The Arc Launches eXplore eRecycling Sustainability Efforts

Washington, DC – The Arc of the United States is launching its “eXplore eRecycling” initiative, funded by a $465,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation. Through the initiative, 10 chapters of The Arc will be awarded funds to help develop or enhance electronic waste management programs that offer community-based employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“The eXplore eRecycling initiative is a wonderful chance to show how individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can excel in cutting edge jobs while earning competitive salaries.  By bringing together the disability and the e-recycling communities, we hope to create more employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Each sub-grantee will be awarded a grant to start or expand their electronic waste recycling program.  Throughout the program, sub-grantees will engage in peer learning and network with one another.  The peer learning aspect of this grant will allow sub-grantees to share expertise and knowledge regarding topics pertinent to e-recycling and employment with each other. They will also have the unique opportunity to interact with members of an Expert Advisory Committee made up of leaders from the e-recycling, environmental, disability, and business fields. These experts will provide their knowledge and perspectives to identify practice and policy recommendations that further electronic waste conservation efforts and competitive employment outcomes for people with I/DD.

Members of the Expert Advisory Committee work for a variety of organizations including: National Youth Leadership Network, University of Maine’s Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies, Disability Rights New Jersey, University of Vermont-Center on Disability and Community Inclusion, Basel Action Network, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc., Good360, Arc Thrift Stores, National Center for Electronics Recycling, Northeast Recycling Center, Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities, and NISH.

The sub-grantees are listed below in alphabetical order:

  • AHRC Nassau – Long Island, NY
  • Genesee ARC – Batavia, NY
  • Kreider Services  - Dixon, IL
  • Seneca Cayuga ARC – Waterloo, NY
  • SouthStar Services – Chicago Heights, IL
  • The Arc of Clarion and Venango Counties – Clarion, PA
  • The Arc of Greater Haverhill-Newburyport – Haverhill, MA
  • The Arc of Hamilton County – Chattanooga, TN
  • The Arc of Madison County – Huntsville, AL
  • The Arc of the Virginia Peninsula, Inc. – Hampton, VA

The Arc Celebrates the 22nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc joins with advocates across the country to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This landmark civil rights law was created to eliminate discrimination against people based on their disabilities.  Members of The Arc’s national staff joined administration officials, including Senior Advisor to the President Valerie B. Jarrett, at the White House this morning to commemorate the signing of this historic law.

Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, speaks at the ADA commemoration

“As we celebrate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we must acknowledge the millions of advocates who made this law possible.  Members of The Arc have spent the last 60 years working to promote full inclusion and equality for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, but our work is far from over.  Today, we look back on the many accomplishments of the last 22 years as we continue to work toward a future free of discrimination,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The ADA protects the civil rights of individuals with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, privately operated public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, stores, museums, etc.), transportation, and telecommunications.  A person with a disability, as defined by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major bodily functions or major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such impairment, or a person who is regarded as having an impairment.

The ADA’s integration mandate has helped many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) leave institutions and move to community based settings.  However, there are still many individuals living in nursing homes and other types of institutional settings who could and who want to live in more integrated settings.

The Arc Commends Governor Jack Markell’s New Initiative to Employ Individuals with Disabilities

Washington, DC – This week, Delaware Governor Jack Markell was named Chair of the National Governors Association (NGA). Shortly after his appointment became official, the Governor announced that during his year-long term, his Chair’s initiative will be increasing employment among individuals with disabilities. The Arc fully supports Governor Markell’s efforts and applauds him for his work on behalf of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and other disabilities.

“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are capable of excelling in the workforce and giving back to the communities in which they live. We commend Governor Markell for bringing national attention to the employment challenges facing individuals with disabilities and for working to create employment opportunities for them through innovative public-private partnerships.  The Arc has long recognized the need for employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and we look forward to supporting the Governor’s initiative,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

A major emphasis of the Governor’s initiative will be on people who have significant intellectual and developmental disabilities and may require supports like job coaches and personal attendants in order to live and work in the community. Throughout the year he will convene governors, businesses, disability leaders, and other thought leaders. The initiative will focus on educating public and private sector employers and supporting state governments to join with business partners to develop and build out blueprints to promote the hiring and retention of people with disabilities.

The Department of Labor released statistics in 2011 stating that 17.8 percent of Americans with a disability are employed, compared to 63.6 percent of those with no disability.  The Arc’s own research suggests that the employment picture for people with I/DD may be even bleaker.  In 2010, The Arc conducted and received over 5,000 responses to a national online survey called the Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports, or FINDS Survey, to obtain perceptions of people with I/DD and their families on a range of life-span issues. Only 15% of FINDS survey respondents reported that their family member with I/DD was employed.

“The bottom line is that there are so many people with disabilities who have the time, talent and desire to make meaningful contributions to interested employers,” Governor Markell said. “More companies are recognizing that creating greater economic opportunity for these workers improves their own bottom line as well. It doesn’t matter whether you were born with additional challenges to face or – in the case of our wounded veterans for example – acquired them later in life. What matters is what you have to offer.”

An Open Letter to the Dr. Phil Show: People with Disabilities Have a Voice

Dear Dr. Phil,

What the disability community can do:

I am writing on behalf of the millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in our nation and their loved ones that may have seen the April 13, 2012 Dr. Phil episode entitled “Deadly Consequences.” As the nation’s largest organization serving and advocating on behalf of people with I/DD, with a network of over 700 chapters across the country, we’ve received many outraged complaints about the content of this program, and after viewing it, I felt compelled to contact you to voice our concerns.

Frankly, we are appalled by the superficial coverage given to a subject that is, literally, a matter of life or death for Jeffrey, Janet and many other people with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. Your show did a great disservice to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as others who develop severe disabilities throughout their lifetimes as a consequence of traumatic brain injury, trauma experienced in serving our country, and the natural process of aging. Moreover, asking the audience to serve as Dr. Phil’s death panel and vote on whether Jeffrey’s and Janet’s lives are worth living was simply wrong. It is reassuring that the majority of people taking the online poll on your website reject the audience’s conclusion.

Annette Corriveau is entitled to free speech. But so are her son Jeffrey and daughter Janet. While they cannot physically speak for themselves, your program still could have provided for their voice to be heard. It should not be presumed that people who can’t speak are totally unable to communicate. Perhaps you could have interviewed the caregivers who interact with them on a day to day basis and could speak with authority about how Jeffrey and Janet communicate what they are feeling and about their quality of life. Often it is more a matter of our learning how to listen and to interpret the other cues that individuals with severe disabilities are able to provide. Your show focused only on Annette’s opinion, and while she is their mother, she admitted that she sees them only every other month and institutionalized her children many years ago.

You also could have interviewed other people with severe disabilities who, like Jeffrey and Janet, were written off as having no value and no abilities, yet who have succeeded in living in and in participating in their communities. Too often people with severe disabilities are dismissed, yet when given a chance and provided appropriate supports they can rise above the low expectations that others have for them. You might, for example, have interviewed other parents who fought to get their son or daughter out of an institution and have been amazed at how they have succeeded far beyond what anyone expected.

The show would also have been enriched by interviewing some of the many experts that have a deep understanding of individuals like Jeffrey and Janet and extensive experience in supporting people with severe disabilities to live meaningful lives in the community. There are families all across the nation fighting to get their sons and daughters with severe disabilities out of institutions and get them the home and community based services they need. Their perspective, and that of advocates in the disability rights movement, would have added balance to the show. Your viewers need to understand the history of oppression of people with severe disabilities in the country and how far we’ve come. The viewer has no idea of the dark history of the eugenics movement in the United States and globally because you didn’t show it.

The Arc is the largest national charity federation advocating for and serving people with I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 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.

We can serve as a resource for future shows, providing technical assistance and suggesting guests (experts in the I/DD field, self-advocates, professional support staff, and families) to help explain the complex issues facing people with I/DD for the audience who may have no interaction with people with disabilities in their daily lives. The result of your failure to include this perspective left the impression on your millions of viewers that Jeffrey, Janet, and other citizens with disabilities don’t have a voice and rights. They do.

The Dr. Phil show has a responsibility to get it right for your viewers, including people with I/DD. On behalf of people with I/DD and their families, we ask that you plan another show that would demonstrate this history, illustrating how people with severe disabilities who were previously relegated to institutions have defied all expectations.

The timing is right for you to put these issues in the living rooms of Americans, as fifty years ago, President Kennedy made a call to the nation to help bring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of the shadows, to give them opportunities to lead productive, quality lives. We are also approaching the 30th anniversary of the state of New York announcing the closure of the nation’s most notorious institution, Willowbrook, which was an overcrowded, filthy, deplorable warehouse for thousands of children for decades and the site of a highly controversial Hepatitis A study starting in the mid-1950s through the 1970s.

The Arc stands ready and willing to assist you in preparing a program that accurately portrays the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, shows the rich history of this movement, and makes the public aware of just how similar people with severe disabilities are to you and me.

I hope you take The Arc up on our offer to be a resource for you so that you can live up to your duty as a journalist and so that people with I/DD have a seat at your table in upcoming episodes.

Peter V. Berns
CEO, The Arc of the United States

What the Disability Community Can Do

If you share the same concern that we do about this episode, send Dr. Phil a message on Twitter and let him know your feelings. Use the hashtag: #VoiceofTheArc

Here’s an example:

@DrPhil Individuals who are non-verbal still have a voice. Give everyone a chance to hear them on a future show. #VoiceofTheArc

The Arc’s Leaders Invited to the White House for High Level Briefings and to Advocate for People with Disabilities

Washington, DC – Tomorrow, 150 leaders of The Arc from across the country will attend a White House Community Leaders Briefing. Over the course of the day, leaders of chapters of The Arc, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), will be briefed by high level White House and Administration officials on topics ranging from Medicaid to education to community living and employment for people with I/DD, and have the chance to engage with and ask questions of these officials.

“This opportunity comes at a pivotal time for The Arc in our work to advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  Our chapter leaders will add an invaluable perspective, from the front lines of our movement, in our ongoing conversations with senior officials at the White House.  I’m looking forward to The Arc’s network flooding the halls of the White House and listening to advocates from across the country tell their stories,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

During the day-long event, participants will hear from senior White House and administration officials.  Additionally, there will be a series of policy breakout sessions that will allow for more detailed discussions on certain issue areas, like community living, education, and Medicaid. The purpose of these briefings is to allow White House and administration officials to hear from leaders of The Arc about how government policies affect the lives of people with I/DD and impact their ability to live full, independent lives.  This unique, face-to-face opportunity to speak directly to people in positions to make change from within the government will allow leaders of The Arc to make the voices of the millions of people with I/DD heard at the White House.  As The Arc gears up to raise awareness of I/DD during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March , chapter leaders can take home new tools to help individuals in their communities utilize programs of the federal government.

“The Arc, as one of the largest organizations working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, brings a wealth of experience and insight to discuss today’s most important concerns facing persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We’re looking forward to having them here at the White House to deepen our partnership, and to discuss the issues we care about most,” Jon Carson, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement at the White House.

The Arc Responds to the U.S. House of Representatives Vote to Repeal the CLASS Program

Washington, DC – The Arc of the United States, released the following statement in response to the U.S. House of Representatives vote to repeal the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program.

“Repealing the CLASS Program could force Americans to wait another generation for a solution to the need for long term services.  This bill doesn’t change the fact that many Americans require these services, and it certainly doesn’t relieve the pressure off of Medicaid so that Medicaid can better serve the needs of low income communities.  This vote won’t be the last say on this issue, and The Arc stands ready to work with Congress and the Administration to find a workable solution,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program was created by the Affordable Care Act to help working adults prepare for their future in the event they need help maintaining independence in the community. If CLASS is not implemented, the Medicaid program will continue to take on the load of long term service needs for many individuals. Average home and community-based care now costs over $21,000 per year.  Few Americans have insurance to cover these costs.  Only 3% have private long term care insurance and the majority are forced to impoverish themselves to qualify for Medicaid.

The Arc’s Reaction to the Department of Justice and Commonwealth of Virginia Settlement Regarding Institutions

Washington, DC – The Arc, the nation’s largest and oldest human rights organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) serving more than a million individuals and their families, issued the following statement on the news that the Commonwealth of Virginia has reached a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding four of its institutions for people with I/DD.

“This settlement is a big step forward in bringing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of the shadows and into communities across Virginia, where they belong.  The Department of Justice’s commitment to monitoring and oversight of the implementation of this agreement will be key to ensuring that the shift to community based services away from institutions will be successful for people with I/DD in Virginia.

“The Arc of Virginia and the network of chapters across the state have been instrumental in putting this agreement in place.  They will continue their work at the state capitol to advocate for additional resources for people with disabilities so that they can move off of waiting lists and begin receiving the supports they need to live independent lives in the community,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc Responds to Potential Change in Definition of Autism

Washington, DC – The Arc is the nation’s largest and oldest human rights organization for the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), serving more than a million individuals and their families including people with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified (P.D.D.-N.O.S).  In response to the news that the American Psychiatric Association is working on revisions to the definition of autism, The Arc issued the following reaction:

“Over the last decade, we have made major strides in ensuring that people diagnosed with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and P.D.D.-N.O.S. have access to the services that advance their health, education, independent living skills, and work skills.  These efforts have increased inclusion in educational settings, and, in society, young adults with disabilities are gaining life skills that can lead to jobs and independence.  The unintended consequences of a diagnostic definition change could potentially limit access to the services that children and adults with autism and P.D.D.-N.O.S. need, potentially putting at risk their education, and the health and economic stability of their own lives and the lives of their families,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc Announces New Office in Nevada to Serve People with Disabilities and their Families

Washington, DC – This month, The Arc of the United States announced the launch of the “Growing a Grassroots Advocacy Movement” project in Nevada. This program, funded by the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and The Arc of the United States, will work to develop long-term capacity for advocates to have input and impact on issues of importance to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.

The launch of this project will mark the first time The Arc will have a statewide presence in Nevada since the mid-nineties. Specifically this project will train individuals with developmental disabilities and members of their families on how to impact disability policy at the local, regional and state levels, culminating in a grassroots campaign. The training, called Partners Plus, will be conducted across the state, targeting graduates of previous Nevada Partners in Policymaking classes.

“The Arc is very excited about this opportunity to serve Nevada on a statewide level for the first time in over a decade. This is a wonderful chance to empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as their family members, to be advocates and influence disability policy right in their own backyard,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

In addition to the Partners Plus program, The Arc in Nevada will expand efforts to support individuals with I/DD and their families through new chapter recruitment, grassroots advocacy development, and collaborative efforts with communities across Nevada.

This project will be staffed by a new member of The Arc’s team, Nicole Schomberg. Nicole is a parent of a child with developmental disabilities, and has extensive experience working with families and self-advocates in Nevada. To learn more about this program visit The Arc in Nevada website.

The Arc Announces Major Initiatives for Siblings of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC – The Arc of the United States is building on the foundation of the organization, founded by families over 60 years ago, by announcing two major initiatives for siblings of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) – a new partnership with the national Sibling Leadership Network (SLN), and the formation of The Arc’s National Sibling Council.

The leadership and active involvement of siblings is critical to ensuring the full inclusion and participation of their loved ones in all aspects of community life.  These exciting new initiatives seek to connect siblings as an important segment of the disability movement to impact policy, service delivery, and the quality of life for the millions of Americans with I/DD.  The Arc’s new sibling initiatives will also provide the necessary support to siblings who are looking for resources and answers to questions unique to them and their family’s future.

“Families, including siblings, built The Arc into what it is today, and these initiatives build upon their decades-long work in the disability movement.  Siblings don’t always recognize their own unique ability to impact their loved one’s life, and the lives of millions of other siblings just like them across the country, just by banding together, supporting each other, and speaking up,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

Berns added: “There is a tremendous opportunity in communities throughout the country to harness the power of siblings as advocates, working hand-in-hand with their brothers and sisters with I/DD, as a force for change.  Siblings are a critical part of the movement to protect the rights of people with I/DD to be included in society.”

Founded in 2007, the mission of the SLN is to provide siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and to promote the issues important to them and their entire families.  Under this new partnership, the two organizations will develop and offer dedicated programming for siblings at The Arc’s National Convention and other events, including distance learning based programs on topics of interest to siblings, volunteers and professionals of The Arc on sibling issues.  They will also create networking opportunities for siblings using social media tools, support the development of sibling services at state and local chapters of The Arc, and work to establish state and local chapters of the SLN.

“Siblings represent the longest lasting relationship many experience.  As we age, siblings who were once rivals grow closer and we come to rely on each other for essential support, particularly as parents age. Through our partnership with The Arc, we believe that we can make a difference in the long term natural supports of people with disabilities by providing their brothers and sisters the information they need through welcoming communities. By getting siblings involved in the game earlier and more often, we think it can allow siblings and people with disabilities to have more control over the involvement of family in support across the lifespan,” said John Kramer, Sibling and Chair of The Sibling Leadership Network.

Born out of this partnership will be the creation of The Arc’s National Sibling Council.  This new initiative of The Arc will offer opportunities for networking and support to siblings and their families, build a broad network of siblings that support the advocacy and programmatic efforts of The Arc at all levels, offer leadership development and training through involvement in standing and ad hoc committees and task forces of The Arc, and provide face-to-face and online networking and social opportunities.  In addition, The Council will be a place that siblings of individuals with I/DD that may be new to or overwhelmed by their role can turn to when they need guidance or support in situations unique to their family.

The Arc’s National Sibling Council welcomes all siblings and those who support siblings who are members of The Arc either at the local, state or national level.  Those interested in becoming Contributors to the Council, by donating additional funds, will ensure the establishment and sustainability of this essential new program.  Go to our website to learn more about and join the National Sibling Council and take the opportunity to become a Contributor.

“Being a sibling of a person with I/DD is interesting, funny, frustrating, proud, challenging, loving and respectful.  Growing up with my sister Martha, I could usually convince my parents to let her try something they were worried that she could not do by telling them that I would do it with her.  How amazing it would have been to hear another sibling’s stories – to learn how to manage something differently, to share anger, to boast of an achievement that to my friends might seem trivial, but another sibling ‘knows’ the triumph.  The Sibling Leadership Network and The Arc’s National Sibling Council are welcoming networks that identify with siblings, help them connect with information and with other siblings, and learn how to partner and to advocate,” said Nancy Webster, Vice President of the National Board of The Arc of the United States and a sibling of a sister with I/DD.