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The Arc Announces the National Council of Self Advocates

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc is officially launching the National Council of Self Advocates of The Arc (NCSA), and inviting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) across the country to join. The first national council of its kind, the NCSA will allow individuals with IDD to join a network of leaders representing the full spectrum of ages and abilities across The Arc’s national chapter network. While promoting the active involvement of individuals with IDD in the work of The Arc, this Council will give self-advocates the chance to support each other and provide learning opportunities as they grow as advocates in their community.

“This Council allows self-advocates to share their unique perspective and truly make an impact in their communities. While we work nationally on behalf of people with IDD and their families, nothing is quite as powerful as hearing directly from self-advocates about what is important to them. They can be our movement’s strongest messengers, and this council will harness that power,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

The NCSA was developed to foster the active involvement of individuals with IDD in the work of The Arc. Its primary purpose is to empower persons with IDD to voice their opinions about what is important to them and to ensure that they are afforded the same opportunities as everyone else to have a meaningful life in the community. In joining the Council, members will be able to network with others who are involved in advocacy work, educate the public about the issues that are important to people with IDD, and become active leaders in their communities. In addition, the Council will also be promoting leadership roles for individuals with IDD in local chapters of The Arc and supporting The Arc’s commitment to employing individuals with IDD. Learn more about the focus areas of the Council and how to join.

The NCSA is being co-convened by Barbara Coppens, Joe Meadours, and Kurt Rutzen who are all members of The Arc’s National Board of Directors. They each have a deep personal interest in this Council and are looking forward to creating a strong network of self-advocates across the country.

“I am working to educate self-advocates like myself, siblings, and family members to be more involved in advocating for our rights,” said Barbara Coppens, who has a long history of fighting for people with IDD in New Jersey. She works tirelessly, educating legislators in New Jersey about why it is so important to remove the “r-word” from state statutes and writing articles on self-advocacy to inspire others like her to join in the movement.

“This is an opportunity for us to voice our opinions and show what self-advocates across the country care about,” Joe Meadours said. “If we don’t have the proper services we won’t have a quality life.” Joe has been an advocate for many years and wants to use his story to encourage individuals with IDD to be advocates for themselves and others. He has worked in five states supporting the self advocacy movement; most recently he served as Executive Director for People First of California.

“I believe that The Arc’s National Council of Self Advocates gives the opportunity for people with disabilities to really say what they feel and to get their voices out there in a way they haven’t before,” said Kurt Rutzen, who lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and works for the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration. Kurt began his career by conducting interviews for Quality Assurance Region 10, an organization that creates and implements person-centered interviews that enhance the quality of life for persons with developmental disabilities in Minnesota. Through this job, he was introduced to The Arc of Southeast Minnesota.