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For Lauren, Increasing the SSI Asset Limit Makes Her Dreams More Achievable

Lauren has a bright future. She graduated from her Indiana high school at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but she didn’t let that stop her from advancing her education. Currently, she is working towards an associate degree in animal science, her long-time passion. With only one class remaining, she is set to get her degree this year.

Currently, Lauren is living at home with her parents while she works part-time at a doggy daycare. As she has watched her siblings move out and settle into adult life, she has also been making plans of her own. She dreams of pursuing a veterinary technician degree, working in a veterinary clinic, living in her own home, having her own car to get around her rural Indiana community, spending time in nature, and even going on the occasional vacation.

Lauren’s plans are not uncommon, but they are difficult to achieve right now. Lauren receives Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI). SSI currently provides critical support to Lauren and nearly 8 million other adults and children with disabilities and older Americans. SSI helps people pay for their homes and food to eat. In most states, receiving SSI also means that people can get Medicaid. This is important because only Medicaid provides the services and supports many people with disabilities rely on.

Right now, outdated rules prevent people who get SSI from saving money, forcing them to live in poverty. Single people like Lauren who get SSI can only have $2,000 in assets and married people can only have $3,000 combined. Assets include money in bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other savings. In practice, because bank accounts often require a minimum balance, there is less money that can be used if needed. It also means that Lauren cannot save for a down payment for a home or a reliable car.

Lauren wants to be independent and achieve her goals. Even though she is young, she wants to plan for her retirement and make sure she has enough money for the future. The current SSI asset limit causes constant challenges and makes saving for everyday life and achieving her dreams feel out of reach.

A woman with long brown hair stands on a deck overlooking grass down below. She is wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans.“I have to constantly monitor the account to make sure I am not working too much so that I can keep all my benefits. The support is what makes it possible for me to work, but if I do work then I could lose the support. It makes it impossible to improve and try new things. I have not gone over the limit, but the low level does make it impossible to be responsible and save for larger purchases like a car or home of my own. I am stuck as a renter or with poor-quality transportation, and I am not able to plan for the future, like retirement—things that other people my age are able to do.”

Congress is currently considering a bill that would raise the amount of savings a person on SSI could keep. This is huge. It would be the first time in over 30 years that this limit would change. It would raise the limit from $2,000 to $10,000 for single people like Lauren, and it would increase from $3,000 to $20,000 for married couples who get SSI.

For Lauren, changing the asset limit would create new possibilities to enact her plans and achieve her dreams. She could save for a car to get around her rural community and set aside a little nest egg in case something unexpected happens.

 

Get Involved

Help Lauren and the 8 million others nationwide on SSI save for their future.

Tell your U.S. Senators to raise the savings limit today!

 

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Alice and Soojung’s Story

“We’ve spent most of her life waiting for the help we need, for the wellbeing of our family.”

Soojung teaches middle school math and has three wonderful children. Her middle child, Alice, has Rett Syndrome, and has severe seizures, scoliosis, and uses a G-tube for nutrition, fluids, and medications. Alice has had many major and minor surgeries throughout her childhood, and every time Soojung and her husband requested at-home nursing care for her recoveries, it was denied by private insurers.

Alice’s pediatrician sat Soojung down and said, “You can’t go on like this.” The round-the-clock care and the toll of the stress was overwhelming them.

With the pediatrician’s help, Alice was finally accepted for services through the Medicaid program when she was 11 years old. Night nursing services led to a great improvement in Alice’s health, keeping her out of the hospital for the first year in her life. Soojung went back to the classroom, where she loves teaching math. And today, with the addition of day nursing services, Alice is 15 years old and able to participate in school, at home during 2020, and in-person in 2021 while Soojung teaches her students.

The Arc is fighting to make sure no family has to wait years for services that improve a child’s health and ability to thrive in the community.

“My daughter has the right to receive an equal chance of living her life, and Medicaid provides that extra help she needs to survive, learn, and thrive. The Arc’s work is so critical to ensure that Alice has a fulfilling life.”

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Guiding The Arc Through Lived Experience With Disability

“Nothing about us without us” is a theme of the disability community, reminding the world that people with disabilities expect and deserve autonomy over their lives. This includes actively participating in the organizational structures that advocate for and with people with disabilities.

With this guiding principle in mind, The Arc established its National Council of Self-Advocates (NCSA) in 2012. NCSA abides by the “nothing about us without us” motto by creating a space where people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) can provide guidance to The Arc and offer their unique disability perspectives. The council also strives to provide professional growth opportunities to its members, such as access to job opportunities and other leadership roles.

NCSA is led by Chloe Rothschild, a national board member for The Arc, and it is supported by Juan Guerrero, a policy associate for The Arc. As a sibling of an individual with a disability, he understands and values the need to amplify the perspectives of people with IDD. This understanding has motivated him to constantly create new growth opportunities for NCSA’s approximately 300 members.

NCSA’s members are from all over the U.S., and many credit the group for providing a space to meet other self-advocates and freely discuss their thoughts on certain topics. Hearing from one another is essential to personal growth, especially in the advocacy space.

At the beginning of 2022, the council set a goal of providing speaking engagements, both to NCSA Officers and the general council, and they also decided to gather more frequently. Each monthly meeting centers around a topic relevant to self-advocacy, such as employment, voting, interacting with law enforcement, leading with a disability, and more. In a recent session, three council members presented on employees with disabilities assuming leadership positions in the working world. From time to time, members will be called upon to review materials created by The Arc.

General members can apply for a two-year officer position. If elected, they are expected to attend officer meetings, and they are also charged with setting the monthly agenda and preparing presentations for the regular monthly meetings. Recently, the current officers have begun leading and facilitating these monthly sessions.

Using the knowledge and experience gained in this space, NCSA member Mark got the opportunity to speak at the Disability Vote Submit. He was also able to help with The Arc’s toolkit on self-determination, and he helps doctors understand how to work with people with disabilities.

Another member, Nathaniel, advises NCSA has deepened his understanding of the federal policy system. With his newfound knowledge, he plans to serve as a mentor to people with disabilities by pursuing their Bachelors, Masters, or even a PhD.

There’s no better time to join than right now! We’re currently growing and would love for anyone interested in joining to come check us out. The only requirement for acceptance is that you must identify as a person with a disability.

Learn more about NCSA and click here to join as a general member. Current members can also apply for an officer position this fall. We look forward to shaping the future of disability with you!

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All About Congressional August Recess

When you are young, recess signals a break from the drudge of work. It is a welcome chance at a bit of freedom to play and escape the school day. But when you are a member of Congress, recess takes on an entirely different meaning – one that is important for disability advocates to know.

For U.S. senators and representatives, recess is a time of the year when legislators leave their duties in Washington, D.C. behind and return home to the districts and states they represent. But members of Congress are not home to relax and recharge for the fall legislative session. They are there to travel around their districts, attending a variety of community events, and hearing from as many constituents as possible.

You can use this time to educate your federal elected officials on how critical policy priorities impact people with disabilities, which may include you and your family. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Savings Penalty Elimination Act and the importance of home and community-based services (HCBS) are just a few of the critical policy priorities.

Your stories can empower these decision-makers to return to Washington with the concerns of the disability community top of mind.

So, what are you waiting for? The following tips can help you make the most of your advocacy during August congressional recess!

  • Find out who your members of Congress are. The Arc provides an easy way to look them up. Visit our Action Center and enter your zip code in the Find Your Elected Official box on the right-hand side of the screen. You can also follow your members of Congress on social media by finding their Twitter handles.
  • Attend town hall events. Many members of Congress host town hall events during August recess to hear from their constituents. You can find townhalls in your area here or look on your elected official’s website.
  • Download The Arc’s August Congressional Recess Toolkit. The free toolkit offers everything you need to advocate effectively, including links to action alerts, plain language factsheets on key issues, tips to engage, and sample letters to the editor that you can personalize and submit to local newspapers.
  • Connect with your local chapter of The Arc. Find your state or local chapter to learn more about advocacy opportunities in your area. They may have meetings and other activities you can join.

This August recess presents an excellent opportunity for sharing your perspective on important policy issues and educating members of Congress in your hometown on what living with a disability is like. With just a little preparation, you can prepare your legislators to fight for disability rights in the fall!

 

A woman in a motorized chair plays with a small dog on a grassy field in front of a community of houses

Why the ADA Matters to Me: A Conversation With Steve Ferreira

For the past 32 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has protected the civil rights of people with disabilities.

Recently, we spoke with Steve Ferreira, who shared how the ADA has impacted his life and how he hopes to ensure that the promise of the ADA is being kept in his community!A man wearing a pink button down shirt smiles and is in a motorized wheelchair.

Steve was born with cerebral palsy in Taipei, Taiwan in 1988. He graduated from Bellevue College in 2013 with an Associate Degree with a concentration in Communications. He is currently attending Central Washington University to obtain his Certificate in Accessible Studies.

In November 2011, Steve started a non-profit called Beyond Disabilities to further his goal of disability awareness. As a motivational speaker, Steve aims to raise disability awareness within every community he addresses. In addition to his motivational speaking, Steve has been involved in athletics. He has competed in international competitions both in the United States and Europe, earning the bronze medal in shot put in 2008 and the gold medal in discus in 2010.

Q: What does the ADA mean to you in your life? Why is it so important to you?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 and is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. This includes jobs, schools, transportation, and public and private places that can be accessed by the public. It gives protection to all people with disabilities.

It is a law that can be quoted and used when there is a situation where people with disabilities are not receiving the services they need or do not have access to facilities. It is a powerful law.

In 2016, I contacted my hometown, the City of Renton, Washington, to put in signs at a dangerous crosswalk close to my home where I had almost been hit by a car. But nothing happened at the time.

Two years later, while crossing the street in my wheelchair, I was hit by a car that made a right turn onto the road. There was a red light but no warning about watching for pedestrians. I was okay, but my legs would be gone if my wheelchair had not had a leg guard.

I contacted the city again and told them what happened. Using the ADA to back me up, I was able to get the city to install a turning light at the crosswalk. It took two more years for the city to take care of the situation, but I felt a sense of accomplishment when it did.

I drive my wheelchair all over and have over 10,000 miles on it. I drive around 18 to 25 miles a day. If not for the ADA, we would not have cutouts in the crosswalks and lifts on the buses. All it takes is one step to stop me from getting where I need or want to go.

Q: How does the ADA impact you at school and work, in getting around, using transportation, and accessing public and private places?

I typically use public transportation and it’s important for the buses to have lifts installed. There are times when I’m waiting for a bus and the bus will arrive and the lift is broken. Everyone else can enter the bus, but I have to wait sometimes an hour for another bus with a working lift. I joined a committee for people with disabilities in our Metro system to address this issue. Though the committee discussed this issue, nothing was accomplished. I eventually left the committee because I was so frustrated.

On another note, it’s discouraging to have a brand-new building built that does not plan well for accessibility. For example, when I try to access the building, sometimes, the building does not have an automatic door. The doors are typically very heavy, and it is hard to maneuver them when you are using a wheelchair. People need to be more diligent when constructing buildings to make sure they are accessible, and they need to plan to ensure they do not block accessible paths or routes when constructing buildings too!

Q: Tell us about the accessibility program you are taking. What inspired you to pursue this study? What is your capstone project about?

I am currently taking classes at Central Washington University for a certificate in Accessible Studies. There are classes in accessibility and user experience, universal design, accessible information design, and a capstone project.

I have finished the first three classes and I am currently working on my capstone project. My capstone project is entitled “The Importance of Disability Awareness as Part of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs in the Corporate Setting.” I am comparing three companies’ diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and analyzing their attention to disability awareness. It is eye-opening how companies are paying attention to other minority groups but ignoring disability.

I decided to take this program to educate myself on the ADA and how it relates to the empowerment of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of discrimination against people with disabilities.

Q: Do you plan to advocate for accessibility for people with disabilities? What do you hope to do?

I have done some consulting with local cities, but with my certificate, it will help to have credibility and will add to my resume. I would like to help cities adhere to the rules and regulations of the ADA and thereby help the disability community.

Q: What do you want others to know about the ADA and why it still matters?

The ADA is important to everyone, not just people in wheelchairs or who use other mobility aids. All of us may at some point have a “temporary” disability and the ADA protects them as well. It is a social justice issue.

There are also “invisible” disabilities that are not obvious when first encountered. People with invisible disabilities are also protected by the ADA and are entitled to accommodations. Just because you cannot “see” a disability does not mean that it does not affect one’s daily life and day-to-day functioning.

Disability is unique because it is the only minority group that a person can join at any time in their life.

Q: How can others get involved in advocacy to support the implementation of the ADA and other disability rights efforts?

Others can get involved in advocacy as allies to people with disabilities.

I do motivational speaking to groups about disability awareness. But, when I am out and about, I still get the greatest to the worst reactions from people. Sometimes, people will even come up to me to pray to cure my disability. People need to know that people with disabilities are just like other people. It just may take us a little bit longer to accomplish our goals. Allies should also make sure they know about the ADA and what people need to do to comply with the law – and not take it for granted!

Want to get involved?

Learn more about the ADA here and what to do if you see accessibility needs not being met.

And sign up to advocate with people with disabilities nationwide at thearc.org/action!

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Meet The Arc’s Alumni Council

When The Arc’s Alumni Council was formed in 2017, it was envisioned as a gathering place for former employees and board members of The Arc’s national office, as well as local and state chapters. Nancy Webster is the founder and current chair of the council. She is also the former Board President of The Arc of The United States. As the Alumni Council founder, Nancy recognized that many former staff and volunteers were eager to remain engaged in The Arc’s network but were unsure how to contribute.

The Alumni Council provides a way to capture the rich experiences and knowledge of former employees and volunteers while keeping them connected to The Arc’s mission of supporting people with disabilities to be full members of their communities. Further, each alum offers unique skills, perspectives, and experiences that benefit the entire network, from chapters in small rural communities to those in bustling metropolitan areas.

In working with the council, Nancy said she had a goal of “reaching out to as many alumni as possible to invite them to engage with The Arc and other alums to support our mission, our chapters, and individuals.” This goal would be achieved by implementing several objectives:

  • Advising state and local chapters of The Arc on management considerations, including governance, finance, strategic planning, best practices, sustainability, and more
  • Serving as a think tank for risky questions, ideas, and concerns, as well as identifying the important battles and challenges on the horizon.
  • Providing guidance to individuals with disabilities and/or their families around crucial issues, such as housing and future planning

In addition to Nancy, The Arc’s Alumni Council is currently supported by Kerry Mauger, Director of Special Projects at The Arc, with input from its 54 members. Current members bring a variety of experiences to the council based on their roles as former staff, volunteer leaders, committee members, and self-advocates.

The council strives to offer a variety of activities, including:

  • Quarterly Zoom briefings which include policy updates
  • Opportunities for members to mentor executives of state and local chapters of The Arc
  • Eliciting member input on The Arc’s Strategic Plan and other documents
  • Assisting individuals with disabilities in leadership roles
  • Speaking engagements
  • And more!

Nancy noted that, in the future, they hope to gather in person for networking opportunities at The Arc’s National Convention and other events, as well as create new activities based on member feedback. To aspiring members of the Alumni Council she says, “Jump in! We are delighted to have you.”

Kerry adds to this sentiment saying, “There are so many great advocates within our chapters, and the Alumni Council offers a way for us to continue to keep them engaged in our efforts to support people with disabilities, both locally and nationally.”

Steve Morgan became a council member after working for nearly 45 years at The Arc Baltimore, 32 of which he served as executive director. Upon retirement, he says he was anxious to “stay connected to The Arc both personally and professionally…since I had been very active with The Arc and the National Conference of Executives.”

If you are a former board member or employee of The Arc at the national, state, or local level and are looking for ways to stay engaged, check out the Alumni Council. Membership is free, and you can participate as little or as much as your schedule allows.

Visit the Alumni Council webpage to learn more and sign up for the council here!

A man stands at the front of a classroom with children sitting at desks listening in the foreground

The Arc Partners With Comcast NBCUniversal to Increase Access to Culturally Competent Special Education Services for Students of Color with Disabilities

Washington, D.C. – As special education students face the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Arc is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a $200,000 grant from Comcast NBCUniversal to connect families of color and families from low-income households with students with disabilities to valuable educational advocacy resources. The grant will also help to ensure The Arc@School’s continued growth and success in assisting students and families for many years to come.

To expand support for students with intellectual and developmental (IDD) disabilities, the organization will provide 250 scholarships for The Arc@School’s Advocacy Curriculum. The Arc will also engage in a cultural competency review of its current curriculum to inform the next iteration, increase accessibility for families and improve the impact on student education. With Comcast NBCUniversal’s support, The Arc@School aims to disseminate special education resources to at least 350,000 people in 2022.

“We are proud of our long-standing partnership that supports The Arc in its mission to provide resources for all students with disabilities – and their families – so they can live independently and actively participate in their communities,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, EVP and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation.

Far too many kids are being left behind during the pandemic, particularly students with disabilities from marginalized groups. The Arc fights for all students to receive the benefits of public education in the least restrictive setting possible, as mandated by federal and state law. The Arc@School program supports families of students with IDD to successfully navigate the special education system and get the supports and services they need to thrive in school.

“Equal access to education for all students is an undeniable right in this country. The Arc is committed to nothing less for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are thankful for Comcast NBCUniversal’s continued support of our education advocacy and broad impact on the program, especially during this time of constant uncertainty in education. Families of all backgrounds need quality support in navigating special education – and we must ensure that we provide these resources in a way that reflects the unique experiences among us,” said Peter Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of the United States.

About Comcast Corporation

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company that connects people to moments that matter. We are principally focused on connectivity, aggregation, and streaming with 57 million customer relationships across the United States and Europe. We deliver broadband, wireless, and video through our Xfinity, Comcast Business, and Sky brands; create, distribute, and stream leading entertainment, sports, and news through Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Universal Studio Group, Sky Studios, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, multiple cable networks, Peacock, NBCUniversal News Group, NBC Sports, Sky News, and Sky Sports; and provide memorable experiences at Universal Parks and Resorts in the United States and Asia. Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit¬¬h intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD 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.

A close up of two sisters stand close to each other, looking at the camera and smiling.

Get to Know The Arc’s Sibling Council

Throughout the history of the disability rights movement, people with disabilities and their parents have been at the forefront in advocating for national and state services and programs. While siblings of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD) haven’t garnered as much attention, The Arc recognizes that siblings play a critical role in the lives of their sibling with IDD.

For siblings to be the best advocates they can be, it is important that they have access to information and resources that can help them make informed decisions, whatever their involvement. The Arc’s Sibling Council is one way for siblings of people with IDD to get access to resources and take part in The Arc’s grassroots advocacy efforts nationwide.

Members of the Sibling Council bring a wide range of expertise and passion, and they volunteer to serve a two-year term. Currently, the eight members are directing their advocacy efforts around two primaA close up of two sisters stand close to each other, looking at the camera and smiling.ry initiatives: competitive wages for direct support professionals (DSPs) and home and community-based services (HCBS). DSPs are a critical workforce that provides daily personal care and other independent living support services for many people with IDD. The National Sibling Council also hosts sessions at The Arc’s annual National Convention for siblings to connect and learn about ways to get involved in advocacy.

Liz Mahar, the Director of Family & Sibling Initiatives at The Arc, knows firsthand the importance of being an informed advocate. Liz has navigated her own challenges while supporting her sister, Crystal, from across the country. “As siblings, we can get lost in the day-to-day of supporting our loved one,” says Liz, “but it’s important to understand the ABCs of the service system in order to be an empowered advocate and more effective supporter.”

Hannah Roundtree, a member of The Arc’s Sibling Council, explains her family’s struggle in navigating the service system: “Growing up in rural Texas, my family faced a lot of challenges when it came to not only accessing supports and services for my brother, but even accessing the basic knowledge.” Hannah’s role on the council has allowed her to be a more effective advocate.

According to Acrystal Pugh from California, who joined the Sibling Council to improve the well-being and future of all siblings, siblings of people with IDD are the next best “line of defense.”

What can you do? Here are some ways for siblings of people with IDD to get involved and stay informed about The Arc’s advocacy movement:
• Register for The Arc’s sibling webinar on Tuesday, June 28 at 2:00 p.m. ET to learn about the resources and information available to all siblings.
• Connect with a state or local chapter of The Arc to join their advocacy efforts.
• Sign up for The Arc’s sibling newsletter and The Arc’s action alerts to become more engaged in disability advocacy.
• Contact Liz Mahar (mahar@thearc.org), the Director of Family & Sibling Initiatives at The Arc, to learn about future opportunities to join the Sibling Council.

Dominick a masculine appearing person with green eyes and brown spiked short hair gives a small smile. He is wearing gold wire-rim glasses and has some stubble and hair along his cheek line. This headshot shows from his mid-chest area upward. He is wearing a blue, black, and gray Argyle long-sleeve shirt. He sits in his wheelchair, and his black headrest wraps around the back of his head. The background is blurred, but you can tell there is grass behind him and he is outside.

Q&A: Father’s Day With Dominick Evans

Dominick Evans is a trans queer crip director/writer, consultant, Twitch streamer, and dad. They have a BFA in Film. Dominick’s work delves into inclusion in media, sex education for Disabled/LGBTQIA youth, marriage equality, institutional bias, and reproductive rights. In 2014, he founded #FilmDis, a Twitter chat about Disability in media.

Dominick has spoken around the world. He does video editing and works in Hollywood, consulting studios, to make the industry more inclusive. Dominick spends a lot of time streaming on Twitch – exploring accessibility and access. With their partner, Ashtyn, he releases an annual study into disability on television.

Recently, Dominick shared with us his experiences speaking with their autistic son about transitioning from female to male, celebrating his first Father’s Day, and what they want others to know about being a multiply disabled, trans dad.

Dominick a masculine appearing person with green eyes and brown spiked short hair gives a small smile. He is wearing gold wire-rim glasses and has some stubble and hair along his cheek line. This headshot shows from his mid-chest area upward. He is wearing a blue, black, and gray Argyle long-sleeve shirt. He sits in his wheelchair, and his black headrest wraps around the back of his head. The background is blurred, but you can tell there is grass behind him and he is outside.

[Image Description: Dominick, a masculine appearing person with green eyes and brown spiked short hair gives a small smile. He is wearing gold wire-rim glasses and has some stubble and hair along his cheek line. This headshot shows from his mid-chest area upward. He is wearing a blue, black, and gray Argyle long-sleeve shirt. He sits in his wheelchair, and his black headrest wraps around the back of his head. The background is blurred, but you can tell there is grass behind him and he is outside.]

What was it like to tell your son you were transitioning?

I started dating my girlfriend when her son was seven. By the time he was eight, his mom and I were in a serious relationship. We had moved in together, and it became clear that he wanted me to be more than just his mom’s partner. I always wanted children, so I was more than happy to commit to being his father. That’s the thing though. I knew that it was going to be a lifelong commitment and that I would have to change myself to be a better person – to be a better father for him. And that’s what I set out to do.

At the time I came out, I didn’t have the language to really talk about being non-binary. My son is autistic and really everything is very black-and-white to him. So, explaining my transition to him was going to have to be something I did very matter-of-factly, and that actually worked very well for our family.

My son was about eight when I came out to him. I just told him that I didn’t feel like a girl, and he said, “So you’re not my mom, you’re my dad?” And I said yes. Then he said awesome and asked me to go play Mario! That was pretty much it! Kids are very accepting of things because they have much more imagination than adults. I feel like as adults we kind of crushed our ideas of what the world could be, and instead, we focus on this very narrow view of how people should be. We are doing a huge disservice to not only our children but ourselves.

What has been your best Father’s Day so far?

On my first Father’s Day, after I came out, my son was very, very excited to buy me a present. When I opened it, it was matchbox cars! My dad, who had passed away a year or two before I got with my girlfriend, was a huge fan of cars and we had bonded over our love of classic cars when I was growing up. To share that with my son and pass that on was just so overwhelmingly beautiful. It was the most perfect, best first Father’s Day present, and I still have my car in the original packaging!

What do you want others to know about being a multiply disabled, trans dad?

The barriers my son and I face are not imposed by us. It’s the world that makes our lives difficult. We have a very happy, great family. When I started out, I had grown up in a very hostile environment. My family was all about yelling and I was mistreated a lot, particularly by my mother. I had to kind of work to really break those cycles of oppression. That was kind of on top of all the ableism we had to deal with, not only because I’m disabled but because my son is disabled.

Being a disabled dad with a disabled son, even if we don’t have the same disabilities, has been really helpful because I understand ableism in ways a lot of nondisabled parents don’t. Our life has been unconventional. Over the years I’ve done a lot of things that were more accessible to me. For example, I used to take him to do the shopping with me because he could help me put all the bags on my wheelchair and carry them home. Whereas my girlfriend would do things like helping with bathing and cooking his meals and physical things I couldn’t do.

We also homeschooled our son and I designed his curriculum. Being disabled and trans didn’t make the job difficult at all. I think at the end of the day it really enriched our life even more, and it also has made me more open to anything my son wants in life. All I want is for him to be happy, and if he is then I’ve succeeded as his dad!

Learn more about Dominick at DominickEvans.com.

Burt Hudson, wife Kim, and son Jack

Celebrate Father’s Day With Burt Hudson

By Rebecca Alson-Milkman – Rebecca is a dancer/choreographer, writer, and advocate. She is the mother of Celia and Elliot, who has Jacobsen Syndrome.

A man, Burt Hudson, at the beach with his wife and two young children

For father, brother, and advocate Burt Hudson, Father’s Day is a time for his favorite “self-imposed tradition.” He’ll be cooking for his family: his wife, Kim, and two boys, Jack, who has Down syndrome, and James. “Being a dad, I hit the lottery,” says Burt. “The best thing I can do is thank the people who let me do it…They call me ‘Dad,’ you know?”

Burt chatted with us recently about how becoming a dad has impacted his life, and he shared some advice for other parents.

When Burt Hudson and his wife Kim were told that their newborn boy Jack had Down syndrome, they “didn’t miss a beat. He was our first kid…a beautiful little guy.”

Burt and Kim had reasons to embrace what is sometimes an unsettling diagnosis for new parents: Burt had grown up with a younger brother, John, who had a developmental disability called WAGR syndrome and who Burt introduces as the “best man in my wedding; also my best friend; also my little brother.” As a child, Burt did not understand why his brother had the challenges that he had and remembers being mad at God and the world for giving his brother a more difficult path.

Burt Hudson holding and sleeping with newborn son Jack who has a nose cannula in his nose for oxygen.The night Jack was born, Burt reflected on his lifelong friendship with and advocacy for John and told his wife Kim that “she would never have married the person I had become if not for my brother.” Armed with the right information, Burt and Kim felt they could provide Jack the support he needed to flourish: “I don’t know why our son Jack has these challenges, but you give him a couple of years or decades and we’re going to see how he starts to change the world.”

First, however, they needed to get home from the hospital. Burt remembers Kim saying, “Down syndrome be damned. I just want my son to live.”

Soon after Jack was born, he turned purple in the face while trying to breastfeed. He was admitted to the special care nursery and then transferred to the NICU at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital where his medical team, headed by Dr. Mohammed Abubakar, found a host of other medical issues.

Jack came home at four weeks wearing a nose cannula with an oxygen tank in tow. He spent his first three months on oxygen. He was monitored at night by a pulse oximeter that went off frequently and sounded like a “World War II air siren” whenever Jack would kick it off in the middle of the night, making the family dog bark, Jack start crying, and both parents’ nerves sizzle. Eager as Burt was to “open up the world” to Jack, he was also acutely aware that they needed to address his current challenges before moving on. When Jack was able to breathe on his own, Burt and Kim’s ever-present fear was able to give way to research and preparation.

A young toddler, Jack, is sitting surrounded by toys. He has a big smile.

Anticipating the extra assistance Jack would need, Burt and Kim dramatically reorganized their lives. Kim left her job so she could keep track of the “crazy schedule” of Jack’s doctors’ appointments and therapies, as well as learn the languages that doctors, therapists, and eventually the school systems spoke.

Both Burt and Kim expanded their advocacy efforts. Burt had already been volunteering for The Arc: he was connected at first with The Arc of Atlanta by his mom, worked for The Arc of Virginia for 11 years, served on the Budget and Finance Committee for The Arc of the United States, and was recently appointed to the board.

Burt and Kim (pregnant with James), with Jack in tow, met at the capital with Senator Warner and other family advocates from The Arc of Virginia about the need for community-based services. Kim combined her health and communications knowledge with her new experiences with Jack to start a business assisting organizations that help build inclusive communities and support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Kim is also the treasurer of the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia. Together, they started a small foundation and a Coffee for Caregivers program, dedicated to Dr. Abubakar, to supply the Georgetown NICU with coffee for parents, caregivers, and staff alike.

A young boy, Jack, kisses his newborn baby brother.

Burt’s professional life was influenced by Jack’s birth. As COO of Leading Age, Burt serves members of the association who care for the needs of the elderly and some individuals with IDD. Having both a son and brother with developmental disabilities helps him to understand the needs of his members. “As a compassionate society, we have to take care of others: the elder population, people with special needs, people who do not have a lot of economic resources,” says Burt. “I’m sure there are a lot of people who live in their little bubble where they don’t see people who may have a more challenging path, but I’ve never known anything different.”

Apart from volunteering for a political or charitable organization, Burt also asserts that “a critical part of advocacy is just love, compassion, and acceptance” and leading through example. He remembers a time growing up when he and his brothers were in the ocean in Florida wrestling. They were just three brothers carousing, even though his younger brother John was going through chemotherapy and had hair loss and a port in his chest. “Nobody stopped the Hudson brothers from wrestling. No medical thing, no nothing. And my little brother was throwing the biggest punches. Some lady walked by and said to my mom, ‘Isn’t that sweet? They’re just brothers.'” The same can be said of how Jack (now 7) plays with his younger brother James (4). They have been a duo ever since James was born.

Burt Hudson, wife Kim, and son JackAs far as advice for other dads, Burt emphasized the need for information and resources to help Jack over his hurdles. Importantly, though, Burt champions that “every child is different. There is no playbook for anyone…Love your kid. Love your partner…If you love your child as much as you can today, tomorrow will get figured out.”

How to Get Information and Support

If you need help or information about IDD, please reach out to us. You can find your state and local chapters here or you can use our contact form here.

We also encourage you to get involved with our advocacy efforts to ensure that all families can access the resources that they need. Learn more at thearc.org/action.