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The Arc Applauds Federal Student Loan Debt Relief Plan

Washington, DC— With the current moratorium on student loan payments set to expire at the end of this month, the Department of Education and the White House have announced a new plan to tackle student loan debt for millions of borrowers across the country. These new changes will help millions of people with disabilities, if they can access the new programs.

The new changes include $10,000 of debt cancellation for most borrowers ($20,000 if the borrower has Pell Grant loans) and a new income-driven repayment plan for undergraduate borrowers. These new programs may be able to help millions of borrowers with disabilities if the implementation is seamless and accessible to those that are qualified.

Historically, the Total and Permanent Discharge (TPD) program has provided an avenue to discharge federal student loan debt for people with permanent disabilities that limit their ability to work. However, the TPD required borrowers to apply for debt forgiveness and was filled with red tape and complicated, paperwork-heavy processes. Even after the TDP process was improved and automated, eligibility standards continue to be high. Millions who do not meet these standards—including other marginalized groups like those living in poverty and those with language barriers—will need to rely on the Administration’s new relief plan.

“The process for student loan debt relief has long been cumbersome and ineffective for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who already must navigate complicated state and federal benefit programs,” said Bethany Lilly, Senior Director of Public Policy for The Arc. “We are relieved that the Administration is taking steps to provide debt relief and make long-needed reforms to existing repayment programs. During this time of unprecedented financial strain, it will be crucially important to ensure that people with disabilities can access these new options.”

The Arc looks forward to working with the Administration to ensure that the new options are as automatic as possible for borrowers and accessible for people with disabilities.

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The Arc Receives Second Award From Verizon to Expand Disaster Preparedness Across the U.S.

For the second year, The Arc of the United States is pleased to receive an award from Verizon to further implement the Building Community Resilience Through Inclusive Disaster Preparedness program. With this funding, The Arc, along with The Arc Muskegon, The H.E.A.R.T. Program, Volunteer NY, and The Arc Nature Coast, will band together to host both online and in-person volunteer events that advance emergency preparedness in communities across the U.S. Participants will center on the perspectives and needs of people with disabilities during a disaster. These service opportunities will be featured on Citizen Verizon Volunteers, the company’s employee volunteerism portal, introducing V-teamers to The Arc’s constituents, and fostering opportunities for both communities to learn about each other.

Through the program, Verizon employees will again be offered a number of volunteering options, such as conducting mock 911 calls, creating no-sew blankets to shield against long winter nights, participating in letter-writing campaigns, creating disaster kits, and much more.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the urgent need for communities, organizations, and businesses to strengthen their emergency plans so that people with disabilities are never left behind when disaster strikes. Verizon’s support allows The Arc to continue shaping the conversation around disaster preparedness, centering on individuals with disabilities. We are grateful and look forward to partnering with Verizon again,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

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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.

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The American Constitution Society Awards 2022 David Carliner Public Interest Award to Shira Wakschlag, The Arc’s Senior Director of Legal Advocacy

Washington, D.C. – The Arc and the American Constitution Society (ACS) are proud to announce that The Arc’s Senior Director of Legal Advocacy and General Counsel, Shira Wakschlag, is the recipient of the 2022 David Carliner Public Interest Award. This prestigious award honors a mid-career public interest attorney whose work best exemplifies David Carliner’s legacy of fearless, uncompromising, and creative advocacy on behalf of marginalized people.

“I am tremendously honored to receive this award,” said Wakschlag. “I share it with my colleagues at The Arc and around the country who I have the privilege of collaborating with and learning from every day. In the face of ongoing existential threats to our fundamental civil rights, it is critical that disability be part of the conversation as we fight these injustices. I look forward to opportunities to partner with the ACS community in this work to ensure that people with disabilities receive needed supports and accommodations to obtain equal access to society and thrive in all aspects of life.”

Wakschlag will accept the David Carliner Public Interest Award in person and deliver remarks at the ACS National Convention that will take place June 16-18, 2022 at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C.

Wakschlag is an extremely accomplished and widely respected leader in the area of disability civil rights law. She has led The Arc’s national disability rights litigation practice since 2014, expanding it into a wide-ranging and high impact program that advances the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities under federal disability and civil rights laws and the U.S. Constitution. Her work at The Arc has also been instrumental in highlighting and combatting intersectional injustice in a range of areas, including voting rights, special education, the criminal legal system, and medical discrimination.

“I am proud to announce Shira Wakschlag as this year’s recipient of the Carliner Award,” said ACS President Russ Feingold. “ACS is committed to fighting for a just legal system that addresses the harm done to historically marginalized people. Shira has spent her career advocating for people with disabilities, safeguarding their voting rights, and advancing community-based solutions, all while also fighting against medical discrimination and the exclusion of students with disabilities in schools. I commend Shira and The Arc for their work to uphold the Constitution and ensure that the law is a force for protecting our democracy and the rights of all.”

Wakschlag has fought for inclusion for students with disabilities—disproportionately students of color—who are too frequently relegated to separate programs and even separate schools where they are isolated from non-disabled peers and receive an inferior education.

Wakschlag was also instrumental in challenging discriminatory state and hospital crisis standard of care policies at the onset of the pandemic, working with state and national partners to file fourteen federal complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. These efforts led to favorable resolutions in several states making clear that federal law requires states and health care providers to ensure patients with disabilities have equal access to life-saving medical care.

“The Arc is honored to see Shira receive this well-deserved recognition from the American Constitution Society. Shira’s passion and commitment to advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy has empowered disabled lives and exponentially elevated The Arc’s legal impact,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States. “Shira sets extremely high standards in legal advocacy in uplifting The Arc’s mission to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. We applaud Shira and thank ACS for their support.”

Wakschlag has also worked to advance the rights of people of color with disabilities who are unjustly entangled in the criminal legal system, advocating for community-based services and treatment as alternatives to incarceration. She is currently working to challenge voter suppression laws that disenfranchise voters with disabilities and voters of color, denying them access to democracy.

“Shira’s work on behalf of the disability rights movement at large is most deserving of recognition with the Carliner Award. She is an extraordinarily gifted lawyer. Her tireless efforts have not only advanced the interests of people with disabilities but have highlighted and elevated the intersection of disability civil rights with critical issues of our time, including racial justice, voting rights, health care disparities, long-term care and supports, decarceration, capital punishment, and equitable access to housing, education, and other community resources – with added benefit for all,” said University of Pennsylvania Professor of Law Jasmine Harris, chair of The Arc’s Legal Advocacy Committee and member of The Arc’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

In addition to Wakschlag, Atteeyah Hollie, Deputy Director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, will be honored as this year’s Finalist. The honor is in recognition of her work challenging the denial of counsel to lower-income Georgians, while fighting against wealth-based detention, and inhumane prison conditions. Visit ACS’s 2022 National Convention web hub for more information on events, speakers, and COVID protocols.

AMERICAN CONSTITUTION SOCIETY

ACS believes that the Constitution is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We interpret the Constitution based on its text and against the backdrop of history and lived experience. Through a diverse nationwide network of progressive lawyers, law students, judges, scholars, and many others, we work to uphold the Constitution in the 21st Century by ensuring that law is a force for protecting our democracy and the public interest and for improving people’s lives. For more information, visit us at www.acslaw.org or on Twitter @acslaw.

THE ARC OF THE UNITED STATES

The Arc advocates for and serves people with 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.

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In Solidarity With the Community of Uvalde, Texas

The Arc released the following statement in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

“We are so saddened by the events that occurred yesterday at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.  The families, and the community of Uvalde, will forever be impacted by the loss of these young children and their teachers.

“These tragedies are creating an environment where people no longer feel safe in their schools, places of worship, grocery stores – the communities where they live, work, and play.  And we are deeply concerned that Congress’ failure to act to prevent this violence is undermining basic human rights.

“The senseless violence has to stop. Our elected leaders must put aside differences to comprehensively address the growing problem of gun violence that affects all of us, including people with disabilities and their families.”

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The Arc Rejects Hate, Honors Lives Lost and Wounded Survivors of Racially Motivated Shooting in Buffalo, New York

Washington, D.C. – The Arc released the following statement in reaction to the racially motivated mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

“We are horrified by the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York Saturday. We reject hate and no one should be in danger of being murdered because of the color of their skin. The motives and actions of the shooter, and the racist and antisemitic white supremacist conspiracy theories he, and those who sympathize with him, have espoused are sickening.

“Our country is experiencing an undeniable and very long crisis. White supremacy has been woven into the fabric of our existence for centuries, and despite incremental progress –we clearly have a long way to go. We must take down all systems of oppression that threaten and stand in the way of race equity and inclusion.

“The disability community includes individuals who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and we are in allyship with the Black community in Buffalo and everywhere. We refuse to stay silent when time after time, racist extremists in our country terrorize people of color, a deep-rooted sickness that should anger us all.

“We are all people. Everyone belongs. We honor the people who lost their lives and those wounded in Buffalo at the hands of this evil. We reject racism and hate, with the strong resolve to help tear down these walls of racism, white supremacy, and oppression,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h 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.

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Intersection of Disability & Race Explored at Free, DEI Virtual Conference: Civil Rights Advocate Kimberlé W. Crenshaw & Disability Activists to Present

BROOKVILLE, N.Y. – As issues at the intersection of disability and race remain under-recognized due to a lack fluency or awareness, nonprofit agencies AHRC Nassau and The Arc of the United States are responding with a free, online conference on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 to connect attendees of all abilities and backgrounds with research, best practices, and most importantly, with each other.

The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Virtual Conference, “Beyond the Comfort Zone: Understanding and Eradicating Injustice, Racism and Inequality in the Field of Developmental Disabilities,” will explore the history, the latest research, and opportunities for the increased inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) as well as recognition for direct care staff, who are primarily Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).

“Disability is an underdeveloped area of DEI. For those with no prior connection to the experience of disability or the underlying issues related to race, there can be shame and hesitation in trying to discuss these issues—or worse, silence,” said Stanfort J. Perry, Conference Chair and CEO of AHRC Nassau. “The purpose of this online conference is to create a platform offering the latest insight on the intersectionality of issues pertaining to ableism and racism—to encourage questions, conversations, and above all, shine a spotlight on those whom society has marginalized.”

More than 30 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with disabilities remain one of the most marginalized groups – at high risk of violent crimes to contracting and dying from COVID-19. Their essential support staff, who make tasks of daily living and participation in the wider community possible, are predominantly women of color who have spent years advocating for a living wage. According to a report from the University of Minnesota – Institute on Community Integration and The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, “Black/African American Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) were paid less per hour than white DSPs, and a higher percentage of Black/African American DSPs worked 40 or more additional hours per week.”

Though there is overwhelming need, an overall lack of funding has resulted in a 43% national turnover rate in the direct care workforce and a staffing crisis. Self-advocates, like Jessica Campbell, have advocated for years for necessary funding to ensure services and supports to lead an independent life. “Imagine not being able to get medication, access money, stay clean, cook, do your job, or go out into the community—that’s what a staffing crisis means to us,” said Campbell, who is currently a member of AHRC Nassau’s Board of Directors and a Field Assistant for the Long Island Region at the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State.

The upcoming DEI Virtual Conference is important to Campbell because in addition to addressing some of these issues during a conference panel, she hopes “more people have a chance to be understood and that more people can begin to understand the experience of disability.”

For Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States, “Disability providers, at the state and federal level, are working within legal, legislative, and service frameworks that can be complex and difficult to navigate regardless of whether you receive services, work in the industry, or seek to understand as an outside observer.

“Within these systems, people with disabilities and their direct care staff can become further and further removed from the action of daily life, and lead lives in parallel to their peers without disabilities—with few interactions, largely unseen and unheard,” said Berns. “The DEI Virtual Conference speaker lineup will offer valuable perspectives on how meaningful change must be the result of collective partnership and advocacy across all facets of society.”

Conference keynote and civil rights advocate Dr. Kimberlé W. Crenshaw will provide insight into the “intersectionality” framework—a concept she pioneered—addressing how overlapping identities, such as disability, gender identity, and race, can lead to complex, and sometimes under-recognized, issues of inequity and inequality.  Dr. Crenshaw currently serves as the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, as well as a Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Examining the existing support systems and how to reach a more inclusive future is the focus of the plenary session lineup. Plenary Speaker Kerri E. Neifeld, Commissioner of the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) in New York State, will present how her office is working to stabilize, professionalize, and strengthen the direct support workforce following the pandemic, while also advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the developmental disabilities field.

Plenary Speaker Tawara Goode, Associate Professor and Director, Georgetown University National Center for Cultural Competence, will evaluate cultural and linguistic competence in the industry’s collective efforts to advance DEI, and more specifically, what it means to achieve outcomes in the IDD space, while Plenary Speaker Atif Choudhury, CEO of the UK-based company, Diversity & Ability, will share insights from his lived experience and career on topics ranging from how to evaluate an organization’s progress toward a fully inclusive culture to proactive acknowledgments of intersectionality.

“The quality of insight and dedication to advancing social justice outcomes at this conference is exceptional,” said Perry. “With more than 30 sessions, including speakers from a variety of professional disciplines and backgrounds, we are anticipating a day of learning and connection that advances a more inclusive and equitable future for all. That’s why the conference recordings and an event toolkit will be freely available for a year following the event. This event is intended to serve as a resource, informing and empowering more organizations and individuals.”

The DEI Virtual Conference “Beyond the Comfort Zone: Understanding and Eradicating Injustice, Racism and Inequality in the Field of Developmental Disabilities” will be held on Wednesday, May 18 from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET at ahrc.org/deiconference. The event is free and open to all. Closed captioning will be available for all sessions; American Sign Language is available for plenary and select sessions.

FREE NASW Continuing Education Credits Available NASW-NYS is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers (Provider ID #0014), licensed mental health counselors (Provider ID #MHC-0053), and licensed marriage and family therapists (Provider ID #MFT-0037), and licensed psychologists (Provider ID #PSY-0088)

About Us
AHRC Nassau, a chapter of The Arc New York, is one of the largest agencies in New York State supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Based in Nassau County, the nonprofit empowers people to lead fulfilling lives, together with family, friends and community. AHRC’s programs include a wide array of supports for people with disabilities and their families, including vocational and employment services, adult day habilitation and community-based services, guardianship, family support services and respite/ recreation opportunities, as well as residential services. AHRC Nassau is part of an elite group of international agencies accredited by CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership for Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation With Distinction. AHRC is also one of four agencies accredited by New York State’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities as a Compass agency, which is the highest level of accreditation offered. For more information, visit www.ahrc.org.

The Arc of the United States advocates with and serves people wit­­h 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. For more information, visit thearc.org.

For more information, please contact Nicole Zerillo, assistant director of Community Resources, AHRC Nassau, at 516.626.1075, ext. 1134, or nzerillo@ahrc.org.

SOURCE AHRC Nassau

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.

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The Arc Supports Bill to Allow People With Disabilities to Earn and Save More Money

Washington, D.C. – The Arc supports a bipartisan bill introduced in Congress to finally give people with disabilities and older Americans significantly more freedom to earn and save money without risking the loss of vital benefits, their livelihoods, and their ability to support themselves and members of their family. The SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman on Tuesday, updates Supplemental Security Income (SSI) asset limits for the first time since the 1980s. Current SSI asset limits prevent individuals who receive the modest benefit from saving more than $2,000.

The bill raises SSI asset limits from $2,000 to $10,000 for individuals and from $3,000 to $20,000 for married couples and indexes them to inflation moving forward. SSI provides money to 8 million adults and children with disabilities and older Americans. Many recipients are Black, Hispanic, and other people of color and further marginalized – making it even more critical that Congress pass this bill.

“The SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act is a positive step forward in The Arc’s ongoing push to give millions of people with disabilities the economic opportunity they deserve and more financial security to save for emergencies and unexpected expenses. We see too many people with disabilities and their families forced to impoverish themselves in order to maintain critical SSI benefits, instead of being able to save for the future and for emergencies that arise in all of our lives,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States. “Raising asset limits would significantly improve the lives of people with IDD who receive SSI.”

For many years, The Arc has advocated relentlessly for changes to SSI asset limits and against the existing unfair and discriminatory caps. Along with advocates, we have continuously urged Members of Congress to update SSI asset limits to at least adjust for inflation, so that people with disabilities can take advantage of financial opportunity to provide for themselves and their families and feel a better sense of financial security.

The Arc sent a letter to Senators Brown and Portman in support of the bill. Read it here.

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Proposed Changes to Affordable Care Act and Executive Order Would Open Up Coverage to Millions of Families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Arc is pleased that President Biden signed an executive order this week to strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a lifeline for people with disabilities. The changes could make health insurance more affordable to millions of Americans with disabilities and low-income Americans.

President Biden, joined by former President Obama, announced that the Administration is proposing a rule change to the ACA to close what is known as the “family glitch.” The “family glitch” leaves some families stuck with unaffordable coverage because it excludes many families from using the premium tax credit to purchase affordable health insurance on the ACA marketplaces. These families, including those who have disabilities or have family members with disabilities, face totally unaffordable premiums.

“For people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), access to health care can be a matter of life or death. It is uniquely difficult for people with IDD to obtain affordable and adequate health insurance coverage despite depending on health care services more than those without disabilities,” said Marty Ford, Senior Advisor at The Arc, who was invited to and attended the White House announcement.

The ACA is critical to the lives of people with disabilities, their families, and the direct support workforce who rely on the ACA for access to health coverage for preventative care, to maintain good health, and secure vital medical treatment. The importance of the ACA is underscored by the pandemic. The public health crisis is a glaring reminder of the inequities in health care and discrimination faced by people with disabilities, other groups that are marginalized, and people holding multiple marginalized identities.

We also support other elements of President Bident’s new executive order directing federal agencies to continue to find ways to make coverage under the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare easier to enroll in and strengthen the benefits available.

The Arc and our allies have fought relentlessly to defend the ACA to preserve this lifeline for people with disabilities. In 2020, The Arc, with a coalition of disability and civil rights organizations, joined an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court urging the court to uphold the ACA in its entirety. The Arc also provided an amicus brief in support of upholding the law before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019.

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The Arc Unifies with People with Disabilities in Ukraine

Washington, D.C. – The Arc is closely watching the horror unfold in Ukraine and thinking of the millions of adults and children with disabilities who are in harm’s way. It’s estimated that 2.7 million people with disabilities live in Ukraine, including thousands living in institutions. According to news reports, a care facility for people with disabilities was bombed, leaving residents without heat, water, and electricity. We know that food shortages are happening and many people with disabilities are cut off from medications and support services.

According to AccessAbility, 82,000 Ukranian children with disabilities are segregated in institutions and are at risk of abandonment. And the organization says only 4% of Ukraine’s infrastructure is accessible to people with disabilities. Ukraine is using underground subways as bomb shelters. However, according to Accessibility, “the vast inaccessibility of the country’s infrastructure means disabled people are not being give safety in their bomb shelters.”

We support Disability Rights International (DRI) in their calls for urgent action to protect people with disabilities and children in Ukraine’s orphanages. We fully back DRI in urging immediate attention to “protect people with disabilities in Ukraine and ensure their full inclusion in international relief efforts.”

We share DRI’s concern for adults with disabilities living in institutions in Ukraine. We fear they could be left behind as people in Ukraine escape the violence. We also fear that people with disabilities will be abandoned in all the chaos.

The Arc also supports the calls of The European Disability Forum (EDF). EDF is calling for the protection and safety of people with disabilities in Ukraine by respecting:

  • Their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • The U.N. Security Council Resolution 2475 on Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Conflict
  • International Humanitarian Law and the Humanitarian Principles

“Hour by hour, Ukrainians are fighting to survive, and for those with disabilities and their families, there are far too few options to ensure their health and safety in this attack. Their rights must be honored in the crisis response, in immigration policy and procedures, and in the days and weeks ahead as this nation fights for its future,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc has a longstanding commitment to the human and civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Given that all people with IDD are complex human beings with varying attributes and living circumstances, and many experience multiple risk factors for human and civil rights violations, we emphasize that all are entitled to human and civil rights regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, cultural, linguistic, geographic, and spiritual diversity, economic status, severity of disability, intensity of needed supports, or other factors that expose them to increased risk of rights violations.

These rights include the rights to autonomy, dignity, family, justice, life, liberty, equality, self-determination, community participation, property, health, well-being, access to voting, and equality of opportunity and others recognized by law or international declarations, conventions, or standards. All people with IDD must have the right to supports they need to exercise and ensure their human and civil rights. Local, state, federal, and international governments must strongly enforce all human and civil rights.

With your support, The Arc is responding to the crisis in Europe caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Give today, and The Arc will grant 100% of the resources to organizations supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the ground in Europe who were affected by the war.

The invasion of Ukraine also reminds us that we, as a society, need to increase our awareness of the unrest and conflict tearing apart lives in many countries across the globe. While much of the media and our attention is focused on the people of Ukraine right now, let us also remember the vast numbers of lives lost and threatened daily on an international scale. In all of these regions, we support the human and civil rights of people with disabilities and call for careful consideration of their safety and access to escape war and violence.