The Arc Responds to Florida Supreme Court’s Decision to Vacate Death Sentence for Freddie Lee Hall in Florida

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement following news that the Supreme Court of Florida reversed the circuit court’s order in the case Hall v. Florida, a death penalty case concerning the definition of intellectual disability (ID) that Florida uses in deciding whether an individual with that disability is protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia. With this decision Freddie Lee Hall will be taken off death row and his sentence will be reduced to life in prison. In 2002, the U.S. 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.

“Today the Supreme Court of Florida showed its commitment to ensuring justice for individuals with intellectual disability. This decision is an affirmation of years of legal advocacy on behalf of Mr. Hall.

“With the original sentencing in Hall’s case Florida was violating the Supreme Court’s Atkins v. Virginia ruling and we are pleased to see justice finally being served. Our hope is that Florida’s decision will serve as guidepost to other states that have similar cases involving defendants with intellectual disability. While we are pleased with Florida’s decision, we also think of other individuals who were unjustly denied Atkins protections and sentenced to death, individuals like Warren Hill, executed in Georgia last year, despite the protections of the Atkins decision.

“The Arc remains committed to fighting for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and we will continue our legal advocacy work to make sure that the Supreme Court ruling on this issue is followed in jurisdictions across the country,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

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.

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 nearly 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.

The Arc Commends Department of Justice’s Report on Investigation of the Baltimore City Police Department

Washington, DC – Last week, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division released a report following an investigation into the past conduct of the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD). DOJ concluded that there is “reasonable cause to believe that BPD engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitution or federal law” by engaging in unconstitutional stops, searches, and arrests; using enforcement strategies that produce severe and unjustified disparities in the rates of stops, searches, and arrests of African-Americans; using excessive force; and retaliating against people engaging in constitutionally-protected expression. Among these troubling findings, The Arc noted that the treatment of individuals with disabilities by law enforcement was included in the report, which featured a full section on the use of unreasonable force against individuals with disabilities highlighting that “BPD officers repeatedly fail to make reasonable modifications necessary to avoid discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).”

Among other things, the investigation recommended that BPD offer crisis intervention training, previously offered to only new recruits, to veteran officers as well. DOJ noted that such training helps officers “identify whether an individual is in crisis or engaging in behavior related to a disability, to interact effectively with people with disabilities, to de-escalate a crisis, and to connect the individual with local resources to provide treatment or support.”

“Far too often, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are in situations with law enforcement that unnecessarily escalate because officers aren’t trained in crisis prevention or how to recognize and accommodate various disabilities. This is not only happening in Maryland, it is a serious problem nationwide. We have got to flip the script when it comes to law enforcement training so that police departments understand that recognizing and appropriately accommodating disability in the line of duty is not optional, but is a fundamental aspect of their compliance with civil rights laws, such as the ADA. The recommendations in this report should be adopted across the country, so that we can break the cycle of discrimination that many minorities, including people with disabilities, face, and make our communities safer and more just for all,” said Leigh Ann Davis, Director, Criminal Justice Initiatives, The Arc.

The report found that BPD officers “have escalated interactions that did not initially involve criminal behavior, resulting in the arrest of, or use of force against, individuals in crisis, or with mental health disabilities or I/DD, or unnecessary hospitalization of the person with mental health disabilities or I/DD.” These unnecessary hospitalizations often violate the “integration mandate” of the ADA and the landmark Olmstead decision, which require public entities to administer services, programs, and activities for people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate and prohibits unjustified institutionalization of people with disabilities.

“The findings in the report are disturbing. It is particularly painful reading this report on the heels of the 26th Anniversary of the ADA. The Arc Maryland stands ready to assist with necessary training to police officers to appropriately respond to people with I/DD. We urge BPD to implement specialized training and de-escalation techniques as tactics to reform the system and better serve people with disabilities, African Americans, and any other member of the community that interacts with the criminal justice system,” said Poetri Deal, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy, The Arc Maryland.

Steve Morgan, Executive Director, The Arc Baltimore, said: “The BPD is already working with us to extend the crisis intervention training, previously offered to select officers only, to the entire force. We are working together to address the recommendations, expand their knowledge, and improve community relations.”

The Arc runs the National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD), the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (or I/DD) under one roof.

NCCJD is a national clearinghouse for information and training on the topic of people with I/DD as victims, witnesses and suspects or offenders of crime. The Center provides training and technical assistance, an online resource library, white papers, and more. The Center created Pathways to Justice,® a comprehensive training program facilitated through chapters of The Arc, which assists officers to both identify disability, and know how to respond in ways that keep all parties as safe as possible. Pathways to Justice utilizes a multi-disciplinary response that provides a foundation for a collaborative approach among community partners.

Read more about The Arc’s take on criminal justice reform and people with I/DD in our recent blog in the Huffington Post.

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 650 chapters across the country, including 11 in Maryland, 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.

The Arc’s Statement on Overturning of Brendan Dassey’s Murder Conviction 

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 a judge has overturned the murder conviction of Brendan Dassey:

“This must be a bittersweet ruling for Brendan Dassey and his family. Brendan’s experience has been unique, thanks to Making a Murderer. The documentary revealed to the masses just how easy it is to force a confession from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“My hope is that those following this case will come to realize that our jails and prisons are full of Brendan Dasseys, that false confessions are much more common among those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and that there is something we can do about it to prevent future injustice.

“Police officers, investigators, attorneys, correctional officers, and others are not adequately trained to identify people who may have an intellectual disability or how to accommodate their needs, and this is especially critical during interrogations. We still have a long way to go to bend the arc of justice when it comes to fair and just treatment of people with disabilities in the criminal justice system. The Arc is committed to revealing the many forms injustice takes in their lives, and working with those in the system to fix it,” said Leigh Ann Davis, Director, Criminal Justice Initiatives.

While people with intellectual and developmental disabilities comprise 2% to 3% of the general population, they represent 4% to 10% of the prison population. Those accused of crimes they did not commit often face the greatest injustice of all, some losing their lives when coerced into giving false confessions. Long before Brendan Dassey’s case hit mainstream media, Robert Perske, respected author, advocate and long-time supporter of The Arc, compiled a list of people with intellectual disability who gave false confessions to begin documenting these otherwise hidden-away cases.

The Arc runs the National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD), the first national effort of its kind to bring together both victim and suspect/offender issues involving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (or I/DD) under one roof.

NCCJD is a national clearinghouse for information and training on the topic of people with I/DD as victims, witnesses and suspects or offenders of crime. The Center provides training and technical assistance, an online resource library, white papers, and more. The Center created Pathways to Justice,® a comprehensive training program facilitated through chapters of The Arc, which assists officers to both identify disability, and know how to respond in ways that keep all parties as safe as possible. NCCJD is building the capacity of the criminal justice system to respond to gaps in existing services for people with disabilities, focusing on people with I/DD who remain a hidden population within the criminal justice system with little or no access to advocacy supports or services.

Read more about The Arc’s take on criminal justice reform and people with I/DD in our recent blog in the Huffington Post.

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 650 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.

The Arc’s Letter of Support for DOJ Investigation of Arnaldo Rios Case

Charles Kinsey, a direct support professional for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, was shot in a situation involving one of the individuals he served, Arnaldo Rios. Following this incident in North Miami, Florida, our network was shocked by how this situation needlessly escalated. Then the news broke that the officer involved in this shooting had the intention of shooting Mr. Rios.

In the aftermath, Mr. Rios has been institutionalized in a psychiatric unit. Below is The Arc’s letter to the Department of Justice supporting an investigation of this case. You can also read our statement here.

 

Rebecca Bond

Chief

Disability Rights Section – 1425 NYAV

Civil Rights Division

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C. 20530

 

Re: The Arc’s Letter of Support for DOJ Investigation of Arnaldo Rios Case

Dear Disability Rights Section Chief Bond:
I am writing to offer the support of The Arc of the United States (The Arc) for a letter from Matthew Dietz, the attorney for Arnaldo Rios, calling for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the North Miami Police Department and the State of Florida.

 
Mr. Rios is an individual with autism who was recently institutionalized in a psychiatric unit following the police’s shooting of his behavioral therapist, Charles Kinsey. Following the shooting, the representative for the officer involved stated to the media that the intention was not to shoot Mr. Kinsey, but to shoot Mr. Rios. Mr. Dietz’s letter, attached here for your reference, calls for the Department of Justice to open an investigation of the North Miami Police Department for its actions and statements involving Mr. Rios and Mr. Kinsey as well as the State of Florida for its failure to provide appropriate community placement to Mr. Rios following the incident. The Arc strongly agrees that such an investigation is necessary and warranted.

 
With nearly 700 state and local chapters nationwide, The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. The Arc promotes and protects the civil and human rights of people with I/DD and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. Through our National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability, we seek to build the capacity of the criminal justice system to respond to gaps in existing services for people with I/DD, ensure appropriate accommodations are provided via the Americans with Disabilities Act, and provide necessary trainings for law enforcement, attorneys, and judges on how to recognize various intellectual and developmental disabilities and how to appropriately interact with individuals with such disabilities.

 
When individuals with I/DD become involved in the criminal justice system as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, or incarcerated individuals, they face fear, prejudice, and lack of understanding. As was apparent in this case, law enforcement personnel often lack accurate and appropriate knowledge to apply standards of due process in a manner that provides justice for individuals with I/DD. In addition to improving the quality and prevalence of police training, The Arc supports a community-based crisis management system model, which includes time-based protocols for in-home responses and options for acute placement and is proven to reduce critical incidents, failed placements, and re-admission to psychiatric facilities for community-based clients.
Further, The Arc’s position, strongly supported by Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), is that individuals with I/DD deserve the opportunity for a full life in their community where they can live, learn, work, and socialize. To achieve this goal, they need a comprehensive, person-centered and directed, national system of appropriate high quality long-term supports and services, with a reliable and immediately accessible funding source, including Medicaid, and a well-trained, fairly compensated workforce of providers and direct support professionals. The prevalence of people waiting for services and supports is an unacceptable national crisis. It is not only a choice but also a basic civil right that individuals have adequate and appropriate supports and services needed for them to live in the community. Services must be delivered promptly in the most integrated setting and with sufficient quality and quantity to meet individual needs.

 
Neither Mr. Rios nor Mr. Kinsey did anything to warrant the police shooting that occurred. Thankfully, Mr. Kinsey survived the shooting and has been released from the hospital. Unfortunately, due to untreated trauma and a severe lack of appropriate community placements, Mr. Rios remains institutionalized in a psychiatric unit, isolated from the community.

 
The Arc is deeply troubled by the actions of the North Miami Police Department against Mr. Rios and Mr. Kinsey, the State of Florida’s failure to find community placements for individuals with I/DD who require intensive behavioral therapy, and its policy of reimbursing institutional placements at significantly higher rates than community placements. In light of the above, we urge the Department of Justice to investigate the actions of both the North Miami Police Department and the State of Florida in this matter. It is vital that Mr. Rios secures an appropriate community placement as soon as possible.

 

Sincerely,

 

Shira Wakschlag

Staff Attorney & Special Assistant to the CEO

The Arc of the United States

202-534-3708

Wakschlag@TheArc.org

 

The Arc’s Statement on the Shooting of Unarmed Caregiver in Florida

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 Charles Kinsey, a caregiver (commonly known as direct support professional) for people with disabilities, was shot while supporting a young man with autism:

“Earlier this week Charles Kinsey, a direct support professional for individuals with developmental disabilities, was shot in a situation that needlessly escalated. Individuals like Charles play an invaluable role in the lives of those they support. It isn’t uncommon for their clients to see them as extended family and often direct support professionals put the wellbeing of those they are supporting ahead of their own, as was the case in this situation.

“While all the details of this incident have not been released, this case highlights a growing issue in our nation – the lack of training for law enforcement on how to safely and effectively interact with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. From Ethan Saylor to Neli Latson and now Charles Kinsey, we continue to see how lack of training on supporting individuals with disabilities can pose a threat to the safety of our extended community. The fact of the matter is this incident was preventable. Collaboration between law enforcement and the disability community is the key to preventing future cases like this. We welcome the opportunity to work with law enforcement to help improve our criminal justice system and prevent future tragedy and injustice,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

“While staff are sometimes injured performing their job duties, we do not see them injured by law enforcement who so often answer our calls for assistance in our work. While we do not yet know all of the facts, it appears that Mr. Kinsey, like so many staff working with persons with disabilities would do, tried to protect the person he was charged with caring for. We hope for a full and speedy recovery for Mr. Kinsey,” said Deborah Linton, CEO, The Arc of Florida

The Arc’s National Center for Criminal Justice and Disability® was established in 2013 to address situations like this, and the critical need for effective, evidence-based training for law enforcement and others in the criminal justice system. Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, The Center created Pathways to Justice,™ a comprehensive training program facilitated through chapters of The Arc, which assists officers to both identify disability, and know how to respond in ways that keep all parties as safe as possible. This innovative training emphasizes a shift in thinking away from “crisis intervention” alone, to “crisis prevention” which promotes a problem-solving attitude among officers and helps them to define what is truly a crisis, and what is not. Piloted in five states to date, the training is being rolled out in six additional states in 2017.

The Arc and LSA form National Collaboration to Support Aging Caregivers and their Family Members with Disabilities to Plan for the Future

Washington, DC – Lutheran Services in America, Incorporated (LSA), is proud to collaborate with The Arc of the United States’ Center for Future Planning on an initiative to connect older caregivers who support a family member with intellectual and developmental disability to future planning resources.

The Arc has engaged a number of national and state partners to participate in this project including The Arc of North Carolina, The Arc of Tennessee, The National Council on Aging, the Association of Jewish Family & and Children’s Agencies, the University of Illinois in Chicago’s (UIC) Department of Disability and Human Development, and LSA. This one-year project is made possible through a grant to The Arc from The Retirement Research Foundation, a national foundation dedicated to improving the lives of our nation’s elders.

LSA is pleased to engage its member in North Carolina, Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC), to support the work of this important effort. LSA will work closely with LSC and The Arc to help raise awareness for the future planning needs of aging caregivers in North Carolina and across the country.

According to The Arc, research shows that many aging caregivers are isolated or disconnected from disability services. This initiative will provide training to human services agency staff to conduct in-person outreach to seniors over the age of 65 providing direct support to an adult with intellectual and developmental disabilities; bring information on future planning resources; and encourage caregivers to initiate the future planning process. This collaborative approach among national, state, and local aging, disability, and faith-based human services organizations will leverage the array of resources necessary to reach out to aging caregivers in two states and support them to plan for their family member’s future.

“In our country today, there are nearly one million households with an adult with intellectual and developmental disabilities who is being cared for by someone over the age of 60,” said Charlotte Haberaecker, President and CEO of LSA. “In nearly two-thirds of these families, there is no plan for the future. Through this partnership, we will be able to reach deeper into the communities our human services agencies serve and look for new ways to connect caregivers with the services they need to take the important steps in planning for the ongoing care of their sons and daughters. This project meets a vital need for older adults, especially those who are not connected to the disability community or the social service system.”

“We are excited to work hand-in-hand with The Arc to recruit trainees and help raise awareness about the future planning needs of aging caregivers across our region. Through the relationships we have in our communities and the partners on this project, we will be able to reach senior caregivers more effectively. When you combine our work at LSC with the national scope of the partners on this project, the opportunity to improve the quality of life for caregivers and their adult children has potential to make a real difference in communities across the country.”  Ted Goins, President and Chief Executive Officer of LSC.

“The Arc is first and foremost a family organization. We were founded over 65 years ago around a kitchen table by family members who wanted the best life for their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Decades have passed and much has changed, but our commitment to supporting families hasn’t wavered.”

 “People with disabilities have made great strides to live independently, be a part of their community, and experience all they want in life.  But too many people are facing the next chapter in their lives without a plan. Creating a plan for the future isn’t a simple task which is why we want to support caregivers by helping them navigate the systems in place and provide them with every resource we can. We are extremely grateful to The Retirement Research Foundation for funding our work and look forward to working with LSA, an organization that shares our commitment to supporting families,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

About LSA: Lutheran Services in America, Incorporated (LSA) is one of the largest health and human services networks in the country with more than 300 members that provide a broad range of critical services from health care to children and family services, senior services, disaster relief, refugee services, disability support, housing, and employment support, among others. Collectively, LSA members serve 1 in 50 people each year in thousands of communities across the United States and are open to all regardless of their religious affiliation or social or economic background. The LSA network is ranked at #23 on the Philanthropy 400, an annual listing of top charitable groups, and has combined revenue of $21 billion. LSA is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, please visit www.lutheranservices.org.

 About 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 665 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.

The Arc’s Center for Future Planning™ Launches Financial Literacy Training for Low-Income Families with Children with Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc’s Center for Future Planning™ is pleased to announce it has received a $200,000 two-year grant from the MetLife Foundation.  This funding will be dedicated toward developing a new financial literacy training program for families that include a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), with a specific interest in reaching historically underserved racial and ethnic communities.

Research has shown that disability and poverty are intertwined, and many families that have a child with I/DD struggle financially.  Often, income declines when a child with I/DD is born because parents take time off of work or leave the workforce entirely to care for the child’s needs.  This reduction of household income, combined with the income and asset limits in many public means-tested benefits available to these families, only complicates asset building.

The training will address these challenges by educating and supporting low-income families to lay the foundation for a secure financial future for their child with I/DD.  More specifically, The Arc will develop a financial literacy curriculum that can be later distributed throughout The Arc’s national network of over 650 chapters.  Topics to be covered will include credit, debt, choosing financial products and services, investing, and asset protection, as well as disability-related topics, such as information on benefits for people with disabilities, as well as special needs trusts and ABLE Act accounts.

“During our 65 year history, The Arc has always recognized the importance of supporting families of people with I/DD.  In these challenging economic times, it is all the more important that we work with families of children with I/DD to stabilize the family’s financial situation.  This support from the MetLife Foundation will allow The Arc to assist families in achieving long-term financial stability,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc will lead a team to create a nationally replicable, culturally competent curriculum to provide financial literacy education to low-income families.  After piloting the training with three chapters, The Arc will modify the curriculum so that it can be distributed through our network of chapters around the country. This work will also be supported by the Family Support Research and Training Center through a subcontract with the University of Illinois at Chicago and made possible by grant number 90RT5032-02-01 from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) at the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living (US DHHS/ACL).

The mission of The Arc’s Center for Future Planning is to support and encourage adults with I/DD and their families to plan for the future. The Center provides reliable information and assistance to individuals with I/DD, their family members and friends, professionals who support them and other members of the community on areas such as person-centered planning, decision-making, housing options, and financial planning.

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 over 650 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.

The Arc of Delaware Reaches Fair Housing Settlement

Washington, DCThe Arc of Delaware and its counsel Relman, Dane & Colfax, The Arc of the United States, and Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. are thrilled to announce the recent settlement of The Arc of Delaware’s disability discrimination complaint against Sugar Maple Farms Property Owners’ Association, Inc. (SMFPOA). That complaint, filed in March 2015 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Delaware Division of Human Relations (DHR), sought a declaration that SMFPOA violated the Fair Housing Act when it refused to approve The Arc of Delaware’s acquisition of property meant to house four individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in a single family home integrated within the community. The complaint sought damages to compensate for the loss of housing opportunities and for violations of the federal and Delaware Fair Housing Acts due to disability discrimination. After DHR issued a finding of discrimination in March 2016, SMFPOA agreed to settle the case and has entered into a Conciliation Agreement with DHR, HUD, and The Arc of Delaware as of May 26, 2016.

“This case shows the importance of vigorously enforcing the Fair Housing Act,” noted Michael Allen, a partner with Relman, Dane & Colfax.  “Although the Act has prohibited disability discrimination for nearly 30 years, we still need to fight every day to redeem the promise of community living for people with disabilities.”

In July 2014, Terry Olson, Executive Director, submitted a bid on behalf of The Arc of Delaware for a lot owned by SMFPOA. The Arc of Delaware intended to build a single family house in a Milford, Delaware residential subdivision with 65 other lots. His offer was accepted by the seller contingent on SMFPOA’s approval of the sale. However, once SMFPOA learned that residents with I/DD would be living there, it told Mr. Olson that such use was barred by its covenants and also expressed concerns about the amount of parking that would be required by the residents’ support staff.

Mr. Olson tried to explain that The Arc of Delaware’s use was protected by the Fair Housing Act and offered to accommodate the extra parking needs while maintaining a uniform appearance within the community. He also offered to give SMFPOA members a tour of a similar home in the area in order to allay any concerns about daily operations. Shortly thereafter, The Arc of Delaware received a letter from SMFPOA reiterating its position that the sale was not approved because it would violate SMFPOA’s covenants and suggesting that allowing people with I/DD into the community would reduce property values and disturb the “quiet enjoyment” of neighbors. The loss of the property and subsequent delay in state funding have deprived The Arc of Delaware and its clients of at least four community-based housing opportunities.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA) makes it unlawful to “make unavailable or deny” a dwelling because of disability as well as to refuse to make “reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford such person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.” Federal courts have consistently held that community supported housing for unrelated individuals with I/DD does not constitute a “business” and does not violate “single family” restrictions, and Delaware law expressly recognizes such housing as “single family” properties for zoning purposes. Further, the courts recognize that most discriminatory remarks are made in coded language, such as the need to “maintain property value.”

Once the complaints had been filed, DHR performed an investigation and issued a finding of discrimination in March 2016. Subsequently, SMFPOA agreed to settle the case. Among other things, the Conciliation Agreement requires SMFPOA to:

  • Apply the same terms and conditions of rental to anyone occupying its properties without regard to disability or any other protected class;
  • Provide written compliance reports to DHR and/or HUD when requested;
  • Allow HUD and DHR to inspect the premises at any time within one year of the agreement;
  • Notify its members and residents in writing of rules, policies, and practices relating to its non-discrimination policy and to prominently display the Equal Housing Opportunity logo within any relevant advertisements it distributes;
  • Ensure that all of its current board members receive comprehensive training on the Fair Housing Act within 90 days of signing the agreement and that all future board members receive such training within 30 days of their election;
  • Pay The Arc of Delaware $55,000 in damages, including attorneys’ fees and costs.

Mr. Olson remarked: “It is challenging enough in Delaware for individuals with I/DD to find affordable housing in the community. When you add discrimination to the mix, it makes it nearly impossible. This victory will help ensure that individuals with disabilities in Delaware will have the same rights as other citizens to live in the community of their choice.”

Shira Wakschlag, Staff Attorney with The Arc of the United States, noted: “For more than 65 years, The Arc has sought to enforce and protect the human and civil rights of individuals with I/DD by working to ensure those with disabilities are able to live in the community free from discrimination and institutional settings. Without the vigorous enforcement of state and federal disability rights laws in instances of discrimination such as this one, this fundamental right would be eroded.”

Relman, Dane & Colfax, a civil rights law firm based in Washington, D.C., served as lead counsel on the case, with The Arc of the United States and Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. serving as co-counsel.

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 over 650 chapters across the country, including The Arc of Delaware, 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.

Zika – We All Have Skin in This Game

Some public health crises capture our attention more than others.  A few years back, the phones were ringing off the hook on Capitol Hill about Ebola.  But not so for the Zika virus, we are hearing from Congressional offices.  Is this because we think that Zika will only affect women who are pregnant?  Or just those who live in southern states?  Are we not understanding that this virus could potentially quickly spread in local communities or that people in the south who are at greatest risk right now travel to other parts of the country?

Such a false sense of immunity could cost us dearly.  Studies are rolling in and, taken together, are painting an alarming picture.  According to a study released last week, two million pregnant women in the U.S. could contract the virus by November while another study finds that 29% of Zika-infected women gave birth to babies with adverse outcomes, including stillbirth, microcephaly, and other serious health problems.  Another found that microcephaly alone occurs in up to 13% of babies born to their mothers who became infected during their first trimester.  And this is only what we do know.  Still unknown are, among other things, the long-term effects of Zika on adults and children who contract the virus after birth.  “We still don’t know yet the full rainbow of complications that this virus may produce,” according to the director of communicable diseases for the Pan-American Health Organization.

If we don’t act now, the implications could be dramatic in both the short and long term.  For instance, the travel industry could be decimated in the southern coastal states this summer as infection rates and corresponding fear rise.   Further down the road, state Medicaid programs could see a surge in demand for services for not just people with microcephaly, but those with the still unknown other disabilities that may be significant and lifelong.

Congress left for its Memorial Day recess before having finalized an emergency spending bill for Zika prevention.  When it reconvenes this week, it is imperative that Members hear from their constituents who understand that that Zika prevention is truly a national and urgent priority. Stay up to date on this issue and many others impacting people with disabilities by signing up for our Disability Advocacy Network – be in-the-know and take action when needed!

Senate Acts on Zika Funding; The Arc Urges House to Step Up

Washington, DC – With a new public health threat on the horizon for our country, yesterday the U.S. Senate finally acted to provide some of the funding necessary to address the Zika virus. With repurposed funding running out and summer quickly approaching, The Arc and our national network of advocates are urging the House to step up and pass a bill that provides funding to address this issue.

“The clock is ticking, and with every passing day, we are less and less prepared to face this impending public health crisis. We have the ability to mitigate the impact of this mosquito- carried virus, with an investment in mosquito reduction, accelerated vaccine development, and better testing. But Congress has been wasting time, playing politics with public health. Thankfully, the Senate’s action yesterday to approve a down payment on addressing this issue is a step in the right direction. We urge the House to follow suit quickly,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

In February, the White House asked for $1.9 billion for Zika vaccine development, better testing, and mosquito reduction. With no action taken by Congress, in April the White House transferred $589 million from money set aside to fight Ebola and other problems to work on Zika prevention efforts. But that’s far short of the amount health officials say they need to be effective and that funding will run out at the end of June. Yesterday, the Senate approved $1.1 billion to combat Zika this year and next year.

While Zika is usually harmless to adults, some women infected with Zika while pregnant give birth to babies with severely disabling brain injury, including microcephaly. Many of The Arc’s more than 650 chapters provide supports and services to families and people with a range of disabilities, including severe disabilities.

The Arc has long held a position on the prevention of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), supporting our national efforts to continue to investigate the causes, reduce the incidence and limit the consequences of I/DD through education, clinical and applied research, advocacy, and appropriate supports. We firmly believe that prevention activities do not diminish the value of any individual, but rather strive to maximize independence and enhance quality of life for people with I/DD.

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 650 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.