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 of New Jersey’s Statement on the DC Closure Taskforce Resolution

The Arc of New Jersey released this statement on the Resolution of the State Taskforce on Institutional Closure. You can download it from the chapter’s website.

On July 23, 2012, the New Jersey Taskforce on Institutional Closure met. The Taskforce voted on and passed a binding resolution calling for the closure of North Jersey and Woodbridge Developmental Centers, in that order, over the next five years.

The Arc of New Jersey is grateful to the Taskforce for its painstaking and conscientious effort to thoroughly review the issue of closing state developmental centers; and we enthusiastically support its decision today to proceed with closing two of New Jersey’s seven developmental centers. The Arc of New Jersey believes that all individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have the right to live, and be fully included, in communities of their choosing. For over thirty years there has been a clear direction in federal and state policy toward community living for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. As the census of New Jersey’s developmental centers has decreased, it has become clear that we simply do not need seven developmental centers.

We recognize the critical need for detailed planning and oversight in the process of transitioning developmental center residents into community-based settings. The Arc of New Jersey and its 20 local county chapters pledge to assist in this process in any way possible, to ensure the safe and appropriate placement of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the community, alongside their fellow citizens and peers.

From The Arc of New Jersey’s Media Center.

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.”

The R Word – Take Action to Continue to Fight to End the Word

Spread the Word to End the WordThe Arc is continuing our efforts to end the use of the R-word, and unfortunately our work is not done.  The latest instance of the use of the word was on the website of a Florida radio station.  Not only was the station using this inappropriate language, but they were using a photo of a person with a disability without permission.

The Arc has a zero tolerance policy for using the R word, and as members of our movement, we always encourage you to get involved to put a stop to the use of the word and educate people about why it is hurtful.  The Arc is a part of the “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, and we want you to add your voice online via their efforts on Twitter and Facebook.

What You Can Do

And you can go further, by encouraging your friends and neighbors to get involved with The Arc at the local, state, and national level.  The larger our movement, the louder our voice.

Arc Connecticut Statement on Abuse Investigation

According to media reports, the worker responsible for the abuse was arrested and criminally charged.

“The Arc Connecticut is deeply disturbed by the recent release of a videotape which appears to depict a staff member at a privately-operated group home physically abusing residents. This is obviously heinous and unacceptable behavior and the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the highest extent of the law. The Arc CT is confident that Options Unlimited, state regulators and authorities are investigating and will, and have, responded appropriately. For 60 years The Arc Connecticut has advocated for the basic civil and human rights for Individuals with I/DD and their families and we continue to do so.”

Arc Connecticut statement.

Achieving in the Workforce with Acadia Windows and Doors

An Arcadia Windows and Doors employee works in the company's factory

An Acadia Windows and Doors employee works in the company’s factory.

The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region (The Arc NCR) in Aberdeen, Maryland works closely with the business community to provide employment opportunities to individuals that they support. In 2005, The Arc NCR established a business partnership with Acadia Windows and Doors in Baltimore. This partnership has employed over nine workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities from The Arc NCR to date with great success. Today, five of those workers are making a difference on the manufacturing floor by performing tasks resulting in production line improvements. They earn wages comparable to people without disabilities doing the same job for Acadia and interact with their peers at the company in an integrated work environment.

Jessica Markle, one of the individuals receiving services at The Arc NCR, works on the manufacturing production line installing wool pile used as weather stripping in every window. She received on-the-job training and support from a job coach, as well as transportation support to the work site each day. Jessica works independently in a warehouse with 63 other co-workers with and without disabilities on the manufacturing floor. She is able to accomplish her job independently even though she is legally blind and developmentally disabled.  As a result of employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Acadia Windows & Doors has a safer work environment and was awarded the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Award from OSHA (Occupational Health & Safety Administration) in 2007 and again in 2011.

Here’s what Acadia’s Vice President of Manufacturing, Neill Christopher, had to say about this partnership with The Arc NCR:

Question:  How did Acadia Windows and Doors’ partnership with The Arc NCR begin?

Answer: We didn’t partner with The Arc NCR to be altruistic; we partnered with them because to do so makes sense as a business decision. This is a great pool of workers.  We had a great deal of trepidation when The Arc NCR first approached us.  This is a manufacturing environment, with large sheets of glass, saws, and presses, all capable of inflicting serious injury.  What we learned is that everything that we did to make things safer for our team members from The Arc NCR, made it safer for everyone else as well.  We’re an OSHA SHARP site; proud of our safety record while striving to always make our facility safer for all who work or visit here. 

Question:  What are a few of the outcomes that have been evident through this partnership?

Answer: As promised, our team members from The Arc NCR are reliable.  They consistently have exemplary attendance records, and always hit their production goals.  As our partnership with The Arc NCR developed, we found that our company was changing in several positive ways.  First of all, we worked better as a team.  In planning to assimilate our new employees, we problem solved in a way that was different for us, and this new ability carried over into all aspects of our teamwork.  We were learning to think differently, and forming interdepartmental relationships that hadn’t existed before.

Question:  Are there any changes that surprised you as a result of hiring people with disabilities?

Answer: We found ourselves becoming a kinder company.  Along with looking out for our team members from The Arc NCR, we began to look out for one another, too.  It was a subtle change at first, but we’ve learned to embrace this change as we work together on a daily basis. 

If I’m having a tough day, I’ll take a quick walk around our factory floor.  Our team members from The Arc NCR take visible joy in their accomplishments, and are always eager to show what they’ve produced so far each day.  Their joy is contagious, and I return to my office recharged and inspired by their example.