The Arc Opposes Appointment of Judge Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court

Today, The Arc came out in opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the United States Supreme Court. This opposition is based on Judge Kavanaugh’s record on cases relating to disability and civil rights.

Of particular concern are his decisions on cases involving self-determination of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), education, employment, and his stances on the Affordable Care Act and school choice.

“We did not take lightly the decision to oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the US Supreme Court, but after a thorough analysis of his record, we cannot idly sit by knowing that he has demonstrated a disregard for the impact of his judicial philosophy on the lives of people with disabilities and their families time and time again. Judge Kavanaugh has written several troubling opinions and dissents on cases related to disability rights and The Arc’s constituents, including those pertaining to education, affordable health care, and self-determination.

“Particularly concerning is his opinion in Doe. V. Tarlow, a case where women with intellectual disability who resided in the District of Columbia’s Forest Haven institution brought a class action lawsuit against the District for violating their due process rights. The District, through its developmental disabilities agency, consented to subject them to non-emergency surgical procedures, including abortions and eye surgeries, without even talking to them and their family members. Judge Kavanaugh’s ruling is disturbing in his apparent lack of appreciation for the humanity of individuals with intellectual disability, their basic human rights, and their ability and right to participate in important life decisions even when found legally unable to make decisions by themselves.

“The Arc urges Senators to not confirm Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to our highest court. The Senate should not confirm a Justice to the Supreme Court whose judicial philosophy threatens the autonomy and well-being of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

Back to School Tips for Families of Students with Disabilities

Two sisters with glasses, backpacks, and tablets stand against a white background, with other students unfocused behind them.The start of a new school year can bring both excitement and anxiety for students and parents, especially for families of students receiving special education supports. Students with disabilities who struggle with change may need extra help making the transition to a new school or teacher.
To help families start the new school year off right, The Arc@School offers the following tips:
  • Prepare your children before school starts by discussing any anxiety your child may have, setting clear expectations, and slowly transitioning back to your child’s school routine and schedule.
  • Review your child’s IEP prior to the start of the school year to ensure that the goals, support services, and placement are still appropriate. Make sure to consider any progress or regression your child may have experienced over the summer or since the last IEP.
  • Meet with your child’s teachers and related services providers before school starts to review the IEP together and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding implementation of the IEP. This is also a great opportunity to establish a communication plan with the teachers and related service providers!
  • Once school begins, allow your child some time to get used to the new classes, teachers, and schedule, and your child’s teachers some time to get used to your child’s unique strengths and needs, but do not wait too long to address any issues that might arise!  Having open and respectful communication and dealing with challenges early can help avoid much bigger problems later.

If you have any concerns about your child’s services or supports, you can visit The Arc@School to learn more about your rights and where you can find help.

A young elementary-aged boy sits smiling in a chair, and an older girl poses behind it. There is a school bus in the background.

The Arc Condemns Plan to Fund Paid Leave by Putting Retirement Security at Risk

Today, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced legislation to provide new parents with a partially-paid leave benefit, funded by cutting their future Social Security retirement benefits. Representative Ann Wagner (R-MO) has indicated that she plans to introduce similar legislation in September.

“While we appreciate Senator Rubio and Representative Wagner turning their attention to paid leave, this legislation completely misses the mark. It is unconscionable to make workers choose between time with their family after the birth or adoption of a child and a secure retirement.

“In addition, this legislation offers a very limited benefit that won’t meet the needs of many families, such as parents who need extended leave to care for an infant born with multiple disabilities. Furthermore, this plan doesn’t address the most common reason workers take leave – namely, to address a serious illness of their own or of a family member.

“It is shocking that the authors of this bill think that asking people to sacrifice their future financial security for time with their family is appropriate or a solution.  Our nation can and should put in place an inclusive and fiscally responsible paid leave policy that reflects the full range of workers’ leave needs, including people with disabilities and their families. The Arc calls on Congress to reject the Rubio/Wagner plan and the harmful trade-offs that it promotes,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

A 2017 research paper by The Arc and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality found that workers with disabilities and working family members of people with disabilities face significant barriers to economic security and stability. On average, lower incomes and added disability-related costs leave many people with disabilities and their families disproportionately living in or near poverty, including in old age. These findings highlight the importance of paid family and medical leave and Social Security to the financial well-being of people with disabilities and their families.

The Arc recently released the Family & Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) Community Report 2017. The FINDS Survey results highlight the challenges faced by caregivers of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in our nation. With respondents reporting an average of 57 hours of support provided to their loved one each week, 95% of caregivers reported being stressed and nearly 50% reporting being very or extremely stressed. Nearly 90% of caregivers reported that partial paid leave would be helpful to them as they support their loved one with I/DD.

The Arc Responds to the Trump Administration’s Final Rule on Short-Term Limited Duration Insurance

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released the final “short-term plan” rule. These “short-term plans” can provide hollow coverage with hidden gaps for those who sign up. Expanding short-term plans will raise premiums and reduce plan choices for individuals and employers in the regular insurance market.

The proposal expands availability of a group of products that may implement discriminatory practices. This will likely draw healthier individuals off the Marketplace by offering them skinnier, medically-underwritten products, which will inflate prices and out-of-pocket costs on the Marketplace. The Arc believes that insurance coverage must ensure access to timely, affordable, high quality, and comprehensive health care that meets the needs of individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions.

Expanding access to short-term plans will move us even further away from achieving these goals. Short-term plans are not subject to consumer protections that have tremendous value for individuals with disabilities and chronic conditions, such as mandated essential health benefits, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, prohibitions on use of lifetime or annual caps, and other non-discrimination provisions.  For these reasons, The Arc, in partnership with a coalition of other disability rights organizations known as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, released comments earlier this year opposing this rule.

“The Affordable Care Act ended the practice of discriminatory health insurance practices; this rule allows insurance companies to once again set higher premiums based on health conditions. This limits access to comprehensive coverage and that will have a dire impact on people with significant health issues, like individuals with chronic illness and disabilities.

“Make no mistake, today’s final rule undermines current law and puts Americans with pre-existing conditions at risk. We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the Affordable Care Act and the benefits it provides for people with disabilities,” said Julie Ward, Deputy Executive Officer for Public Policy, The Arc.

July 2018 #HandsOff Blog: Medicaid & SSI Equal Independence

#HandsOff is a series on The Arc Blog. Each month, we feature a story from individuals and families across The Arc’s network about how some of today’s key policy issues impact their day to day lives.

 

Meet Samera! Samera is 27 years old, a poet, and likes to read books, go to concerts, and spend time with her friends and family. She lives in a home in her community, supported by The Arc of Baltimore.

This month America celebrates its independence, but for Samera and many people with disabilities across the country, programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) mean independence.

Samera says, “SSI and Medicaid help me to live in the community with independence. SSI helps to pay for my transportation to run daily errands, go to church, and cover the costs of medications and personal items that Medicaid doesn’t cover. Medicaid covers my wheelchair, and because it covers my wheelchair, I’m able to get around and go out, meet new friends, and do all of the things that everyone enjoys doing.”

Check out the video below to learn more about Samera:

The Arc Celebrates the 28th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

ADA Bday Graphic

Today, marks the 28th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA affirms the rights of citizens with disabilities by prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations and services operated by private entities, and telecommunications. It is a wide-ranging law intended to make our society accessible to people with disabilities.

“Today we celebrate one of the greatest victories for people with disabilities in America. Our nation leads the world in respecting and valuing the lives of people with disabilities, fighting tirelessly to promote their rights through landmark legislation like the ADA. The passage of this transformative legislation would not have been possible without the hard work of Congressional leaders and disability advocates. While today we celebrate, we must also recognize recent threats to the ADA and the need for unity in our community. The Arc played a leadership role in the passage of the ADA nearly three decades ago and we remain committed to everything this landmark law stands for. We will actively oppose any attempts to weaken or dismantle the ADA,” said Mary Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, The Arc.

REV UP for National Disability Voter Registration Week, July 16-20

July 16-20, 2018 is National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW)! The REV UP Campaign, organized by the American Association of People with Disabilities, coordinates NDVRW each year to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated about the upcoming election, and ready to cast their ballots. REV UP stands for Register! Educate! Vote! Use Your Power! The campaign aims to increase the engagement of the disability community around voting. Across the country, many chapters of The Arc are coordinating events in their communities for NDVRW in partnership with REV UP.

NDVRW is especially important this year because 2018 is big election year, with elections on the federal, state and local levels. People with disabilities have powerful potential to make their perspectives heard by voting. According to a research report from Rutgers University, there were 35.4 million eligible voters with disabilities in 2016. When we include family members of people with disabilities, the disability community makes up 25% of the total electorate. Yet, people with disabilities often face barriers to voting which often leads to the registering and voting in lower numbers than people without disabilities. Let’s change that!

Ready to celebrate NDVRW and make your voice heard? Here’s how you can get involved:

Image says "Register to vote today: National Disability Voter Registration Week July 16-20" and shows a pen filling in a voting ballot.

  • Register to Vote – Make sure you are registered to vote and your registration is up to date.
  • Register your Friends – Spread the word! Make sure your family and friends are registered to vote, too.
  • Find Out More – Registering is just the first step! To learn more about state laws, where to vote, specific elections, and more, visit The Arc’s Know Your Right to Vote webpage and Self Advocates Becoming Empowered GoVoter site.

 

 

The Arc Partners with the Vera Institute of Justice on National Initiative to Improve Police Responses to Persons with Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities

People living with mental health disabilities and/or intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are disproportionately represented in contacts with law enforcement and other first responders, as well as in every part of the criminal justice system, including jails and prisons. While people with I/DD comprise 2 to 3 percent of the general population, they represent 4 to 10 percent of the prison population.

Interactions with law enforcement can be extremely harmful to community members with disabilities. These interactions are also challenging for responding officers, who do not always have the tools or resources to understand disability. Conservative estimates show that at least 10 percent of calls to police involve people who have mental health disabilities and that 50 to 80 percent of police encounters involve persons with some type of disability. In response to this critical need, the Vera Institute of Justice—in cooperation with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and in partnership with a consortium of organizations, including The Arc—is launching Serving Safely: The National Initiative to Enhance Policing for Persons with Mental Illnesses and Developmental Disabilities. This new initiative is designed to promote collaborative responses for people with mental health disabilities and I/DD who come into contact with the police to improve outcomes and the safety of all parties.

Through Serving Safely, The Arc, Vera, BJA, and other partners will work together to minimize unnecessary detention and incarceration of persons with mental health and developmental disabilities, strengthen connections to community-based supports and services, and grow meaningful partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

The Arc has a long history of work in the criminal justice field and is thrilled to be partnering with Vera on this project. In 2013, The Arc created the National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®). This is the first national center of its kind serving as a bridge between the I/DD community and criminal justice community that focuses on both victim and suspect/defendant/incarcerated person issues. The Center provides training and technical assistance; resources for professionals, people with disabilities, and their supporters; and educates the public about the intersection of criminal justice reform and the advancement of disability rights. Pathways to Justice®, NCCJD’s signature training curriculum, is a comprehensive, community-based training program that helps criminal justice professionals—including law enforcement—understand disability, disability culture, and professionals’ legal obligations toward the disability community.

NCCJD is building the capacity of the criminal justice system to respond appropriately to gaps in existing services for people with disabilities, focusing on people with I/DD, who often remain a hidden population within the criminal justice system, with little or no access to advocacy supports or services. Vera will be partnering directly with the experts and staff that run NCCJD on Serving Safely.

Other key partners on the project include:

  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • CIT International
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • National Disability Rights Network
  • Prosecutors’ Center for Excellence
  • Dr. Amy Watson, University of Illinois, Chicago
  • Dr. Michael Compton

Serving Safely has already started to accept requests from law enforcement agencies for training and technical assistance at www.vera.org/projects/serving-safely/training-and-technical-assistance. If you are interested in learning more about The Arc’s role in the Serving Safely initiative, please email NCCJDinfo@thearc.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, and cerebral palsy. The Arc has a network of nearly 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.

About the Vera Institute of Justice
The Vera Institute of Justice is an independent nonprofit national research and policy organization working with governments to build and improve justice systems that ensure fairness, promote safety, and strengthen communities. For more information about Serving Safely and the Vera Institute of Justice, see www.vera.org/projects/serving-safely.

The Arc Responds to the Department of Education’s Rescinding of Affirmative Action Guidance

Last month, the Trump administration rescinded guidance the Department of Education provides to colleges, universities and K-12 schools on how they can use race and ethnic background in admissions decisions to promote diversity. The Arc has released the following statement in response to the Trump Administration’s actions:

“This is the latest of a series of moves that shows this Administration’s intentions to chip away at the instruments that have been put in place to increase equity and access to quality education for our country’s most vulnerable populations.

“Two weeks ago, The Department of Education and the Department of Justice delayed by two years a regulation intended to prevent race-based imbalances in pre-school and K-12 education for students with disabilities, a regulation whose delay was opposed by the vast majority of parents, students and administrators who submitted public comments.

“Earlier this year, the Administration also indicated its intent to rescind a guidance package to prevent racial disproportionality in public school discipline. While guidance documents are non-binding practical tools that help school systems follow the law, the Trump Administration’s collective actions make clear that it is scaling back efforts made by previous administrations to encourage diversity in our schools. This is a troubling trend in policymaking that may lead to poorer education outcomes for many Americans with and without disabilities,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, The Arc.

The Arc Responds to Trump Administration’s Latest Assault on the Affordable Care Act

Yesterday, the Trump Administration announced funding cuts to programs that assist people enrolling in health insurance. It would result in severe cuts to the Navigator program totaling more than $25 million. Specifically, the funding cuts would decrease the program budget from $36.8 million this year to $10 million in 2019.

Health Care Navigators provide in person assistance to individuals as they enroll in health insurance plans. Programs like this provide essential support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and others who are seeking support as they enroll in health insurance plans.

“The Navigator program provides important support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are dealing with the complexities of finding the right health insurance program to fit their unique needs. Slashing the program creates additional barriers to enrollment in health insurance. This funding cut highlights intent of the Administration to undermine access to health insurance for millions of people with disabilities.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the Affordable Care Act and the benefits it provides for people with disabilities. Our hope is that Members of Congress will realize the dire impact that funding cuts to this program will have in their states and remedy the situation,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer of Public Policy, The Arc.