In 1950, little was known about intellectual disability (then referred to as ‘mental retardation’) and developmental disability, or its causes. There were virtually no programs and activities to assist in the development and care of people with IDD or to support families. It was common for doctors to tell parents that the best place for their child was in an institution. But these advocates wanted more. They wanted their loved ones to lead fulfilling lives in the community and not be shuttered away in dark institutions. Emboldened by their collective desire to raise their children in the home and their refusal to accept that institutionalization was the only option, The Arc was born.
Through the decades, The Arc has advocated for the passage of state and federal legislation on behalf of people with disabilities and established a broad network of state and local chapters that range from small voluntary groups to large, professional organizations.