National Convention Preconference Dedicated to Self Advocacy

Joe Meadours at ConventionThe Arc’s annual National Convention kicks off August 3 with a preconference dedicated to fostering self-advocacy among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Join us on Seattle’s East Side for “Oh, the Possibilities: Self-Advocates as Leaders in Your Community”  hosted by The National Council of Self-Advocates of The Arc.

We will explore the all of the possibilities for self-advocate leaders in the community with training on effective communication, networking, building leadership skills, developing funding for self-advocacy group startups, and a demonstration of Self-Advocacy Online, a website dedicated to the self-advocacy movement. Don’t miss a special presentation of the history of the disability movement and civil rights and an art activity to get the crowd going as well.

Register now! A separate preconference registration is required in addition to your Convention registration but is only $15 for self-advocates! And, take advantage of early bird discounts on Convention registration when you sign up before July 5! Get the full Convention schedule and check out the other special events we have planned at www.thearc.org/convention.

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.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month Q&A with Laurie Ertz

This month, The Arc’s blog will feature a Q & A with members of The Arc’s national office staff to help raise awareness of issues important to the I/DD community during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Laurie Ertz is the Director of Chapter Excellence and works with our national network of 700_ chapters to give them the tools and resources they need to better serve people with I/DD.

Laurie Ertz

Q. Laurie, you recently helped launch The Arc’s National Council of Self Advocates. Why is it important to have people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in leadership roles at The Arc.

A. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), whether they identify as self advocates or not, are quite simply the only people who can tell us what truly matters to them. As much as the people who love and support them care about their well-being, that caregiver cannot completely put him or herself in the shoes of a person with an intellectual or developmental disability. So, as an organization, we need to fully include people with I/DD, especially in leadership roles to even hope to move forward toward our goal. It’s all about perspective and the unique perspective of an individual with I/DD is the most valuable resource we have as a movement.

“[They] are quite simply the only people who can tell us what truly matters to them.”

The National Council of Self Advocates was developed to ensure that individuals with I/DD have a clear voice in creating lives that allow them meaningful choices for a promising future. It’s designed to help them be leaders in their communities, share their values of self determination and help educate their communities about I/DD. We invite anyone with I/DD who is a member of The Arc to participate in or contribute to the Council and let us hear your voice!

The Arc Announces the National Council of Self Advocates

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc is officially launching the National Council of Self Advocates of The Arc (NCSA), and inviting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) across the country to join. The first national council of its kind, the NCSA will allow individuals with I/DD to join a network of leaders representing the full spectrum of ages and abilities across The Arc’s national chapter network. While promoting the active involvement of individuals with I/DD in the work of The Arc, this Council will give self-advocates the  chance to support each other and provide learning opportunities as they grow as advocates in their community.

“This Council allows self-advocates to share their unique perspective and truly make an impact in their communities. While we work nationally on behalf of people with I/DD and their families, nothing is quite as powerful as hearing directly from self-advocates about what is important to them. They can be our movement’s strongest messengers, and this council will harness that power,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

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. In addition, the Council will also be promoting leadership roles for individuals with I/DD in local chapters of The Arc and supporting The Arc’s commitment to employing individuals with I/DD.  Learn more about the focus areas of the Council and how to join.

The NCSA is being co-convened by Barbara Coppens, Joe Meadours, and Kurt Rutzen who are all members of The Arc’s National Board of Directors. They each have a deep personal interest in this Council and are looking forward to creating a strong network of self-advocates across the country.

“I am working to educate self-advocates like myself, siblings, and family members to be more involved in advocating for our rights,” said Barbara Coppens, who has a long history of fighting for people with I/DD in New Jersey.  She works tirelessly, educating legislators in New Jersey about why it is so important to remove the “r-word” from state statutes and writing articles on self-advocacy to inspire others like her to join in the movement.

“This is an opportunity for us to voice our opinions and show what self-advocates across the country care about,” Joe Meadours said. “If we don’t have the proper services we won’t have a quality life.”  Joe has been an advocate for many years and wants to use his story to encourage individuals with I/DD to be advocates for themselves and others. He has worked in five states supporting the self advocacy movement; most recently he served as Executive Director for People First of California.

“I believe that The Arc’s National Council of Self Advocates gives the opportunity for people with disabilities to really say what they feel and to get their voices out there in a way they haven’t before,” said Kurt Rutzen, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and works for the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration. Kurt began his career by conducting interviews for Quality Assurance Region 10, an organization that creates and implements person-centered interviews that enhance the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities in Minnesota. Through this job, he was introduced to The Arc of Southeast Minnesota.