Last week, nearly 700 advocates from 48 states gathered in Washington, D.C. for the annual Disability Policy Seminar. Attendees heard from Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez, Special Assistant to the President on Disability Policy Kareem Dale and were treated to a reception on Capitol Hill hosted by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). They also had the chance to gather information from policy experts and representatives from the Obama administration about key issues for the I/DD community before spending a day in the House and Senate advocating for their cause with their elected representatives. And many attended special meet & greet sessions for self-advocates and siblings from The National Council of Self Advocates of The Arc and the National Sibling Council. If you missed this year, be sure to plan to attend the 2013 Disability Policy Seminar April 15-17 at the Grand Hyatt in downtown D.C.
On Monday, April 30th at 3pm EST, The Arc will host a Twitter chat with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other organizations to talk about the latest data on the prevalence of autism and the resources available to people with autism spectrum disorders and their families. During the hour-long chat, we will take your questions and comments – so join us for this Twitter dialogue!
We will explore topics like the early signs of autism in a child, the latest research, including the CDC’s new prevalence data, and resources available through The Arc’s Autism NOW Center.
Following the chat on Twitter is easy. First, follow @TheArcUS and @AutismNowCenter on Twitter. We’ll be using the hashtag: #TheArcChat – this link will allow you to follow the conversation.
There, you’ll be able to follow the conversation in real-time. Keep in mind, if you want to participate in the chat, you’ll need an account on Twitter. If you haven’t used Twitter before, here’s a great link to learn more about it and the basics of Twitter.
If you need an accessible version of Twitter, we recommend using Easy Chirp. Simply visit its website, and sign in with your Twitter credentials.
If you want to be part of the conversation on Twitter, simply use the hashtag: #TheArcChat when you tweet. You can find out more about hashtags in Twitter’s Help section.
We hope to hear from you on Monday, April 30th during our Twitter chat on autism.
The Arc is excited to race into cities across the country with Istook’s Motorsports, Volkswagen Group of America and the Pirelli World Challenge Series to raise awareness of The Arc and and I/DD among racing fans everywhere.
We officially kick of The Arc Audi Racing Program at the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 15. Twenty individuals from The Arc of Los Angeles and Orange Counties, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are heading to the racetrack to serve as honorary crew members for Istook’s Motorsports. They’ll get hands-on in the paddock with the drivers and crews as they prepare for the race and then watch the team compete for point in the Prielli World Challenge Series with their Audi TT RS.
Team owner Don Istook and his wife Laurie share The Arc’s commitment to ensuring that people with I/DD are fully included, especially when it comes to employment opportunities. Laurie’s brothers Mark and Tyson Heitt both were diagnosed with Fragile X, but that has not stopped them from working as an integral part of Don’s race team. Don and Laurie wanted to give other people with I/DD a taste of what it might be like to be part of a fast-paced race crew and came to The Arc with a unique idea to include individuals in the excitement of race day as the team moves from town to town to compete in the Pirelli World Challenge Series.
Follow The Arc Audi Racing Program as we take this exciting ride with Don and his team. The Arc’s national office will be posting updates from the races on Facebook, Twitter and our blog in the coming months. And you can see the races live online and on later broadcast by NBC Sports (full broadcast schedule).
The Treasurer of the United States, Rosie Rios, started an official “countdown clock” marking less than one year until the March 1, 2013 deadline when all federal benefit recipients must receive their Social Security and other federal benefit payments electronically.
The move will help taxpayers save $1 billion over 10 years and will greatly decrease the risk of identity and check theft faced by recipients of mailed benefits. Currently, about 90 percent of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are being made electronically. The remaining 10 percent have less than a year left to switch over before electronic benefits become mandatory.
This will impact many of the millions of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who are eligible for and rely on these benefits, their families and those who act as trustees for federal benefit payments. . However, the Treasury Department has attempted to make it easy to set up electronic payments through its “Go Direct” campaign. Free financial education materials are available along with a “Go Direct Money Matters” page at www.godirect.org which offers not only information about how to receive electronic payments, but tips for retirement planning, preventing theft and more. Check it out and mark your calendar for March 1, 2013 if you or someone you care about receives federal benefit checks by mail.
Are you joining us at the 2012 Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C.? If you haven’t made up your mind yet, here are some great reasons to register. We don’t want you to miss your single best opportunity to connect with the intellectual and developmental disability movement this year, but if you’re still on the fence, consider this:
Top Five Reasons to Attend the 2012 Disability Policy Seminar:
- Meet face-to-face with your elected representatives and take advantage of a unique opportunity to let them know in person what’s important to you and what they can do to earn your vote. On the 3rd day of the Seminar, we’ll visit Capitol Hill for scheduled meetings with Congressional representatives and their staff.
- Learn how to be an effective advocate, not just in Washington, but in your community once you return home. The information provided at the Disability Policy Seminar will give you a broader and better understanding of the role public policy plays in the day-to-day lives of people with I/DD and what you can do to create change. You can event attend a pre-event Seminar Trainee Orientation webinar hosted by AUCD.
- Make your mark on an important election. The focus of the Seminar is giving you the tools you need to educate elected officials and candidates running for office on I/DD community’s most crucial issues. The Seminar should inspire you to engage in the political process and give you the information you need to understand exactly how public policy impacts people with I/DD.
- Network. Meet with other from your state and across the country who share your passion. If you’re a self advocate or a sibling of someone with I/DD, attend special breakfast meet & greets to find out more about how you can get involved in The Arc’s new National Council of Self Advocates or our The Arc’s National Sibling Council.
- Visit Washington D.C.’s famous Cherry Blossom Festival! There’s no reason you can’t have a little fun while you’re here. Explore D.C. from your convenient downtown base at the Grand Hyatt where restaurants, entertainment, shopping, public transportation and the historic National Mall where the cherry blossoms bloom is close by.
Get the best rates and availability – special early registration rates until March 20. Get more information or register and book your room now at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org.
The annual Disability Policy Seminar is hosted by: The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), and Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE).
Sponsored by Hammer Travel – a unique travel planning resource for people with disabilities. www.hammertravel.org.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month thanks to a 1987 Presidential Proclamation from Ronald Reagan, which was the direct result of the advocacy efforts of The Arc. A lot has changed since then, more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are living and thriving in their communities rather than institutions, there are more opportunities, more protections and more respect for and inclusion of people with I/DD in their communities. But we must remember that many of those advancements were hard won. Advocacy was the impetus for many of the positive changes in our society, such as the creation of DD Awareness Month. And that will continue only as long as we fight for it.
In 2012, a pivotal Presidential election year, we are fighting to protect Medicaid. Since many people with disabilities rely on publicly funded services to fully participate in their communities, policy makers need to know you are concerned about continuing those services in the face of budget cuts during tough economic times. Take advantage of March to make your mark on the candidates who hope to hold office in 2013 and beyond. Use Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month as a reason to get involved and get active today!
What Can You Do?
- Help us educate candidates about the issues concerning people with I/DD. Learn more about public policy that impacts people with I/DD and then write letters and email and go to campaign events to tell the candidates what you expect them to do to earn your vote.
- Find a local chapter of The Arc and get involved. Over the coming months we will be working through our national chapter network to help people talk to the candidates, register to vote, get to the polls and collectively make their mark!
- Consider attending The Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C. in April. Each year we spend two days covering current public policy in depth to prepare you for a third day on Capitol Hill actually meeting with your Members of Congress and discussing the issues.
- And help us raise awareness about what’s important to the I/DD community and why. Read these suggestions [PDF] for getting the word out.
Look for more information about our We’ve Got the Power Campaign to engage voters and candidates over the crucial months leading up to Election Day. Together, we do have the power and we can continue to create change!
“Led by The Arc and funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, 2011 was a busy year for the Autism NOW Center. With five regional summits, dozens of webinars, and the creation of a top-notch informational website with input from partners in the disability field, we went into 2012 with exciting ideas to expand upon that important work. While www.autismnow.org is becoming a go-to resource for families, individuals with autism, and experts in the field, we’re still working hard on adding new features and content!
We just rolled out two exciting new features on the site recently – a mobile version, allowing users on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets to see an optimized version of the site, and a local agencies directory in the form of a map. This mobile version lets users get to content faster on the go, and creates better accessibility overall for the site. The local agencies directory provides an easy-to-use way to find agencies in your state that can help with services, support and resources for living with autism and other developmental disabilities.”
The Autism NOW Center staff, a national initiative of The Arc, has a busy year planned. Other planned features include commenting on blog articles, a message board, an enhanced community calendar and new video content. Keep an eye on autismnow.org for the latest announcements and resources!
One thing I have learned in my 3 ½ years as CEO of The Arc is that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), their parents, siblings and family members are a passionate lot. So when the White House invited us to bring in 150 of The Arc’s chapter leaders, including people with I/DD, I knew we would have an enthusiastic response. Yet little did I expect the extraordinary energy that erupted when President Obama entered the room to speak to the group. Our leaders from throughout the country were quick to their feet with a rousing welcome, rising again when the President concluded his remarks telling the disability community “I’ve got your back.”
– The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns pens a guest post for the The White House blog with thoughts on The Arc’s White House visit during the Community Leaders Briefing (which included a surprise visit from President Barack Obama).
In case you missed President’s Obama’s remarks, you can view them below:
A collection of videos, shot by The White House at the White House for the Community Leaders Briefing February 10, 2012.
President Obama Speaks at Briefing with The Arc
Community Leaders Briefing with The Arc: Part 1
Community Leaders Briefing with The Arc: Part 2