Volunteer Opportunities Lead to New Job Skills

Building a resume can be tough, particularly in rural communities where job opportunities may be limited, and competition can be fierce. However, serving your community can be one great and meaningful way to build job skills.

Since 2015, The Arc of the Glades in Belle Glade, Florida, has participated in The Arc’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service project. The Arc’s MLK Jr. Day of Service project brings together chapters of The Arc to organize inclusive volunteer service projects where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) volunteer alongside people without disabilities to provide food to people in their communities who are in need.*

For Scot Kannel, The Arc of the Glades’ Executive Director, volunteering opportunities like the MLK Jr. Day of Service project have been important gateways to employment in West Palm Beach County because “volunteering builds skills, relationships and good will in the community, paving the way not just for that person’s future employment, but also [raising] community employers’ expectations [and changing their perspectives] about hiring those with differing abilities.”

Throughout the year, volunteers with and without disabilities from The Arc of the Glades work together to prepare and serve meals to people in need at a local soup kitchen and food pantry. While they are there, volunteers not only meet new community members and grow their social network, but also build their confidence with important job skills. Skills include both soft skills like customer service and working with co-workers as well as responsibilities specific to working at a food pantry.

The great thing about soft skills is that volunteers can take what they have learned and apply it in other areas of their life, including future employment. We hope that The Arc of the Glades volunteers do just that, and their experiences working in the soup kitchen and pantry help in all they wish to do in the future.

For others interested in volunteering and building job skills, the MLK Day of Service project, visit http://www.thearc.org/inclusive-volunteering.

*In 2015, The Arc was selected by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that leads the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, to plan and execute volunteer projects that unite Americans in service for the MLK Day of Service and throughout the year. To date, 16 chapters of The Arc around the country have organized inclusive volunteer service projects where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) volunteer alongside people without disabilities to provide food to people in their communities who are in need. In total, these projects have brought together over 1,000 volunteers to serve more than 14,000 people in need.

MediSked Applauds Strong Disability Rights Advocacy at The Arc of North Carolina

By Linda Nakagawa, Market Policy Analyst, MediSked

Advocacy is the foundation upon which the disability community has grown into a powerhouse. The future of the movement depends on the many advocates across the country who are engaging on the local, state, and national levels to protect the rights of people with disabilities and support their inclusion in the community.

The Arc of North Carolina uses MediSked products for data tracking in their service delivery. The chapter is also an advocacy leader in the state, and we have long admired their strong commitment to their advocacy work. So we reached out to Melinda Plue, Director of Advocacy and Chapter Development at The Arc of North Carolina, to share some of the advocacy efforts the state chapter and its 23 member chapters have made this year.

The Arc of North Carolina has made use of the comprehensive advocacy toolkit provided by The Arc of the U.S. to play an active role in the fight to save Medicaid this year. Self-advocates and family members wrote powerful letters that were sent to The Arc to hand-deliver for state delegations. At the state level, The Arc of North Carolina has done media campaigns, lobbying, and rallies. The success of advocacy depends on real life stories, heartfelt letters as well as real data to back up the facts on which these issues are based.

Another area where The Arc of North Carolina has been especially active is in grassroots local advocacy and community engagement, in partnership with their member chapters. Some actions include:

  • Barrier Awareness Day: The Arc of Davidson County is hosting Barrier Awareness Day, to give individuals without disabilities the chance to navigate through life as someone who does experience a disability. Participants engage in simulations that mimic mobile, visual, and hearing impairments and are taken out into the community. The event leads residents to really think about the accessibility of their community.
  • Wings for Autism/Wings for All: Many chapters of The Arc in North Carolina participate in Wings for Autism®, a grant-funded program from The Arc’s national office that simulates an airport experience for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and individuals with I/DD. The program gives families the opportunity to experience, at no cost, all the processes involved with air travel.
  • Self-Advocates’ Conference: The Arc of Greensboro, The Arc of High Point, The Arc of Davidson County, and The Enrichment Center in Winston-Salem host a conference for self-advocates around the state. The conference, which is entering its sixth year, is planned by self-advocates and staff from the four chapters and focuses on vital information that self-advocates have identified wanting to learn more about. Beginning in March of 2018, this conference will be a part of the state’s annual Rooted in Advocacy conference, hosted by The Arc of North Carolina, as it has become so well-attended.
  • Self-Advocacy Movement: Self-advocates must be decision-makers during conversations that involve the disability community and for causes they are passionate about: “Decisions ABOUT me should INCLUDE me.” The current board president of the state chapter is a self-advocate, and self-advocates are on just about every board of local chapters of The Arc. The chapters of The Arc are proud of supporting self-advocates to teach them how to get involved on boards, not only at The Arc but for other organizations in their community.
  • Advocacy in Public Schools: Staff resources are dedicated to support families as they move through the special education process. Many local chapters and the state work together to empower families and teach them how to advocate for their children.

To know where advocacy can be most effective, you need to know who you serve and communities in which people with intellectual and developmental disabilities live alongside people without disabilities. MediSked partners with The Arc and supports chapters of The Arc across the country with MediSked Connect – Agency Management Platform. MediSked Connect is a platform that streamlines procedures and centralizes data with tailored workflows, detailed service documentation, holistic health data, outcome tracking and reporting, and integrated billing management that is implemented in a collaborative process with each agency.

This year, more than ever, we have been proud to partner with so many strong organizations as they deliver services in their community and fight for the future of services and supports for people with disabilities.

 

Why the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is Bad for People with Disabilities

Legislative Timeline

House of Representatives

  • Nov. 16: House passed its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Senate

  • Week of Nov. 27: Senate plans to vote on its version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
  • 51 votes are needed to pass the legislation

Background

The Arc’s longstanding position on tax policy is that it should raise sufficient revenues to finance essential programs that help people with disabilities to live and work in the community. The Arc also supports tax policy that is fair and reduces income inequality; people with disabilities are twice as likely to experience poverty.

Unfortunately, both the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1, Senate Version) fail to meet either standard. Both bills would dramatically reduce revenue that the federal government uses to pay for critical programs. As the tax revenue decreases it will likely build pressure to cut Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, and other critical programs for people with disabilities to make up for lost revenue.

Why is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Harmful?

Congressional BudgetThe House and Senate bills reduce federal revenue by about $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Members of Congress have acknowledged that passing these tax cuts will make it easier to justify spending cuts down the road. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also notes that automatic spending cuts may be triggered if Congress does not act to prevent them. These automatic cuts could mean a $25 billion dollar cut to Medicare in 2018. Automatic spending cuts could also slash funds that go to states to operate critical programs such as the Vocational Rehabilitation state grant program and the Social Services Block Grant.

How Do the House and Senate Bills Compare?

The Arc opposes both the House and Senate bills. The chart below is meant to explain the differences between the two bills.

In House Bill In Senate Bill
Repeal of Individual Mandate for health insurance coverage. CBO estimates 13+ million fewer people with health insurance andpremium hikes of 10% in the insurance marketplace. The individual mandate helps ensure that enough healthy people purchase health insurance to keep insurance affordable. x
Repeal of the medical expense deduction. Nearly 9 million filers claim this deduction for medical care expenses that exceed 10% of an individual’s or family’s adjusted gross income. It offsets some of the high out of pocket medical expenses that some people with disabilities incur, such as high cost prescription drugs, long term  physical and occupational therapies, wheelchairs, prosthetics, and long term supports and services. x
Repeal of the Disabled Access Credit (DATC). The DATC assists small businesses in meeting obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It allows small businesses (with < 31 employees and gross receipts < $1 million a year) to claim a tax credit. The credit provides 50% of eligible expenditures between $250 and $10,000 for a maximum of $5,000. x
Repeal of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). WOTC is available to employers for hiring individuals from certain target groups, including people with disabilities. The WOTC for people with disabilities provides a credit for up to 40% of the first $6,000 in wages, for a maximum of $2,400 for SSI beneficiaries but up to $9,600 for certain disabled veterans. x
Reduce affordable housing production under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. LIHTC funds the creation of affordable housing across the country. Both the House and Senate bills would make changes to the LIHTC program that would reduce the number of affordable housing units produced. Changes proposed by the Senate bill are estimated to reduce units produced by roughly 300,000 over the next 10 years. The House bill has proposed even more dramatic changes, estimated to reduce units produced by nearly 1 million over the next 10 years. x x
Reducing incentives for charitable deductions. Raising the standard deduction could reduce the number of taxpayers who itemize deductions – including charitable donations – from the current 30% to 5%. Combined with a decrease in the top marginal tax rate, the disincentive to itemize would reduce charitable giving by $4.9 billion to $13.1 billion annually. Many of the providers of services to people with disabilities are non profits that rely on charitable giving. x x
Repeal or limit Orphan Drugs Credit. Businesses can receive this credit for clinical testing expenses for certain drugs for rare diseases or conditions. It is estimated that if the orphan drug credit were repealed one-third fewer drugs addressing rare diseases would be developed in the future. x
Repeal
x
Limit
Creation of an inadequate paid leave tax credit. The Senate bill would create a two-year employer tax credit for paid family and medical leave expenses, modeled after the Strong Families Act. As structured, this tax credit is likely to primarily subsidize companies that already offer paid leave or that would have chosen to offer new or expanded paid leave benefits without a tax credit. This means that, in addition to losing revenue, the proposal would do little to reduce current gaps in access to paid leave that particularly impact workers with disabilities and their families. x

 

The Arc Responds to House Passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

We vehemently oppose this bill and the threats it poses to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities”

Washington, DC – The Arc released the following statement in response to the House of Representatives passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

“The Arc has a longstanding position that tax policy should raise sufficient revenues to finance programs that support people with disabilities to live and work in the community. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act does the opposite. By reducing revenue by at least $1.5 trillion, the bill increases the pressure to turn next to cut Medicaid and other programs that are critical to the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“We vehemently oppose this bill and the threats it poses to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We now turn our attention to the Senate, which is considering legislation that will also increase the deficit and repeal a portion of the Affordable Care Act that would undermine the entire law. The disability community has fought against threats to vital programs and won several times this year, and we are prepared to do it again,” said Peter Berns, CEO of 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 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.

Forging New Friendships through Community Service

Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Linda and Hannah at ACES

Linda and Hannah at ACES (from left to right)

Inclusive volunteering gives people with and without I/DD the opportunity to meet new people in the community while helping those in need. These new connections can lead to long-lasting friendships that impact not only community members being served by the volunteers but the volunteers themselves.

This past year, The Arc of Hanover in Ashland, Virginia, received a grant to work on The Arc’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service project.*

The Arc of Hanover’s Executive Director, Caroline Kistler, saw this grant as a key opportunity not only to serve people in need but also as an opportunity to help build friendships between young men and women of all abilities in the community. “Making friends with people different from yourself opens you up to new experiences, and allows you to see life from someone else’s perspective. As is true of all friendships, friendships among people with different abilities expand a person’s support system, and have a positive impact on a person’s life.”

Caroline recruited young adults with I/DD at The Arc of Hanover and students at Randolph-Macon University to volunteer at Ashland Christian Emergency Services (ACES), a local nonprofit that provides food, clothing, and aid to people in need in the community. Caroline paired volunteers with and without I/DD together so that people would be able to meet new people and learn from each other.

One pairing was Randolph-Macon University student Hannah Sommer and Linda George. While they were serving others, Hannah and Linda struck up a friendship. Hannah shared, “I always looked forward to spending time with her and the other students in the class. I was sad when the semester ended because I did not think I would get the opportunity to interact with the members of The Arc anymore.”

However, Hannah did have an opportunity to continue her connection with The Arc of Hanover as an intern the following semester. She appreciates that the internship “has allowed me to still keep in touch with Linda and the members of The Arc frequently, and has allowed me to learn so much about the disability community.” For Hannah, her relationship with Linda has been an important experience for her, and one that has been more meaningful because they met through service. “The relationships that are built and the friendships that are made through inclusive volunteering are like no other. Not only does the act of volunteering with a person with an intellectual or developmental disability benefit yourself and that individual, but together, you are working to benefit the lives of others.”

For Linda, befriending Hannah and volunteering with her has been important to her. “I liked working with Hannah and helping people. It was fun being able to volunteer with my friend. It feels good to be able to help people. I enjoyed being with Hannah.”

We hope that Linda and Hannah, and other volunteers paired through this program will continue their friendship, and continue serving their community! For people interested in learning more about The Arc’s MLK Day of Service Project, inclusive volunteering, and how volunteering can help people grow new relationships, visit http://www.thearc.org/inclusive-volunteering.

*In 2015, The Arc was selected by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that leads the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, to plan and execute volunteer projects that unite Americans in service for the MLK Day of Service and throughout the year. To date, 16 chapters of The Arc around the country have organized inclusive volunteer service projects where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) volunteer alongside people without disabilities to provide food to people in their communities who are in need. In total, these projects have brought together over 1,000 volunteers to serve more than 14,000 people in need.

The Arc Brings Disability Perspective to Police-Led Hate Crimes Advisory Committee

Hate Crimes Panel Group

Leigh Ann Davis, Chief Will Johnson with Arlington Police Department (TX), Peter Berns, Ariel Simms

Since 2013, The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability® (NCCJD®) has served as a bridge between the disability and law enforcement communities, and is the first-of-its-kind national clearinghouse for information and training on the topic of people with I/DD as victims, witnesses, suspects and incarcerated persons. The Arc’s work to elevate these issues led to the opportunity to attend and present at the 2017 International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) national convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While at the conference, staff, including CEO of The Arc Peter Berns, participated in the initial “Enhancing the Response to Hate Crimes” Advisory Committee meeting co-hosted by IACP and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee). In attendance were law enforcement and civil rights leaders, such as The Anti-Defamation League; the Baltimore Police Department; The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and many others from across the country who met to develop an achievable action agenda to improve the criminal justice system’s response to hate crimes. According to the FBI, 1.2% of hate crime victims were targeted because of disability in 2015. Many disability advocates find this statistic misleadingly low, as individuals with I/DD frequently cite barriers to reporting crimes committed against them. In 2015, NCCJD explored these barriers and potential solutions in its white paper, Violence, Abuse and Bullying Affecting People with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities: A Call to Action for the Criminal Justice Community.

“We are proud to lead a committee of such outstanding leaders who are coming together to invest their time and effort into breaking down barriers and strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the communities that are too often the targets of hate crimes,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke.

Hate Crime Advisory Panel

The Arc’s NCCJD staff presented with Chief Will Johnson and Melissa Bradley with DOJ’s COPS Office on applying procedural justice to situations involving people with disabilities

At this first in a series of four meetings, members began to develop key principles for improving the response to hate crimes. The committee also discussed the many legal, economic, emotional, social, and safety issues that arise in the wake of hate incidents and hate crimes, as well as proposed recommendations on appropriate responses.

Subsequent meetings will continue to solicit input from additional law enforcement and civil rights leaders as well as community members targeted for hate crimes. The committee will use this input to craft an action agenda for community and law enforcement leaders, which will ultimately improve the safety of communities targeted by hate. The Arc is thrilled to participate in this important work, as the organization continually strives to raise awareness among law enforcement and other agencies about the high rate of victimization in the disability community (for more information about training for criminal justice professionals see www.nccjdpathwaystojustice.org). Furthermore, The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice & Disability works to ensure that any reporting efforts related to hate crimes (and other crimes) include effective outreach methods for people with I/DD who remain traditionally underserved and overlooked in today’s criminal justice system.