The Senate Heard You, and Voted Down the Disastrous House Budget Plan!

Late yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted down a federal spending plan that could have disastrous consequences for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The bill aims to make drastic cuts and changes to important programs liked Medicaid, Medicare, the new health care law, and a host of other programs that help people with I/DD achieve. Learn more about the bill.

Here at The Arc, we want to give a big thanks to the hundreds of members who acted on our call to contact their Senator and ask that they vote against this bill! You do make a difference!

For those of you want to get more involved, sign up to get our Action Alerts and become a member of The Arc!

The Arc Commends the U.S. Senate for Voting Down Disastrous Budget for People with Disabilities

WASHINGTON – Late yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted down a federal spending plan that could have disastrous consequences for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).  Leading up to the vote, The Arc, the nation’s largest and oldest human services organization for the I/DD community serving more than a million people with I/DD individuals and their families, opposed this legislation because it would cut $750 billion over 10 years out of Medicaid and end the program as a guaranteed benefit by turning it into a “block grant” that leaves cash-strapped states to fill in the funding gaps with very little oversight.

“The U.S. Senate’s vote put the brakes on a disastrous budget proposal for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  As Congress and the nation continue to debate how to promote economic recovery and tackle our deficit, it can’t be done on the backs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The House of Representatives passed this budget plan, known as the Ryan Plan after its author, Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, in April. The bill includes drastic cuts and changes to:

  • Medicaid: Cuts $750 billion over 10 years and ends Medicaid as a guaranteed benefit by turning it into a “block grant” that leaves cash-strapped states to fill in the funding gaps with very little oversight.
  • Medicare: Replaces Medicare with a voucher program for younger beneficiaries that will certainly provide less than the current system.
  • Discretionary Programs: Eliminates, over time, most federal government programs outside of health care, Social Security, and defense as the cuts are so deep.
  • Health Care Reform: Repeals and defunds the Affordable Care Act.

The $4.3 trillion from all of these cuts would be used to provide $4.2 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years without tackling the nation’s deficit.

For people with I/DD, these cuts would have a huge impact on their health and lives. People with I/DD could be denied health insurance coverage, home and community based services, supportive housing, job training, education, transportation, and other services. Medicaid currently funds 78% of services for individuals with I/DD.

Discrimination in the Workplace – Has It Happened to You?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking up a troubling employer discrimination lawsuit. Jason O’Dell of Maryland applied for work as a lab technician through a major national employment agency. The opportunity seemed promising, but shortly after disclosing his Asperger’s diagnosis, the lawsuit states that Jason was told that the position was “on hold.” But the agency allegedly kept on recruiting to fill the job.

So the federal government stepped in and slapped a lawsuit against the firm, called Randstad. Since this is a huge, national employment agency, The Arc wants to know – has anyone out there had a similar experience with the company? We can’t allow discrimination like this to be tolerated.

Share your story with us in the comments, or email Kristen Bossi at bossi@thearc.org.

Are You Coming to Denver for The Arc’s National Convention?

Dr. Temple Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin

Registration is now open for The Arc’s 2011 National Convention in Denver, CO, September 16-19. You should join us this year. It’s simply the biggest and best opportunity to connect with others in the intellectual and developmental disability community such as members of The Arc, chapter staff and volunteers, professionals and experts in the field plus individuals with I/DD and their families.

This year, we’ll be Achieving New Heights with special appearances from Dr. David Braddock, the force behind the “State of the States in Developmental Disabilities” assessment of state performance on issues important to the I/DD community and Dr. Temple Grandin, the noted scientist and subject of the award-winning biopic Temple Grandin, a film about her accomplishments and living with autism.

We have a special treat for those of you who attended last year’s Convention. Actress Lauren Potter from Glee, who stole the show along with her co-star Robin Trocki in Orlando, returns this year. Lauren, who has Down syndrome, was a delight at last year’s event, meeting and greeting fans for hours.

In addition to the roundup of informative and enlightening sessions covering topics such as advocacy, leadership, innovation, and public policy, we’re bringing back the popular Exchange – a roundtable discussion group. And, we’re turning the Exhibit Hall into a dynamic Marketplace where you can find out more about programs, services and products designed especially for you. Look for Entrepreneur Alley, where budding businesspeople with I/DD can showcase their entrepreneurial spirit.

Register now before August 5 for discounted registration and room rates at the Sheraton Denver Downtown. Check out the full Convention Schedule and find out more about our beautiful host city at www.thearc.org.

Sad Night for Glee Fans Makes The Arc Smile

Warning: this post contains plot spoilers from last night’s episode.

Robin Trocki speaking at The Arc's 2010 National ConventionFans of the hit Fox TV show Glee were given an emotional episode last night as Jane Lynch’s character, Sue Sylvester, dealt with the shocking death of her sister Jean, played by Robin Trocki. Jane talked to EW.com about how tough it was to film the funeral scenes since she knew it meant the end of an enjoyable working relationship with Robin. Those of you who attended The Arc’s National Convention in Orlando last year may have had the opportunity to meet Robin, who has Down syndrome, along with her Glee co-star Lauren Potter as they accepted The Arc’s inaugural Image and Inclusion Award for positive and accurate portrayals of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the media. If you did, we’re sure you share Jane’s sentiment as it was clear that Robin was just as friendly and kind in real life as the character she portrays.

In her interview about the episode, Jane Lynch noted that people with Down syndrome can have shorter life expectancies than the average American due to health issues associated with their disability. However, with advances in medical care, some of those issues are not as life-threatening as they once were. Jane also spoke to the unique sibling relationship between the characters that many people who have a brother or sister with I/DD will instantly recognize. The Arc applauds the creators and producers of Glee for creating the characters of Jean and Becky (Lauren Potter) and giving them such rich lives complete with challenges and achievements, friends and family, joy and sorrow…included, participating and contributing just like everyone else. That makes us smile.

To Jean – goodbye, we’ll miss you. And to Robin – thanks!

President Obama Appoints The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities

WASHINGTON – This week, President Barack Obama announced his appointments to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, which included The Arc’s CEO Peter Berns.  This expert group will provide advice and assistance to President Obama and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on a broad range of topics that impact people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.

“I’m honored to be a part of this panel advising the Obama Administration on matters critical to the inclusion of people with I/DD in their communities.  We are facing enormous challenges right now, with federal and state budget crises threatening the services that  support people with I/DD to thrive in society,” said Berns.

The President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities is rich with history, dating back to October 1961, when President John F. Kennedy appointed the first panel of this kind to provide the nation with direction for progress in the field of I/DD.  This was a turning point for the I/DD community, as President Kennedy shined a spotlight on the deplorable living conditions in institutions and limited opportunities for people with I/DD across the country.  The panel produced a report with more than 100 recommendations for research into the causes and prevention of I/DD and for expanding opportunities for education, employment and community living and participation.  President Kennedy  pushed and signed into law major pieces of legislation that established the foundation for current civil rights protections and programs and services for people with I/DD.

By the 1960s, The Arc had emerged as a strong voice advocating for community living and with it the appropriate supports and services people with disabilities need.  Today, The Arc is the largest organization advocating for and serving people with I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, FASD, 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.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 30 million, or one in ten families in the United States, are directly affected by a person with intellectual disability at some point in their lifetime.

“The members of this panel will represent millions of Americans and their families at a critical juncture in our efforts to improve the lives of people with  I/DD.  I’m looking forward to joining this group and bringing with me the powerful, personal stories of the hundreds of thousands of families that are part of The Arc,” said Berns.

A nationally recognized nonprofit sector leader and public interest lawyer, Berns served as the Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations from 1992 to 2008 prior to leading The Arc.  In addition, he served as Chief Executive Officer of the Standards for Excellence Institute from 2004 to 2008 where he developed Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector.  A frequent lecturer, facilitator, consultant, and trainer, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University.  He was named to the Nonprofit Times Power and Influence Top 50 list five times in the past decade.  Berns has a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, a J.D. from Harvard Law School and an LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center.

The Arc Calls Out LeBron James for Offensive Language

On Friday night, at a post-playoff game press conference, LeBron James used an offensive word to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The video of his comment was posted widely online, and quickly caught the attention of the media and The Arc’s national office. The Arc’s CEO, Peter Berns, released this comment to the media:

“LeBron James should apologize immediately. No matter the context, this language is very offensive to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and an athlete admired by kids everywhere should recognize the power of his actions and words.”

LeBron James began his next press conference with an apology.

We want to hear your take on this issue – when sports figures or celebrities use language that some find offensive, do they have a responsibility to apologize?

Let us know in the comments.