Never too Young to Make an Impact

Wings for Autism has been expanding across the country since last year, and since national expansion began more than 500 families have benefited from this innovative program. While this program obviously appeals to individuals with I/DD and their families who want a test run of what travel on an airplane might be like, this year we were pleasantly surprised when 3 teenagers made it a mission to help fundraise for this exciting program in addition to serving as volunteers. Their actions show it doesn’t matter what your age, you can make a difference in the lives of people with I/DD, all it takes is a little passion.

wings blogAnthony (Chenghao) Cheng, Lily Zhu, & Xinyi Xie reached out to friends and family to raise hundreds of dollars for Wings for Autism. We had a chance to catch up with them during our event at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia earlier this year to learn about what sparked their interest in this program. Their answers were inspiring.

Why did you all decide to go out of your way to help raise money for The Arc’s Wings for Autism Program?

Xinyi – Firstly because I enjoy to spend time with children. It is my understanding that it is important for people with disabilities to be part of society and make friends. I am passionate about that.

Anthony – Everyone deserves to be independent, and I should help.

Lily – I love children also and interacting with people with I/DD. And it gives me joy to see them being independent and being happy.

Why is it important for people with I/DD to have someone to count on?
Xinyi – We all need support in everything. We needs support in what we do so we should give support to others too.

Lily – It is important for kids to count on people other than their family. That will help them become more confident.

Anthony – It is exciting to see kids grow and be stronger.

Why is volunteering important?

Lily – Important for people to be aware. It is hard to empathize if you don’t interact with other people. But events like this help you realize the needs of others and help them be independent. Volunteering is an important step to raising awareness.

Xinyi – Leading by what we do. If people do it, others will follow in their steps.

A big thank you to three amazing volunteers, donors and advocates! We are so thankful for your support of The Arc and the example you are setting for your peers.

Holiday Shopping in Entrepreneur Alley

DSCN1746Last minute holiday shopping got you down? We have the solution for you! Each year The Arc invites self-advocates who own their own micro-businesses to participate in Entrepreneur Alley during The Arc’s national convention. These entrepreneurs have a variety of amazing products available for purchase.

IMG_9723Whatever wish list you are working to fulfill, these businesses have what you are looking for including custom artwork, greeting cards, delicious confections, jewelry, collectibles, hand crafted wood work, books, and beautiful paintings.  We encourage you to skip the department stores and visit some of our talented entrepreneur’s websites to fill your stockings this holiday season!

If you or someone you know has a microbusiness you would like to bring to The Arc’s 2016 Convention, please contact Sarah Kennedy at SKennedy@TheArc.org.

Valuing the Humanity of All Members of a Family 

By Robin Shaffert, Senior Executive Officer, Individual & Family Support, The Arc

 

The story, “Four Bodies in Elmhurst: Why would an 82­year­old man kill his son, his daughter, his wife and himself?” appears in today’s New York Times magazine section.  Jeff Himmelman reports on the heartbreaking murder of two adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their mother, by the father who also committed suicide.

On Tuesday, the story appeared on the Times’s website, and The Arc shared it on social media.  Since then, I have been reading the comments from readers of the Times and The Arc’s Facebook page.  I find myself deeply troubled – yet not altogether surprised – that the most common sentiment is that we shouldn’t judge the father.

We must judge the father.  The father committed three murders.  He ended the lives of two of his children and his wife.  If we do not condemn that action, we do not value their humanity.  Our core values are clear: The Arc believes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are entitled to the respect, dignity, equality, safety, and security accorded to other members of society, and are equal before the law.  When people with I/DD are murdered, we cannot suggest that their murder is understandable or justifiable.

After we condemn these murders, we can look at what we can learn from them.  In Mr. Himmelman’s portrayal of the Stack family, we can begin to see where we as a society fall short in supporting families that include a person with I/DD.  But limited, inadequate, or the complete absence of services and supports can never justify murder.  This fact, however, doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to do a better job supporting families that include members with I/DD.  This support is critical throughout the lifespan but it is especially important as adults with I/DD transition from their family homes to other living situations in our communities.

Sometimes we hear that parents are driven to these horrific acts because there are no decent places for their children to live and receive the supports and services they need when they leave the family home.  That wasn’t the case for the Stack family.  The son and daughter were both in good living situations.  These situations may not have been perfect, and Mr. Stack, the story tells us, was vigilant in working with the providers to make sure his son and daughter got the supports he felt they needed.

The Stacks were able to do what many families struggle with.  They overcame barriers and created a future plan for their son and daughter.  They found housing options and daily activities – and they figured out how to finance them.  Yet, for some unknowable reason, Mr. Stack decided to take the lives of his wife, son, and daughter.

I find myself asking whether things would have been different had Mr. Stack received help in addressing the guilt he felt about the possibility that his exposure to toxins during the Korean War caused or contributed to their disabilities, or if his family had received more support during the decades that he and his wife cared so lovingly for their son or daughter.   We’ll never know.

I lead The Arc’s Center for Future Planning.  My colleagues and I recognize the complexity and the enormity of the issue we are addressing.  There are 600,000-700,000 adults with I/DD living with caregivers 60 and over that have no plan in place for what is going to happen when those caregivers can no longer provide support.  To create a good plan, the individual with I/DD and his or her family must take into account virtually every aspect of the person’s life.  This story teaches us that as important as it is to figure out benefits and housing, it is at least as important to ensure that families receive the emotional support they need to make these difficult transitions.  Many chapters of The Arc and other service providers are working to provide that support.  Yet I fear for the families that aren’t connected to get that help, and I know that the supports that are available in many areas are inadequate.

Like many of you, when I finished the story, I asked myself – what can I do to help prevent tragedies like this from happening again?  As we move forward, we should remember the Stack family by striving to support families in a way that values the humanity of all of their members.  We can do this in small ways like checking in on families that may be isolated.  We can also work together to advocate at the local, state, and federal level for the resources to enable us to support all of our families.

 

The Arc’s Statement on the Loss of Daniel Kaufman, Job Coach for People with Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc, the nation’s largest civil rights organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families, released the following statement on the news that Larry Daniel Kaufman (who went by Daniel), a job coach for people with disabilities, was among the victims in the mass shooting at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California:

“Earlier this week a senseless act of violence robbed 14 individuals of their lives and forever changed their families. The Arc and our community are shocked and saddened to learn that Larry Daniel Kaufman, a job coach for people with disabilities, was among the victims. Daniel worked at the coffee cart at the Inland Regional Center where he helped individuals with disabilities develop job skills.

“While Daniel wasn’t tied to The Arc, this loss is particularly painful for us knowing the invaluable work of support professionals like Daniel, and we cannot imagine how this tragedy is impacting those at the Inland Regional Center and his loved ones. Job coaches provide so much for individuals with disabilities, and more often than not they are friends and mentors to the people they work with. Daniel’s choice of profession shows that he was a kind, generous, and passionate individual who was dedicated to serving others. The Arc family extends our condolences to Daniel’s loved ones and all those served by him,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 700 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

 

 

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

Donald Trump Did What?

Over the holiday weekend, social media and the airwaves were full of appropriate outrage over Donald Trump’s mocking of the appearance of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski’s, a person with a disability.

The disparaging treatment of people with disabilities by celebrities and other public figures is sadly not all that uncommon. The list of celebrities that The Arc has called out in recent years is long – comedian Tracy Morgan, football star Joe Flacco, to name a few.

Now we have a candidate for President of the United States to add to that list.

These recent events remind us that we need to hear from all candidates on where they stand on the issues facing people with disabilities as these voters prepare to vote for their next President in less than a year.

Where do all of the candidates stand on:

  • Ensuring Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security Disability Insurance, and Supplemental Security Income are there for qualified people with disabilities who need support?
  • Expanding opportunity for jobs in the community for people with disabilities?
  • Creating more affordable, accessible, inclusive housing in the community for people with disabilities?
  • Ensuring that the civil rights of people with disabilities are respected in the classroom, the criminal justice system, our health care system, and so on?

Roughly one in five Americans has a disability – and there are millions of Americans who are related to, friends with, or support a person with a disability in their lives. Their votes are up for grabs. And they are listening for substance from the entire field.

And to the media covering these candidates – start asking the tough questions on how those running to be the next President will improve the lives of people with disabilities. You are in a position to change this conversation. Use your power – just as people with disabilities will use theirs come November 2016.

Thank you! The Arc Family is Thankful for YOU!

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we here at The Arc have a lot to be thankful for and one of the main things is YOU!

The Arc is incomplete without you and your dedication to our mission to ensure that those with intellectual and developmental disabilities live a fully inclusive life. You breathe life into our mission and together we will be successful.

From the board and staff of the National office of The Arc, please accept our sincere and deep appreciation of YOU and your ongoing support of our cause nationally, statewide and locally.

We could not have accomplished all that we did this year without you, so this holiday season we wanted to THANK YOU for your commitment, support and generosity to The Arc.

From all of us here at The Arc, we wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

The Arc Joins #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday_Shareable_ImageThe Arc is joining the national #GivingTuesday movement again this year and we need your help!

As part of The Arc’s family, please help us kick off the holiday season by joining millions in taking collaborative action to improve their local communities and give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they support to help create a better world.

Join us in harnessing the power of social media to demonstrate and expand the vibrant community that makes up The Arc’s Family. Please show your support on social media to inspire and encourage your family, friends and network to take action as well this #GivingTuesday.

Millions of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families are depending on The Arc. This #GivingTuesday, show that they can count on you by participating in one of the following ways:

 

  • Share your support by posting our “I Support The Arc” Button on Facebook or Twitter and tag The Arc and #GivingTuesday

 

Twitter logo Twitter logo
  • Encourage your friends and family to do the same.

The Arc recognizes that all the work we do would not be possible without our family and that not all support comes in the same way. Thank you!

Help The Arc kick off the holiday season today and Achieve with Us!

Planning for a Future in The Workforce: Jobs, Skills, and Supports

Planning for a Future in The Workforce: Jobs, Skills, and Supports

To mark Disability Employment Awareness Month, The Arc’s Center for Future Planning convened thought leaders on a webinar to discuss how people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families should plan for a future in the workforce. If you missed it, you are not out of luck – check out this quick summary.

Planning

An ideal person-centered plan provides an accurate picture of the skills and interests of a person with I/DD. The plan should also outline the support a person with I/DD needs to be successful and be used as a document to lay the foundation for a successful career in the workforce. As Anne Roehl, Institute on Community Inclusion, University of Minnesota, noted, “We should be exploring opportunities before the old job gets boring. We should always be asking what the person wants to learn next.”

Exploring Employment Opportunities

In addition to exploring job-training programs, we should provide people with I/DD with the same tools and resources that people without disabilities use to get jobs. John Kramer, PhD, at the Institute for Community Inclusion at the University of Massachusetts Boston pointed out that “people without disabilities try out jobs, get paid, and if they don’t like it, they leave. In the disability employment world, we don’t often think of it that way. People with disabilities also benefit from getting a variety of experiences.”

It is important for people with I/DD to get an understanding of different employment opportunities and they should be encouraged to explore these possibilities during high school. People with I/DD should also be encouraged to pursue internships and informational interviews in order to continue identifying jobs that might be of interest to them.

Understanding Rights and Responsibilities in the Workplace

The Americans with Disabilities Act bars employers from discriminating against people with disabilities and provides for reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Melanie Whetzel, Lead Consultant at the Job Accommodation Network highlighted the importance of people with I/DD and their advocates understanding their rights and responsibilities under the ADA.

Challenges can arise when an employee gets a new supervisor. Melanie pointed out that the likelihood of continuity increases if accommodations are put in place for the person with I/DD through a formal process rather than informally with a supervisor. Use of a formal process increases the number of people who know about the accommodations for the person with I/DD and understand why they are effective.

Support in the Workplace

Thought leaders agreed that it’s critical for people with I/DD to strengthen workplace relationships, which will help with integrating them into workplace teams. A person with I/DD’s supporters should always be looking at how to improve conditions and training in the workplace.

For example, once a person with I/DD is in a job they may be interested in other workplace duties and express an interest in training. Acquiring additional job skills is important not only for the person with I/DD, but it’s also beneficial to the employer when employees learn new skills.

Technology

Technology is advancing and webinar panelists emphasized the importance of access to technology in all aspects of the person’s life. Even if it isn’t relevant to the job today, it could be in the future.

The panelists agreed that use of technology in the workplace should be a priority so that people with I/DD are not left behind. We should remind employers that there might be a need for on-the-job-training. Breaking down a process can enable a person with I/DD to learn the essential elements of what is needed to use a piece of technology on the job.

October is National Disability Employment Month

Nicole Jorwic, J.D. – Director of Rights Policy for The Arc

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, a time to reflect on the advancements in making employment for individuals with disabilities a reality, and also, on how much work is left to be done. As the Employment First movement has been sweeping across the country, it is important to remember why a job is so important to an individual with a disability. My brother is 26 and has autism, I asked him why getting a job is important to him, this was his response:

“I think that a job is essential to a person with a disability because it gives us purpose, and common ground to build on with the rest of the world. All my siblings get so much of their identities from their jobs, I should have the same chance. All my brothers and sisters in disability deserve the opportunities to work in our communities, for fair pay, so that we can fulfill our destinies.”

As we work in Washington DC and on the state-level to ensure that policies and practices converge to make the road to employment smoother for individuals with disabilities, we must remember that a job is an essential part of what gives someone standing in their community. Individuals with disabilities are succeeding in meaningful careers in a wide range of private businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, while others are becoming entrepreneurs with their own micro-businesses.

We moved from a time when the thought of individuals with disabilities having a job was a dream, through a time when the only options were sheltered workshops, into a new era where there is meaningful and competitive work for individuals with disabilities. The value in having a response to “what do you do?” is immeasurable for individuals with disabilities across the country, including my brother Chris.

Celebrating Catalysts for Employment

The Arc’s Catalyst Awards were created to recognize individuals, businesses, and other organizations that are catalysts for achievement in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) we would like to highlight three of our 2015 Catalyst Award winners that have distinguished themselves as champions in creating employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.


Acadia Windows and Doors, winner of Small Business Employer of the Year Award, is located in Aberdeen, MD. The business partners with The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region to not only employ individuals with I/DD, but to educate other local employers about the importance of including people with disabilities in the workforce. Changes that have been made at the plant to accommodate employees with I/DD have actually created a safer work environment for all employees, leading Acadia Windows and Doors to win the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition award from Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

 


SAP
was awarded National Employer of the Year for the work done through its Autism at Work Initiative. The initiative, headed by Jose Velasco, was started in 2013 and has set a goal of having 1 percent of the company’s total workforce be people on the autism spectrum by 2020. Through a partnership with the Danish nonprofit Specialisterne and The Arc@Work, SAP has successfully hired 12 individuals on the spectrum at pilot sites in Palo Alto, CA and Philadelphia, PA. SAP is currently in the process of hiring up to 17 more individuals with I/DD at the Philadelphia site this fall.

 
Tom Wheeler, winner of the Federal Government Advocate of the Year, is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC and created the Disability Advisory Committee of the FCC. Thanks to Tom’s outstanding work 7 individuals with I/DD have been hired at the FCC and are receiving competitive salaries and benefits; and these 7 are just the beginning. As the FCC continues to hire and support individuals with I/DD it will serve as an example to the federal government as whole.

 

These three trailblazers have set outstanding examples of acceptance and inclusion for individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Their commitment to an inclusive work culture has created valuable opportunities for their employees with I/DD and allows individuals with I/DD to live more independently and as active members of their communities.

We have a long way to go in realizing the goal of higher rates of employment for people with I/DD – today, 85% of people with I/DD are unemployed. Are you feeling inspired to become a catalyst for change, and willing to work with us to unlock the talent of people with I/DD to better their lives and improve your workplace? To learn more about the employment related services available to chapters and businesses through The Arc@Work, please visit our website.