County’s 600 clients traveled some 100 miles south to California’s central coast for the Monterey edition of the Pirelli World Challenge motor race.

It was not the typical community-based excursion.

Carrying personal belongings in backpacks specially designed for The Arc of Alameda County, the group entered Laguna Seca raceway and was immediately dazzled by the sights, sounds, colors and cars.  Of particular interest was the white Audi TT RS with The Arc’s logo on the hood sandwiched between the Revo technik and Pirelli logos.

Representing The Arc of Alameda County was: Peter Parkins, Angel Peregrina, Dania Leyva, Peter Roe, David Robinson, Laimone Williams, Nelvin Goree, Annick Woodall, Dominic Lerona, Kenneth Lee and Terry Newman.

Staff members included Mark Caleira, Jr., Ed Segovia and Juan Ramirez.  They were assisted by Joann Scruggs and Raymond Gaddis.

The Arc crew was immediately ushered not to the usual grandstand seats but straight to the pit where they served as honorary members of the ISTOOK’s Motorsports pit crew.   After enjoying a homemade bag lunch and helping wax the car, driver Don Istook and his wife Laurie offered insights into the world of racing.

“He told us about the car – showed us how everything works,” said David Robinson, a client at the vocational development center in San Leandro.

It was personal experience involving family members with intellectual and developmental disabilities that led Don and Laurie Istook, owners of ISTOOK’s Motorsports, to form a partnership with The Arc and create the Arc Audi Racing Program.  It was that focus on the abilities – not disabilities – of the people we serve that made the Istooks comfortable giving The Arc of Alameda group total access to the pit.   Clients even got to check out the other cars.

“I got to meet other drivers,” said Angel Peregrina also of San Leandro. “Don was nice and super helpful.”

“Everyone was great,” commented Community Service Manager, Mark Caldeira. “Even crew members not affiliated with ISTOOK’S Motorsports took time to explain what they were doing and why they were doing it. It could not have been a better experience for our clients,” he said.

As race time approached, the Arc crew was invited to participate in “the walk to the grid.”  Don, who also has The Arc logo on his race suit, climbed into the Audi and fired up the 2.5L turbocharged engine and began creeping toward the gate leading to the track.  The Arc crew walked along side.

“It was loud but it was good,” said Peregrina.

When the race started, clients were in their seats and gave Don a huge cheer on every lap as he passed by.

Monterey was the third stop on the Pirelli World Challenge seven-race circuit.  At each venue, the Istooks invite local chapters of The Arc to attend.  They even invited the Alameda County group to return to Laguna Seca next year.

“We’re going.  We’re definitely going!” Peregrina said with a huge smile.

Why I Got Involved with The Arc’s National Council of Self-Advocates

By Kevin Smith, one of the founding members of The Arc’s National Council of Self-Advocates

The Arc: For People with intellectual and developmental disabilities

I got involved in the self-advocacy movement because it promoted things that I believed in, both as a person with a disability and as just a person.  When I got involved in self-advocacy in the early 90s, people with disabilities were segregated from the rest of the community.  We were categorized as poor, pitiful, and helpless.

I wanted to join The Arc’s National Council of Self-Advocates because this movement has had a huge impact on my life and I want to share it with as many people as possible.  I hope this Council accomplishes two things: To tell people that they have the right to be included in their community and not be shut behind closed doors. The second would be that together, as a national group, the government will hear our needs and make a difference in someone’s life. I want to leave people with disabilities in better shape than when I started.

About The Arc’s National Council of Self-Advocates

The NCSA was developed to foster the active involvement of individuals with I/DD in the work of The Arc. Its primary purpose is to empower persons with I/DD to voice their opinions about what is important to them and to ensure that they are afforded the same opportunities as everyone else to have a meaningful life in the community. In joining the Council, members will be able to network with others who are involved in advocacy work, educate the public about the issues that are important to people with I/DD, and become active leaders in their communities.

Half a World Away But So Close

By Amberley Romo, sibling of an individual with I/DD and student in China

Amberley and Caroline Romo

Amberley and Caroline Romo

I’m currently halfway across the world from my sister Caroline studying the Chinese language in Beijing. But I’ve never felt closer to understanding her than I do right now; I can’t believe I had to come all the way to China to understand just a little bit better what every day is like for her.

Incredibly Unique

My sister is incredibly unique; She is almost always infectiously excited and happy, and has a dynamic personality that lights up any room. She is obsessed with dogs, adores babies and her favorite thing in the world is cooking with our mom. She also has a genetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome. Caroline is essentially nonverbal, but like most people with Angelman Syndrome, her intelligence and understanding of what’s going on far surpasses her ability to communicate about it. She is astoundingly emotionally attuned.

Outside of our family and close friends, who understand Caroline’s modified sign language and body language, Caroline has never been able to effectively communicate with strangers without the aid of a communication device. It’s gotten better through the years: We’ve gone from Boardmaker laminated squares with Velcro on the back, to a dinosaur-sized DynaVox augmentative communication device, to the Proloquo2Go app on an IPad.

A New Perspective

I began to see things from Caroline’s perspective when I signed a pledge to speak only Chinese from Monday through Friday for my language immersion program.

I’ll be frank: I’m not exactly fluent. (I started learning eight months ago.)  All of a sudden day-to-day interactions such as ordering from a menu and asking directions can induce a panic attack. I’m very aware of how much attention and help I need, especially when there is a line of people behind me waiting for something; I feel guilty. And the pressure of the expectant look on the face of the person who’s waiting for me to ‘get it’ only makes me shut down more.

“I have an Easy Button”

And that’s just the beginning. What’s most frustrating about being limited to only Chinese isn’t that Chinese is difficult (although it certainly is!), it’s suddenly having difficulty expressing the deeper thoughts and complex feelings and needs with the ease to which I am accustomed in English. Every thought-expression is a conscious process, if not always a linguistic battle.

The first time I felt the ‘shut down’ moment I was trying to have a conversation in Chinese with my roommate. I got to the point where I just wanted to put my face in my hands and block her out. At that moment, I had an extreme sense of déjà vu. With Caroline, if something got too hard or too frustrating, she would put her face in her hands to shut us out. The realization felt like being backhanded; before I even realized the connection I had made, I felt like crying.

But ultimately, I do have an “easy-button.” I can simply opt-out of the language pledge. For Caroline, there is no “opting out.” Even though I have a deeper understanding, I can never know what it’s like to not have that escape hatch, and I have so much more appreciation for her efforts.

Amberley Romo, 21, is a recent graduate of American University and worked for The Arc’s Washington, D.C. office as an intern and brand coordinator. She is currently enrolled in a language immersion program in Beijing, China. She is also a member of The Arc as a sibling and a supporter of the movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Arc recently launched a National Sibling Council and has partnered with the Sibling Leadership Network to engage people like Amberley as they face the unique challenges and rewards that come from being a sibling of someone with I/DD.

Welcoming Amy Goodman to The Arc

Amy GoodmanBy Amy Goodman, Co-Director, The Autism NOW Center

Hello, my name is Amy Goodman and I joined the Autism NOW team in November as the new co-director. I live in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and I am on the Autism Spectrum. I learned about my disability at a later stage in life, actually at the age of 33. My brother’s friend suggested that I try to get diagnosed. My brother claims it all started with the Grateful Dead. If it weren’t for Dead Net Central, he wouldn’t have ever met this friend. I finally found what I was looking for, answers to my questions and a diagnosis.

I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis and a name for some of the issues I was having. With that diagnosis, I was finally able to put my life in perspective and focus on who I am. It was because of this new found information that I went to graduate school and got my degree in Special Education with a focus on Autism at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. I was accepted into a separate program at the Autism Training Center (ATC), at Marshall for students with Asperger’s syndrome/High Functioning Autism (HFA), which gave me academic support, individual support, and social skills I needed to live independently in my own apartment. I was the first graduate student, the first female, and the first individual to graduate from the ATC.

After graduate school, I worked as a Service Coordinator for Birth to Three. I had that job for about four years and I decided I needed to change my focus and get a job that applied my talents in a different way and helped to support me as an individual. I applied and looked for a job for more than a year and a half, and then I finally tried something I thought I would never do, networking. It paid off and I got a job at The Arc as co-director of Autism NOW. I have been at this job for about two and half months and I love it and everything about it.

The job at the Arc has given me my independence in many ways. I now am self-sufficient, I am an advocate for myself and I am empowered to be who I want to be. I have proven once again that individuals with ASD can and should be hired to work to the best of their ability.

Apostrophe Magazine Cancels “Can’t”

By: Jim Tracy, Editor of Apostrophe Magazine

Can’t and shouldn’t. Too often those words turn into “could have” and “should have” — regrets about lost opportunities. Apostrophe magazine helps turn “can’t” and “shouldn’t” into “can” and “should.”

The name comes from a song by the late rocker Frank Zappa about a man talking to his dog. We all can relate to that, but in Zappa’s song, the dog talks back.

“You can’t say that!” the man tells the dog in disbelief. “I do it all the time,” the dog replies. He talks, he says, even with all the apostrophes thrown his way: can’t, won’t, don’t and shouldn’t.

People with disabilities face the same apostrophes. Too often they’re told what they can’t do. Apostrophe magazine emphasizes what they can do. Every issue features stories about people living productive lives and achieving success at home, at work and at play.

Lissie Clark, a 34-year old businesswoman from Great Falls, Mont., is a good example. Lissie has overcome fetal alcohol syndrome and other obstacles to start a successful business. Today, she operates Lissie’s Luv Yums, baking and selling all-natural dog biscuits to customers across the United States. At the same time, Lissie uses her business to educate people about the dangers of alcohol consumption when you’re pregnant.

Apostrophe also gives readers practical information they can use every day. A staple of the magazine are how-to features. In past issues we’ve explained, using words, graphics and photos, how to make a hearty clam chowder, how to paint a room and clean up afterward, how to plant a vegetable garden, how to build a birdhouse, how to shop wisely for groceries, how to file a tax return, and how (and where) to vote.

In “It’s the Law,” Disability Rights lawyers have written about guardianship, end of life issues and the Olmstead Decision.  We tell our readers about websites worth visiting and books worth reading. A recent issue included a review of The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law and the companion workbook.

Every issue includes a column by a writer from People First. Contributors have explained to Apostrophe readers the marriage penalty, self-advocacy and the campaign to end the use of the “R” word. The Winter 2012 issue introduces “Jigsaw,” a cartoon strip created by Tess Langston, a young woman with autism.

Like The Arc, Apostrophe believes in promoting and protecting the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community as long as they live. We share The Arc’s core values of people first, equity, community, self-determination and diversity.

We believe the power of the pen (and the camera) can help make that philosophy a reality. Our stories and photos show people achieving independence, contributing to their communities and enjoying life. We emphasize human dignity and take pains to use people first language.

A subscription to Apostrophe (4 issues for $19.99) will help us deliver our most important message: “Forget Can’t and Don’t — We Can and Do.”

NOTE: The Arc has established a relationship with Apostrophe Magazine to bring you a valuable new resource and a refreshing perspective on what a publication for people with disabilities can be. You’ll find guest columns from The Arc in the pages of Apostrophe and on their blog in the coming months and below is a guest post from the editor of the magazine.