An Update on Eliza – “Why Not Me?”

Eliza Schaaf Artwork image

Eliza Schaaf works on one of her projects.

Readers of The Arc’s blog might remember Eliza Schaaf, the college student with Down syndrome who was removed from her art class at Southern Oregon University just a few hours shy of completion last year because school officials determined that she did not meet academic standards for participating.

Eliza, her family, fellow students and others in the community petitioned the school to allow her to finish the course, but ultimately they declined. Eliza’s family started a blog for her detailing her experiences and allowing others to express support for her. Throughout the spring and summer of 2011, Eliza asked the school to address the issue of her exclusion and garnered support in the form of a petition signed by all of her classmates and a resolution passed by the school’s Student Senate. Although the school eventually did revise some of their policies, they would not respond to Eliza directly.

Although Eliza was disappointed by the outcome of that situation, she has moved on to bigger and better things! Students from Chapman University filmed a documentary about Eliza’s experiences. The film, called “Hold My Hand,” is currently screening at film festivals across the country and will be aired on Southern California Public Television. And, now Eliza is on a speaking tour advocating for inclusion at colleges and universities. In addition to being invited to participate on the keynote panel at the State of the Art Conference on Postsecondary Education and Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities at George Mason University in Virginia, she has conducted workshops with SOU and Chapman University Students and it taking her “Why Not Me?” presentation to a variety of conferences in hopes of creating change in the way postsecondary educational institutions work to include students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Find out more about what Eliza has been up to on her blog at

The Arc Can Help You Ditch That Clunker!

Old White Car

Did you know The Arc takes donations of old vehicles? Not only can you get an old clunker out of your yard, you can earn a tax break for your donation just in time for the upcoming tax preparation season. Best of all, you help The Arc continue on its mission to advocate for and serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

It sounds like a win-win situation, but I know what you’re thinking….all the paperwork and hassles with the IRS, ugh! Don’t worry, we’ll take care of all of that. The Arc has partnered with the Melwood Charity Car Donation Center to make it as easy as possible for you to donate an old vehicle to The Arc. Simply go online to donate your car or call toll-free 1-877-272-2270 Monday through Saturday and give their friendly operators some basic information and they’ll arrange for FREE towing of your vehicle. And, they’ll process all of the necessary paperwork you need to claim your deduction and mail you a Non-Cash Charitable Contributions form within 4-6 weeks. Many of our chapters across the country participate in The Arc’s Vehicle Donation Program – if your local chapter is participating, you can designate that your donation benefit them. Simply ask the operator or choose your local chapter as the beneficiary when you donate online.

Donate today or find out more about how the program works on our website. And, check out the useful  Donors Guide to Vehicle Donations from the IRS to help you maximize your deduction. You won’t have to worry about the hassle of trying to repair, advertise to sell or attempting to junk your old car yourself. Just one call or click and we’ll take care of it for you!

Imagine What We Can Do Together

A brother and sister hug

Do you believe that all people, including those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) have abilities and value? Do you believe people with I/DD have the right to live and work in communities of their choosing? Have you thought about aligning your group with The Arc as a chapter?

The Arc is the largest community-based organization for people with I/DD, leading a national movement advocating for and supporting families and individuals with I/DD across their lifetimes and across all diagnoses. We believe in self-determination and empowering people with the support they need to make informed decisions and choices about how they live. Do you?

Although we’re a large, national organization with a strong, 60-year history of advocating for people with I/DD, our true strength is found within our network of more than 700 chapters across the country. It is people like you working through local organizations who are on the front lines serving and supporting people with I/DD and their families. How much more could you do with the power of The Arc behind you?

We’d like to find out. The Arc is now actively seeking organizations to join our chapter network and take advantage of benefits such as strong federal advocacy initiatives, organizational support, a bold national identity, discounts on training and events, access to collaborative fundraising projects, a network of experienced executives offering professional support, and other resources to make the work you do a little easier. Find out more at or contact Dee Dee Eberle, Director of Chapter Organizing and Advocacy at today.

P.S. If becoming a Chapter is not your cup of tea, but you still would like to support The Arc, consider becoming an Organizational Member. Explore the benefits.

A Blueprint for Change

Blueprint for Change Report Cover by The Arc of Indiana

Earlier this year, The Arc of Indiana embarked on a broad-based campaign to create change in Indiana’s systems for serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Starting with the creation of a Big Minds Group made up of leaders in the field, and continuing with Pathways Forums held throughout Indiana to gather input from individuals with I/DD and their families, their efforts led to the formation of the Indiana Response Team to develop goals and take action. All of those elements of the campaign have come together in The Arc of Indiana’s Blueprint for Change.

The Blueprint for Change is a thorough report which takes a fresh and sometimes hard look at current systems in Indiana then lays out a bold action plan for creating change in how individuals and families receive services. The Arc of Indiana is actively distributing this blueprint online and sending out hard copies upon request. They recently distributed copies to attendees at their annual state conference and provided additional copies to local chapters throughout the state so those chapters could lead the way in taking action in their communities. Check out the Blueprint for Change online or contact The Arc of Indiana at 1-800-382-9100 for more information.

Nationwide Emergency Alert Test May Not Have Visual Disclaimer

On November 9, 2011, at 2 p.m. EST, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct the first-ever nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) consisting of an announcement on every TV and radio channel. This system allows FEMA to communicate important information to citizens in the event of a national emergency. The November 9 alter is ONLY a test of the notification system and no action is required.

However, some people watching cable television may receive only an audio – not visual – notice that this is only a test due to technical limitations of the system. People with hearing impairments will see what appears to be an actual emergency alert but will not see any text on the screen indicating that this is only a test. If this applies to you, don’t be alarmed if you see what appears to be an emergency alert on November 9, it is only a test and no action is required. You can visit the FCC for more information about the test alert.

Family Served by The Arc of Jackson County Gets Extreme Home Makeover

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition LogoThe McPhail family from Medford in southern Oregon, are set to receive an Extreme Home Makeover from the popular ABC show of the same name to help their sons, Sawyer and Thatcher, who have autism. A third son, Crew, does not have autism. The family is served by the Families for Community program, a parent-driven group advocating for the full inclusion of all children, which is part of The Arc of Jackson County. The episode is currently scheduled to air Friday, October 28 (please check local listings).

Parents C.J. and Lindsay McPhail were interviewed on the building site by The Dove, a local Christian broadcaster, and thanked Emilie Sampson, the program director for Families for Community, along with her husband Matt, for nominating them for the show. Watch the full interview here.

Although they couldn’t reveal details of the special features built into the home until the program airs, Lindsey McPhail would say that “It’s set up to make our life easier in even the tiniest aspects. It’s going to make me a better mom.” In addition to the challenges of three growing boys, two with special needs, the McPhails contended with mold and asbestos problems along with old wiring and a lack of heat in part of their former home.

Of the new house, C.J. McPhail said “this home is a hug. It’s a home that when you walk into it just gives you a hug with all of the love that went into it.”

Along with praising all of the community volunteers and various nonprofit groups the family is involved in, the McPhails had high praise for the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition team. “They care about the cause and spreading awareness of autism. They’re truly amazing people, it’s not an act,” said C.J.

Once the episode airs and the family is authorized to share details about the house with the community, they plan on letting people tour their new home as a fundraising and awareness raising activity for the local nonprofits such as The Arc who they are associated with.

Who’s a Top NonProfit? The Arc!

The Arc has been chosen as one of the top nonprofits working for people with disabilities by Philanthropedia, a subsidiary of GuideStar, a nonprofit organization working to make you aware of the highest impact nonprofits in a cause. The Arc was selected as one of eleven high-impact nonprofits in the disability field by a group of 79 experts, including foundation professionals, nonprofit senior staff, academics, and researchers.

So what, exactly, does it mean to be “high impact?” The experts at Philanthropedia evaluated each nonprofit based on their ability to carry out their mission, organizational strengths and, most importantly, evidence of the impact they are achieving on behalf of the people and communities they serve. According to one expert who reviewed The Arc’s submission, “The Arc is the nation’s touchstone for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. The Arc has become the national center for information dissemination. In addition, its leadership has committed itself to ensuring that Washington keeps people with disabilities in the forefront when making important employment, health care and related decisions.” That means donors and supporters can feel comfortable with The Arc, secure in the knowledge that this organization is adept at channeling that support into activities that truly have a “high impact” on the people they serve.

Philanthropedia, acquired by GuideStar in April 2011, is unique from other online rating sites or donation sites because they use experts to identify high-impact nonprofits. GuideStar is the industry leader in nonprofit data with information on more than 1.8 million nonprofits.

“We are honored to have received this distinction from Philanthropedia and GuideStar. For the last 60 years, The Arc has led the movement for improving the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In order to continue our mission, we need the support of donors, advocates, and dedicated professionals in the disability field, and this acknowledgement can only help us grow at all levels, nationally and in local communities across the country,” said Peter V. Berns, The Arc’s CEO.

Have you considered supporting The Arc? To read more about what experts in the field have to say about us, click on the Expert Reviews section on The Arc’s organization profile. And, check out for more about what we do. We have been honored by BBB/Wise Giving Alliance and American Institute on Philanthropy and the recently released Charting Impact initiative as well. We’d love for you to join us!

Advocacy Does Matter!

Joe Arridy and his Mother image

Joe Arridy and his mother.

If you’re planning on attending The Arc’s National Convention this September, you’ll get to hear firsthand the dramatic story of how The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region along with Bob Perske, David Martinez , fought for and won a pardon for a man with intellectual and developmental disabilities who was wrongly convicted of murder.

On January 7, 2011, seventy-two years and one day after Joe Arridy was wrongly executed, justice was finally served. Thanks to tireless advocacy efforts, years of public awareness campaigns, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter granted Joe a posthumous pardon. Joe was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and committed to the “Colorado State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives” at the age of 10. The institution determined that Joe had an IQ of 46. While on trial for the murder of the young girl, physiatrists testified that Joe had “the mind of a 6 year old” but that he was not “insane.” Though his attorney worked tirelessly against the highly questionable prosecution, Joe was found guilty and executed.

The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region dedicated itself to clearing Joe’s name. Working with advocates in the community, local attorneys, and even screenwriters to raise awareness of the injustice, the story of Joe Arridy began to spread throughout Colorado. Their dedication paid off. Now those advocates are being honored with the annual Advocacy Matters! Award at The Arc’s National Convention in Denver, CO September 16-19.

More National Convention Awards! Check the full Convention schedule for the dates and times of the awards presentations.

Image and Inclusion Award

Presented to Dr. Temple Grandin for inspiring an award-winning movie with her life and work. “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes has been recognized with Golden Globes, Emmys and most recently a Peabody Award, helping to raise awareness about autism.

Research in Action

Presented to Ashley A. Wolfe for significantly contributing to participatory action research efforts in the I/DD field.

Distinguished Researcher in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Award

Presented to Richard E. Hemp for his critical contributions to data on family support and the federal expenditures that support people with I/DD.

Let the Voting Begin!

Ability Magazine Logo

Sponsored by Ability Magazine

Who will be the winner of The Arc’s Achieve with us contest? That’s up to you.

For the past month, we have been receiving entries from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities competing for a chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C. and have their story of achievement featured in ABILITY Magazine. We’re narrowing the field to a set of 10 finalists – that’s where you come in. Visit between July 15 and August 15 and vote for your favorite story. The Arc will choose the grand prize winner from among the top 10 vote getters.

If you or someone you know entered, plan to vote before August 15. If you don’t have a favorite yet, view all of the inspiring stories of achievement on our Facebook fan page and tell us who should win with your vote! There are 100+ amazing stories and every one of them deserves to be checked out. It may be really difficult to decide a winner. You can get the full contest details and rules at and be sure to encourage everyone you know to vote! Thanks for helping to make this contest a success.

Serious Star Power Coming to The Arc’s National Convention

Dr. Temple Grandin

You might need sunglasses to attend The Arc’s National Convention in Denver this September. We’re bringing serious star power to the stage with major wattage coming from Hollywood and the intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) sector.
First up is Dr. David Braddock, a major star in the I/DD community as head of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and the driving force behind the “State of the States in Developmental Disabilities” which offers insight into crucial public policy issues. Dr. Braddock has just updated this vital report for 2011 and will share his thoughts on where we stand on disability policy today.

Plus, Lauren Potter from the hit TV show GLEE will be on hand to present this year’s Image and Inclusion Award for accurate and positive portrayals of I/DD in the media. Lauren, who has Down syndrome, is not only a talented actress but has recently become a very visible spokesperson for the I/DD movement. She filmed a compelling PSA for Spread the Word to End the Word campaign against the “r” word with her co-star Jane Lynch and has spoken out against bullying. She was recently in Washington, D.C. with The Arc to help us publicly release the results of the landmark FINDS (Family and Individual Needs for Disability Support) survey and taped a special message to close our newest PSA currently airing across the country.

Finally, Convention attendees will be treated to a keynote presentation from best-selling author and noted animal scientist Dr. Temple Grandin, who has autism. Dr. Grandin’s life and work was the subject of a popular 2010 HBO biopic starring Clarie Danes. The film was highly-praised and recognized with Emmys, Golden Globes and a Peabody Award.
As you can see, it’s an all-star lineup so grab your autograph book and make your reservations now for The Arc’s National Convention September 16-19 in Denver, CO.