The Arc Launches Voter Support Service for People with Disabilities to Report Voting Problems

Washington, DC – In advance of this crucial election, The Arc has launched a new Voter Support Service to help people with disabilities report any barriers they experience when voting, and get help to resolve their issue to ensure their vote is counted.

“People with intellectual and developmental disabilities should be a force in our election process. But we know that in 2012, one in five voters with disabilities experienced a barrier at the polls. This is unacceptable, and to help resolve this problem, we have created a tool at your fingertips to get help with casting your ballot. This site needs to be saved to your phone so that when you go to exercise your right to vote, you can get the help you may need to make your vote count,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The impact of the disability vote could be staggering – according to a report put out by Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations, titled “Projecting the Number of Eligible Voters with Disabilities in the November 2016 Elections”, in this election cycle there will be 62.7 million eligible voters who either have a disability or have a household member with a disability, more than one-fourth of the total electorate. A projected 35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote this year, representing close to one-sixth of the total electorate. And the number of eligible voters with disabilities has increased 10.8% since 2008, compared to an increase of 8.5% among eligible voters without disabilities.

The Arc is dedicated to helping resolve voting access problems in real-time, and has partnered with Election Protection’s national network of support. Election Protection is a nonpartisan service formed by a coalition of more than 100 local, state and national partner organizations that have a national response infrastructure to handle intake of complaints and problems with access to voting.

The Voter Support Service is a simple, mobile-friendly site for people with disabilities to ensure that their vote counts, and they are included in the democratic process. The Voter Support Service allows a voter on Election Day waiting to cast their ballot a way to ask for help or report a problem at a polling place; find a polling place; join The Arc’s national Disability Advocacy Network; and more.

“We at The Arc are dedicated to an inclusive society for people with disabilities that encompass all aspects of life, including the right to civic engagement. Voting is a fundamental form of expression that helps shape the future of our country. It’s incredibly important that people with disabilities vote. In the words of a disability rights legend Justin Dart, Jr., ‘vote as if your life depended on it, because it does’,” said Berns.

You can save the site to the home screen of your iPhone or Android by following these instructions.

This effort is being supported by the Ruderman Family Foundation and American Association of People with Disabilities.

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 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 and without regard to diagnosis.

Max Goldstein: Engineering His Future

In honor of National Disability Employment Month, we interviewed Max, a member of The Arc of the Midlands. A young man with autism, Max’s passion for technology recently led him to pursue and ultimately secure a position at the technology giant Microsoft. Let’s catch up with him to see how his journey to one of the top employers in the world started as well as learn some of his secrets of success.

Max’s path to competitive, integrated employment began at The Arc, and its affiliate, The Arc of the Midlands in South Carolina. Tapping into the parent organization’s The Arc@Work IT training program, Max was quickly connected with two additional organizations: first, Specialisterne USA, the U.S-based affiliate of Specialisterne Foundation. Specialisterne USA mission is to create 100,000 jobs for people with autism in North America, and second, Provail, a Seattle-based agency that assists businesses in hiring and training qualified job seekers with disabilities. Armed with these resources, Max embarked on a hiring process that would lead to the opportunity of a lifetime. He first participated in phone interviews with The Arc of the Midlands, then completed some reading tasks from Specialisterne, and finally, submitted a short project demonstrating his programming abilities. Once this stage was completed, Max flew to Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington where he participated in a two-week evaluation period. During this time, he completed short programming assignments, as well as was informally interviewed by several hiring managers. This gave Max the opportunity to showcase his skills and assess fit with various Microsoft teams.

On the last two days of the evaluation period, Max had formal interviews with two hiring managers where he fielded more technical questions. Normally, this would be followed by an additional swath of analytical problems. But, in one of the interviews, the manager voluntarily waived this additional step, explaining “…it was unnecessary…to do a whiteboard problem….as [he] had assessed [his] skills between the informal interviews and reviewing [his] coding assignment”. This manager further advised “The whiteboard problem is one of the most widely used ways to assess a software engineer’s problem-solving skills, and skipping it (especially at Microsoft’s level) was a complete shock”. Even Max’s fellow candidates were amazed!

Shortly after the conclusion of the evaluation period, Max learned that both hiring managers extended a job offer! After much consideration, he accepted the position in the Core Operating System – Windows Fundamentals Division, primarily because of his interest in operating systems development. Shortly after officially accepting, Max eagerly began the on-boarding process.

Max now spends his days coding and engaging in problem solving sessions on Microsoft products. Often, this involves a number of cross-team meetings and lengthy discussions of new features. It is these moments that excite Max the most because he loves “designing and implementing complex solutions to complex problems”. For him, it’s “like solving a puzzle”.

Max is quick to credit The Arc of the Midlands and The Arc@Work for his success in his job search. Beyond guiding him through the initial interview process, staff connected him with rehabilitation services in his new state, and provided him with various resources and training prior to his interview. When asked to advise other job-seekers with disabilities, he comments: “Persistence is the key. Keep working on and refining your strengths and unique skillsets, as you’ll improve on them a lot quicker than your weaknesses…..You’ll eventually find an organization that recognizes your abilities and will hire you.” The new Microsoft hire further implores those currently in the job market to take advantage of all the support The Arc and its chapters have to offer: “[P]lease use resources like The Arc that help people with disabilities. They are more understanding of your situation than any other group out there, and will help you with your job search and your life in general.”

Walmart’s Curbside Pick-up Program May Reduce Shopping Stress for People with I/DD

This year, Walmart rolled out a free grocery pick-up program in over 80 markets nationwide. The program, which was launched last year and has been rapidly expanding over the last few months, allows customers to do their Walmart shopping online, choose a time to pick up their orders, and pick them up at their local stores where associates will load the items into their cars. Orders can be placed up to three weeks in advance, or can be ordered and picked up the same day (if the order is placed before 10 a.m.). Personal shoppers, who actually pick out the items ordered, are trained to evaluate items like meat or produce for quality and freshness, and to look carefully for any signs that something is past its peak.

This service was primarily designed to help customers like parents of young children, who may be spending their days running to and from appointments, school, work, and other activities. For them, it’s clear why ordering groceries on the go (from a smartphone, for example) and picking them up without ever leaving the car is a big plus. But, shaving your shopping time from an hour to five minutes can benefit anyone, not just busy moms.

According to Michael Bender, EVP and Chief Operating Officer of Walmart’s Global eCommerce department, “this service may help take some of the stress out of grocery shopping for people with disabilities and their families.” Because orders can be placed online and picked up quickly and conveniently, this service will make shopping easier for caregivers or people with I/DD who have busy schedules. Furthermore, because Walmart associates can load the groceries into customers’ cars, it improves accessibility for customers with mobility limitations.

In addition to groceries, the pickup service also includes general merchandise such as pet supplies or other household items. In all, more than 30,000 items are available for online order and pickup at the same prices as in the store.

Walmart has been a longtime supporter of The Arc. In addition to consulting with The Arc about how this grocery pickup program can support people with I/DD, Walmart has partnered with The Arc in the past to provide school-to-work transition programs, grow employment for people with I/DD in the recycling industry, and support healthy food and nutrition initiatives at chapters of The Arc.

Currently, 70% of Americans live within 5 minutes of a Walmart store and 90% live within ten miles of a Walmart store. And, of the stores offering the new pickup service, 80% are within 15 minutes’ drive of a chapter of The Arc. Clients of The Arc can receive $10 off their first purchase by using the code WMTCARES during checkout. Visit walmart.com/grocery to learn more and place an order.

Deadline Looming to File Discrimination Claims

The Arc would like to alert you to an important deadline if you have experienced discrimination based on your disability by the Greyhound bus company.  Below is the information from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“November 10, 2016, is the deadline for individuals with disabilities who experienced discrimination while they traveled or attempted travel on Greyhound Lines, Inc., to submit claims for compensation from Greyhound. This claims process was established in settlement of a lawsuit that the Department of Justice filed against Greyhound earlier this year. Pursuant to that settlement, Greyhound has hired a Claims Administrator to distribute an uncapped amount of compensation to people who:

  • have a disability;
  • traveled or attempted to travel on Greyhound between February 8, 2013, and February 8, 2016;
  • experienced a disability-related incident during the travel or attempted travel (for example, lack of accessible transportation or transportation-related services, Greyhound’s failure to make disability-related accommodations, etc.); and
  • submit a Claim Form by mail, email, or online to the Claims Administrator by no later than November 10, 2016.

Help is available from the Claims Administrator for those who are unable to complete the Claim Form due to a disability. Instructions regarding the claims process are available at the Claims Administrator’s website, www.DOJvGreyhoundSettlement.com. The Claims Administrator can also be reached by email at GRYsettlement@classactionadmin.com, toll-free at 1-844-502-5953 or 1-800-659-2656 (TTY), or by mail at U.S. v. Greyhound Claims Administrator, c/o Class Action Administration LLC, PO Box 6878, Broomfield, CO 80021.

For more information or for a copy of the consent decree, please visit our ADA website at www.ada.gov. Those interested in finding out more about the ADA may also call the Justice Department’s toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 or 800-514-0383 (TDD).”

Chapter Volunteers Reduce Food Insecurity Through Community Service

meals-on-wheels-volunteersBy Nancy Stubbs, Development Director, The Arc Nature Coast

On October 16th, we recognize World Food Day. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), 49 million people in the United States – including 16 million children, do not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. Providing food assistance is one way that communities can help improve all people’s access to healthy food. Through funding from CNCS, The Arc helps 10 chapters around the country organize service projects that aid community members in need.

Our chapters partnered with local service clubs and hunger-focused groups (e.g., community food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens) on events around the 2016 and 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and throughout the year to provide food assistance to community members who experience food insecurity. In the first year of funding, our chapters have recruited 690 volunteers who have contributed over 5,360 hours of service to feed over 9,833 people in need.

One such chapter, The Arc Nature Coast in Brooksville, Florida, addressed their lack of access to nutritious food by delivering local produce to nearby food banks, which typically serve canned and/or processed foods. First, The Arc Nature Coast met with local farmers to learn what fresh fruits and vegetables were in season. Next, The Arc Nature Coast partnered with the farmers to distribute fresh produce to 235 recipients at four different food banks. Additionally, The Arc Nature Coast partnered with their local Meals-on-Wheels program to deliver meals to senior citizens on a weekly basis.

Both projects enabled individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities to work alongside farmers and volunteers. Feedback from volunteers with disabilities has been very positive, and suggests that participation had a positive effect on their self-esteem and feelings of inclusion. One volunteer stated, “They (recipients of Meals on Wheels) are counting on me to be there to bring them their food. They wouldn’t have food to eat if I didn’t help them.” Another added that, “it makes me feel good to help people.”

The Arc, Other Advocates Launch Modern Medicaid Alliance New Initiative Highlights Benefits, Stories, and Innovations of Program

Washington, D.C. – Despite the enormous societal and economic benefits offered by the modern Medicaid program, a lack of dialogue about the true value of the program drives misperceptions relating to it. Today, an alliance of more than two dozen national advocacy organizations formally launched with the aim of educating the public and policy makers about the Medicaid program and its importance for the more than 70 million Americans covered by it.

The Arc joined advocates for low-income Americans, children’s health and well-being, people with mental illness, people with disabilities, health care providers, and business organizations today in announcing their participation in the Modern Medicaid Alliance (MMA). A list of the members of the Modern Medicaid Alliance can be found here.

From lowering health care costs to delivering better health outcomes for beneficiaries, Medicaid keeps our nation healthier and enables more citizens to have access to affordable, quality healthcare so they can care for their families and be productive in the workplace. The largest health care program in the country has also become a proven laboratory for innovation as cash-strapped states have sought solutions for difficult population health issues. Despite its positive impact on tens of millions of people and America as a whole, the need for greater awareness among policymakers and the public about the value of our investment in it remains high.

“Medicaid is the backbone of our system of services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the critical role it plays in providing long term services and supports is often overlooked. We welcome the opportunity to be a voice for the vital role the program plays in providing health care and assisting people with I/DD to live and work in the community,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy at The Arc.

About the Modern Medicaid Alliance: The Modern Medicaid Alliance works as a collective group of organizations and grassroots members to educate policymakers and the public about the benefits of Medicaid to the American people and to highlight how Medicaid’s innovative solutions are positively impacting those it serves with the goal of ensuring the benefits and best practices of today’s Medicaid program can impact as many of the program’s 70 million beneficiaries as possible.

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, Cerebral Palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of 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.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

The Arc, Other Advocates Launch Modern Medicaid Alliance

Washington, D.C. – Despite the enormous societal and economic benefits offered by the modern Medicaid program, a lack of dialogue about the true value of the program drives misperceptions relating to it.  Today, an alliance of more than two dozen national advocacy organizations formally launched with the aim of educating the public and policy makers  about the Medicaid program and its importance for the more than 70 million Americans covered by it.

The Arc joined advocates for low-income Americans, children’s health and well-being, people with mental illness, people with disabilities, health care providers, and business organizations today in announcing their participation in the Modern Medicaid Alliance (MMA). A list of the members of the Modern Medicaid Alliance can be found here.

From lowering health care costs to delivering better health outcomes for beneficiaries, Medicaid keeps our nation healthier and enables more citizens to have access to affordable, quality healthcare so they can care for their families and be productive in the workplace. The largest health care program in the country has also become a proven laboratory for innovation as cash-strapped states have sought solutions for difficult population health issues. Despite its positive impact on tens of millions of people and America as a whole, the need for greater awareness among policymakers and the public about the value of our investment in it remains high.

“Medicaid is the backbone of our system of services and supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the critical role it plays in providing long term services and supports is often overlooked.  We welcome the opportunity to be a voice for the vital role the program plays in providing health care and assisting people with I/DD to live and work in the community,” said Marty Ford, Senior Executive Officer for Public Policy at The Arc.

The Arc Responds to Connecticut Court Ruling on Education and Access for Children with Disabilities

Washington, DC – Recently, Judge Thomas Moukawsher of the Connecticut State Superior Court released a sweeping ruling on school funding that could have dire, negative consequences on students with disabilities, particularly students with intellectual and/or developmental as well as behavioral and emotional disabilities.

The case, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, was initiated in 2005 and challenged the state constitutionality of Connecticut’s pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade education finance system, claiming that the state was inadequately funding the poorest and lowest- performing districts. Judge Moukawsher held that “Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty” to give all children an adequate education and ordered the state to make far-reaching changes regarding how schools are financed, which students are eligible to graduate from high school, and how teachers are paid and evaluated, among others. The judge noted that the state “has left rich school districts to flourish and poor school districts to flounder,” thereby failing to provide children with a “fair opportunity for an elementary and secondary school education.” Judge Moukawsher did not mandate any particular policies for the state to adopt in light of the ruling – rather, he ordered the attorney general’s office to submit plans within 180 days to solve the problems outlined in the decision.

While this decision may appear to assist vulnerable students in Connecticut, Judge Moukawsher also noted within the decision that children with certain “profound” disabilities be denied a public education, erroneously stating that: “The call is not about whether certain profoundly disabled children are entitled to a ‘free appropriate public education.’ It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately pro-forma efforts…no case holds otherwise, and this means that extensive services are not always required.” The state has appealed the ruling to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

The Arc, a leading national disability organization, and The Arc of Connecticut, released the following statement on the ruling:

“While the disability community has won many important, hard fought battles when it comes to kids with disabilities accessing a free and appropriate public education, this ruling demonstrates we have a long way to go to ensure discrimination in our education system is a distant memory.

“The language of this ruling turns back the clocks on how society places value in the lives of people with disabilities. It ignores all the examples of people with disabilities being told they can’t do this, or won’t be able to do that, who proved the experts wrong. If we followed this narrow view and didn’t invest in the education of all kids, we would be missing out on the contributions every single person can make in their community. I’m glad the state is appealing this ruling, and The Arc of Connecticut will be a leader in making sure that all kids with disabilities are treated fairly under the law,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

“This ruling is deeply disturbing on two levels,” said Leslie Simoes, the executive director of The Arc of Connecticut. “First, the court ignored the law. Though it was common to deny an education to children with disabilities in the past, federal law has entitled all children with disabilities- not just some children- to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for more than 40 years. Attempting to differentiate children deserving of an education by the severity of their disability would be both arbitrary and lead to creating perverse incentives for states.

“Second, I categorically reject the court’s premise that the only way one group of struggling students can progress is to take services away from others who face enormous challenges. Our aim must be to move forward together, not to benefit some by leaving others behind. That is not only illegal, it denies those children their basic human right to live as full members of their community.”

 

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 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 and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc Welcomes Long Overdue Initial Zika Prevention Funding Package

Washington, DC – After months of delay, late last night Congress finally approved and sent to President Obama’s desk a funding package for Zika prevention. Some women infected with Zika while pregnant give birth to babies with severely disabling brain injury, including microcephaly.  Many of The Arc’s more than 650 chapters provide supports and services to families and people with a range of disabilities, including significant disabilities. Since 2015, more than 23,000 cases of Zika have been confirmed in the U.S. and its territories, with over 2,000 of these among pregnant women.

“After months of inaction, we are relieved that Congress finally approved funding to address this public health threat. These resources will allow us to slow the spread of Zika until a treatment or vaccine can be developed.

Unfortunately, women will continue to have to wait for years to know the full range of developmental delays that their Zika infections have caused in their children.  Affected children and their families then will enter our nation’s woefully inadequate system for providing services and supports for the millions of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in communities across the country. The Arc continues to educate Members of Congress and the public about the importance of our lifeline programs, Medicaid and Social Security, for people with disabilities and their families,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

In February, the White House asked for $1.9 billion for Zika vaccine development, better testing, and mosquito reduction.  With no action taken by Congress, in April the White House transferred $589 million from money set aside to fight Ebola and other problems to work on Zika prevention efforts.  With that funding dwindling, Congress was at an impasse all summer and into September over the funding level and extraneous items some were attempting to include in the bill that Congress couldn’t agree on. The approved legislation includes $1.1 billion for this effort.

The Arc has long held a position on the prevention of intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), supporting our national efforts to continue to investigate the causes, reduce the incidence and limit the consequences of I/DD through education, clinical and applied research, advocacy, and appropriate supports. We firmly believe that prevention activities do not diminish the value of any individual, but rather strive to maximize independence and enhance quality of life for people with I/DD.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 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 and without regard to diagnosis.

The Arc Responds to Florida Supreme Court’s Decision to Vacate Death Sentence for Freddie Lee Hall in Florida

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement following news that the Supreme Court of Florida reversed the circuit court’s order in the case Hall v. Florida, a death penalty case concerning the definition of intellectual disability (ID) that Florida uses in deciding whether an individual with that disability is protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Atkins v. Virginia. With this decision Freddie Lee Hall will be taken off death row and his sentence will be reduced to life in prison. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Atkins v. Virginia case that executing inmates with ID is unconstitutional as it violates the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Today the Supreme Court of Florida showed its commitment to ensuring justice for individuals with intellectual disability. This decision is an affirmation of years of legal advocacy on behalf of Mr. Hall.

“With the original sentencing in Hall’s case Florida was violating the Supreme Court’s Atkins v. Virginia ruling and we are pleased to see justice finally being served. Our hope is that Florida’s decision will serve as guidepost to other states that have similar cases involving defendants with intellectual disability. While we are pleased with Florida’s decision, we also think of other individuals who were unjustly denied Atkins protections and sentenced to death, individuals like Warren Hill, executed in Georgia last year, despite the protections of the Atkins decision.

“The Arc remains committed to fighting for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and we will continue our legal advocacy work to make sure that the Supreme Court ruling on this issue is followed in jurisdictions across the country,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc has participated in a number of cases on this issue before the Supreme Court including Atkins v. Virginia. The Arc’s amicus (friend-of-the-court) brief was cited by the Justices in support of its ruling that the Constitution protects all defendants with ID. On December 23, 2013, The Arc submitted an amicus brief for the Hall v. Florida case.

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, Autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 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.