Make Your Mark This Election Year

Each year, hundreds of advocates attend the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, DC to learn more about and discuss the hottest topics in disability public policy. We invite you to join us April 23-25 for your biggest and best opportunity to advance the grassroots movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). This year it is even more important to attend the Seminar and have your voice heard as we approach a pivotal presidential election in November.

Millions of Americans deal with the impact of public policy related to I/DD every day. From self-advocates to their family members and caregivers to people working for organizations serving individuals with I/DD, there is a large bloc of voters who have the potential to change how our government views and interacts with people with disabilities. The Seminar gives you a platform to come together with other advocates, become educated on the issues, and take the initiative to speak with your elected officials about what is important to you.

Monday and Tuesday, April 23-24, are filled with informative sessions from disability policy experts and opportunities to network with others from your state. Then the event culminates on Wednesday, April 25, with attendees organizing on Capitol Hill to personally meet with their elected representative and make a case for their cause supported by information about the issues provided during the Seminar. You can also attend a special webinar hosted by AUCD on March 28 to help prepare you to make the most of the event with an overview and orientation for the Seminar (Visit www.aucd.org for webinar registration and details).

You can register now and book your room at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington, DC for a special early registration rate at www.disabilitypolicyseminar.org and find out more details about the stimulating program on tap for this year’s event. But act soon – special rates on rooms ends March 20.

This event is hosted by The Arc, United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NADD), and Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE).

What Would You Ask the White House?

This past Tuesday, the nation tuned in to watch President Obama give his third State of the Union address. To continue the conversation, over the next few days the White House is giving the public an opportunity to get their questions answered by senior White House officials. On Friday, it’s our turn!

Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. ET, Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, will be available to answer questions on Twitter. This session has been organized to specifically address questions about disability related issues, so let’s make The Arc’s voice heard at the White House!

You can submit your questions on Twitter using the hashtag #WHChat. Kareem will answer the questions in real-time on Twitter, you can follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account.

Please share with us any questions you get answered by tagging us on Twitter at @thearcus.

Tell Your Members of Congress, “Don’t Cut Our Lifeline!”

If we don’t speak up now, Medicaid and other programs critical to people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) may take the brunt of the cuts. Members of Congress are very reluctant to cut Medicare, as the elderly community is a very reliable voting constituency and they are very vocal advocates. Historically, Social Security is considered the “third rail” in politics, and as such, not to be touched. That leaves Medicaid on the table as a prime target for cuts.

How can we make Congress understand why Medicaid is so important?
We have to personalize the importance of protecting Medicaid for people with I/DD. Advocates need to do the following:

1) Call your Senators or Member of the House of Representatives
Call the Capitol Switchboard to reach your Members of Congress: 202-224-3121. Also, be sure to sign up for our Action Alerts, and act quickly when we send them!

2) Make an Appointment with your Elected Officials
Call your elected officials for an appointment to discuss what Medicaid means to you. Find out when your Member of the House of Representatives will be home from Washington, and call his or her district office to make an appointment. Stress with the scheduler that you know that budget cuts could come up for a vote this summer, and you want your voice to be heard!

3) Attend a Town Hall Meeting
When Members of Congress are back in their districts, they often hold town hall meetings. Call their district offices to find out when the next meeting is so that you can attend and share your story directly with your Representative.

4) Invite your Senators and Representative to your local chapter of The Arc.
Invite them to join you at places or events where they will be able to meet with people with disabilities who depend heavily on Medicaid. For example, invite them to a supported housing setting or apartment supported by your chapter(s). Seeing firsthand the people who depend on Medicaid-funded long-term services and supports can have a powerful effect on Members of Congress and can help to dispel many of the unfortunate misperceptions about the program (for example, that it serves people who don’t really need it). If possible, invite them to a chapter event that’s happening during the recess where they may meet and talk with people who depend on Medicaid for services.

5) Write a Letter to the Editor
Local newspapers will print letters from local residents on timely topics. Sharing your personal story about how Medicaid is your lifeline to health care and long term services and supports will help people understand why we must maintain the program.

6) Use Social Media to Spread the Word
Facebook and Twitter are often the first source of news for your friends and family. Use your online network to ask them to get involved in this fight!

Spread Some Awareness in Your World

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month thanks to a 1987 Presidential Proclamation that was the direct result of the advocacy efforts of The Arc. A lot has changed since then: more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are living and thriving in their communities rather than institutions, there are more opportunities in education and employment, more protections in health care, the legal system and other areas of human rights, there are more positive and accurate portrayals of people with I/DD in the arts, the list goes on. But we must remember that many of those advancements were hard won.

Self-advocacy and advocacy on behalf of those with I/DD was the impetus for many of the positive changes in our society, such as the proclamation that recognized DD Awareness Month. It’s up to you to continue to advocate for respect, access and inclusion of people with I/DD.

Take advantage of March to spread some awareness in your world. Learn more about the issues concerning people with I/DD and The Arc’s position on those issues. Learn more about public policy that impacts people with I/DD and contact your legislator. Since many people with disabilities rely on publicly funded services to fully participate in their communities, policy makers need to know you are concerned about continuing those services in the face of budget cuts during tough economic times. And, get involved. Find a local chapter of The Arc and volunteer or donate. Together we can continue to make a difference.

Many People With Developmental Disabilities Feel Trapped in Nursing Homes

Imagine feeling like you’re imprisoned just because you have an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD).

That’s a reality for more than 4,500 people with I/DD in Texas “trapped” in nursing homes providing inadequate care, according to The Arc of Texas and the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities. The two advocacy groups joined to file a class-action lawsuit against Texas earlier this week in San Antonio along with six individuals with I/DD.

The suit focuses on the approximately 4,500 people with disabilities living in nursing homes in Texas; advocates say that thousands more are at risk of the same fate.

“Many are denied the opportunity to live where they choose,” said Mike Bright, executive director of The Arc of Texas. “In other words, they have been imprisoned simply for having a disability.”

Texas ranks 49th among 50 states in providing community-based services to people with developmental disabilities according to a 2010 report by the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities.

In The Arc’s fight for inclusion, we’ve argued that most people receive better care in a community-based facility or in their own homes. By shining a light on this issue, The Arc of Texas has proven our point while improving the lives of thousands.