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Amazing Stories of Achievement: The Arc’s Achieve With Us Contest Finalists

The Arc wrapped up its Achieve with us Contest August 15 with the selection of 10 finalists from 119 entries highlighting stories of achievement from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Over the past month, we have tallied more than 25,000 votes on Facebook and we’re ready to choose the grand prize winner from the top 10 vote-getters to win a trip to Washington, D.C. to share their story.

In June and July, we encouraged anyone with an intellectual or developmental disability to share their story on our Facebook fan page at and compete for the grand prize through an online voting process. We’re pleased that the contest generated so many inspirational stories and received so many visitors to view those stories and vote!

The Arc will arrange for the winner and a guest to visit The Arc’s national office and Capitol Hill for two days with a chance to share their story with their representatives in Congress and learn more about self-advocacy. The contest was sponsored by ABILITY Magazine, who will feature the grand prize winner in an upcoming issue of the magazine.

We invite you to check out our 10 finalist’s stories and look for an announcement of the Grand Prize winner in early September. Thank you to everyone who participated in making this contest a success!

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Advocacy Does Matter!

If you’re planning on attending The Arc’s National Convention this September, you’ll get to hear firsthand the dramatic story of how The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region along with Bob Perske, David Martinez , fought for and won a pardon for a man with intellectual and developmental disabilities who was wrongly convicted of murder.

On January 7, 2011, seventy-two years and one day after Joe Arridy was wrongly executed, justice was finally served. Thanks to tireless advocacy efforts, years of public awareness campaigns, former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter granted Joe a posthumous pardon. Joe was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and committed to the “Colorado State Home and Training School for Mental Defectives” at the age of 10. The institution determined that Joe had an IQ of 46. While on trial for the murder of the young girl, physiatrists testified that Joe had “the mind of a 6 year old” but that he was not “insane.” Though his attorney worked tirelessly against the highly questionable prosecution, Joe was found guilty and executed.

The Arc of the Pikes Peak Region dedicated itself to clearing Joe’s name. Working with advocates in the community, local attorneys, and even screenwriters to raise awareness of the injustice, the story of Joe Arridy began to spread throughout Colorado. Their dedication paid off. Now those advocates are being honored with the annual Advocacy Matters! Award at The Arc’s National Convention in Denver, CO September 16-19.

More National Convention Awards! Check the full Convention schedule for the dates and times of the awards presentations.

Image and Inclusion Award

Presented to Dr. Temple Grandin for inspiring an award-winning movie with her life and work. “Temple Grandin,” starring Claire Danes has been recognized with Golden Globes, Emmys and most recently a Peabody Award, helping to raise awareness about autism.

Research in Action

Presented to Ashley A. Wolfe for significantly contributing to participatory action research efforts in the I/DD field.

Distinguished Researcher in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Award

Presented to Richard E. Hemp for his critical contributions to data on family support and the federal expenditures that support people with I/DD.

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Are You Coming to Denver?

There’s still time to take advantage of early bird rates for The Arc’s National Convention September 16-19 in Denver, Colorado. Register now and make your reservations at The Sheraton Downtown Denver and get discounted rates saving you hundreds on your trip to the biggest and best opportunity to connect with the intellectual and developmental disability community this year. We’ve extended early registration discounts until August 19 and hotel room discounts are valid until August 14.

We’re expecting a huge crowd for 3 days of informative and inspirational sessions on topics important to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and those who serve them such as:

The Medicaid Crisis, Waiting Lists, Voting, Protecting Social Security, Supporting Families Holistically, Providing Leadership for a Stable Organization, Special Needs Planning for Parents, Self-Advocacy Initiatives, Social Enterprise, Involving siblings and Affordable Housing.

And, don’t miss The Arc and Sprout National Film Festival Luncheon spotlighting people with I/DD or the spectacular Opening Event hosted by The Arc Thrift Stores and The Arc of Colorado at Lucky Strike! Only a short time left to scoop up early bird rates, so don’t delay. Register now here.

Need help getting to Denver? No problem. Hammer Travel is the official travel sponsor of The Arc’s National Convention offering customized, comprehensive travel arrangements for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Visit or call 1-877-345-8599.

Special Thanks to our 2011 National Convention Sponsors: AGS, Diversified Nonprofit Services, Essential Learning, Hammer Travel, The HSC Foundation, Irwin Siegel Agency, Inc., Liberty Mutual, Medisked, MetLife, Managance Consulting, Mutual of America, Rest Assured, Simply Home, Tandem Select, Arc Thrift Stores of Colorado and Trips, Inc.

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Another Great Opportunity to Inspire Others With Your Story!

We’ve all heard it said a picture is worth a thousand words, but what about words themselves? How much is a story worth, what about your own story of advocacy? As it turns out, quite a lot! The stories we share have a way of changing the way we understand our world and help us to reframe our perspective about the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our lives. They inspire and uplift, make us think beyond our own experiences and challenge us to make changes. One person’s story can create a chain reaction of powerful advocacy at the community, state or even national level.

That’s why The Arc is excited to be working on a project with the Genetic Alliance, the world’s leading nonprofit health advocacy organization that includes a network of more than 1,000 disease-specific advocacy organizations and is the voice of advocacy in genetics. The Genetic Alliance, with input and support from The Arc and Family Voices, recently launched an online questionnaire that asks experienced family advocates to share their advocacy journey, including how they developed certain skills and created opportunities to influence systems. Their experiences will be turned into stories that inspire and encourage others to take action and improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families.

The goal is that by collecting these stories into a single publication and identifying the common themes throughout the stories, Moms and Dads, siblings and friends, and people with disabilities themselves can begin to have a better understanding of how to influence their own path in advocacy. The online questionnaire closes on Friday, August 19th. Parents (biological, adoptive, or foster), siblings, grandparents, other relatives, caregivers, and those with a health condition or disability are all welcome to participate. More details about the questionnaire can be found on the survey landing page. This is your chance to inspire others with your own story, and help countless other families benefit from your experiences. So, what are you waiting for?

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Employment Stories Wanted!

The Alliance for Full Participation, an organization of which The Arc is proud to be a founder and partner to help increase employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), is seeking short videos telling stories of integrated employment for people with I/DD. These can be success stories, job searches in progress, or stories about a job that didn’t work out. We are looking for videos and stories from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities; employers; direct support providers; family members; co-workers—all those who have an employment story to share.

How to Share

Keep it simple, short (about 2 minutes) and to the point. Whether you’re using an expensive camera, a smart phone, or something in between to shoot your story, try to keep the camera steady and balanced. Use a tripod if you can. If you don’t have an external microphone, try to have the speaker close to the camera so the audio will be clear.

Include visuals that show your story—you working at your job, looking for a job, the people you work with, etc. Try not to make a “talking head” video that only shows one person talking. Be creative, and most importantly, HAVE FUN! This is your chance to share your story with hundreds, maybe even thousands, of viewers.

A lot of time people want to share a lot of facts in their videos, like where they work, how long they’ve been working somewhere, how many hours they work, and the exact tasks they do. Facts are important, but feelings help make a good story. Make sure you are telling how the employment experience makes you feel.

Once you have created your video, create an email. In the email message, include your name and email address. If you want, you can also include a brief description of the video. Attach your video file to the email and send to:

This will automatically upload the video to the AFP YouTube Channel.


If the video file size is bigger than 25MB, contact Carol Walsh and she will coordinate with you.

The AFP YouTube channel is located at:

A national team of reviewers will watch your video and choose several to premiere during the plenary session at the Alliance for Full Participation Summit: Real Jobs—It’s Everyone’s Business, November 17-19, 2011 at the Gaylord National Harbor, in Washington, DC. We will also create a compilation of all the submissions to show at the exhibit hall at the conference. If you would like to attend the Summit, register now here. Early bird rates end July 31.

If you have any questions, please contact Carol Walsh at, Please note The Arc is not collecting these videos and cannot answer any questions. We are helping to spread the word as part of our partnership with the Alliance for Full Participation, so please direct any questions or comments to them. Thanks!

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Let the Voting Begin!

Who will be the winner of The Arc’s Achieve with us contest? That’s up to you.

For the past month, we have been receiving entries from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities competing for a chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C. and have their story of achievement featured in ABILITY Magazine. We’re narrowing the field to a set of 10 finalists – that’s where you come in. Visit between July 15 and August 15 and vote for your favorite story. The Arc will choose the grand prize winner from among the top 10 vote getters.

If you or someone you know entered, plan to vote before August 15. If you don’t have a favorite yet, view all of the inspiring stories of achievement on our Facebook fan page and tell us who should win with your vote! There are 100+ amazing stories and every one of them deserves to be checked out. It may be really difficult to decide a winner. You can get the full contest details and rules at and be sure to encourage everyone you know to vote! Thanks for helping to make this contest a success.

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Reflections on Tracy Morgan, Other Celebrities and the “R-Word”

This week, when The Arc staff learned of Tracy Morgan’s comments in a recent comedy show in New York City, we knew we had to respond. Not because we are against free speech – as an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, we wholeheartedly support freedom of speech and other constitutional rights. We responded because we don’t like to see hateful, hurtful speech aimed at people with disabilities.

Tracy Morgan is a very successful comedian who made a joke that he thought was funny in the moment, and certainly anyone has a right to laugh at whatever jokes he or she wants. Some people think we’re being oversensitive, and that’s understandable. Mr. Morgan has more leeway because of what he does – making people laugh – and that means he pushes boundaries and social norms. We can appreciate that, but what we don’t think he realized is that the language he used is hurtful to many, many people. And it’s The Arc’s job to stand up for them.

This isn’t about free speech, defining comedy or free publicity as much as it’s about making sure society treats people with disabilities with respect.

In the last year, we’ve called out NBA star LeBron James and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel for using similar language. And each time, it has sparked a lively conversation about free speech and human rights. We’re thrilled to be a part of this debate because these public figures (and everyone else in the conversation) can share with all of society why the “r-word” and other derogatory terms directed at people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are not okay.

People have a right to express themselves. And we at The Arc can take a joke, but we are compelled to stand up when it crosses into territory that hurts the people we represent.

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Serious Star Power Coming to The Arc’s National Convention

You might need sunglasses to attend The Arc’s National Convention in Denver this September. We’re bringing serious star power to the stage with major wattage coming from Hollywood and the intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD) sector.

First up is Dr. David Braddock, a major star in the I/DD community as head of the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities and the driving force behind the “State of the States in Developmental Disabilities” which offers insight into crucial public policy issues. Dr. Braddock has just updated this vital report for 2011 and will share his thoughts on where we stand on disability policy today.

Plus, Lauren Potter from the hit TV show GLEE will be on hand to present this year’s Image and Inclusion Award for accurate and positive portrayals of I/DD in the media. Lauren, who has Down syndrome, is not only a talented actress but has recently become a very visible spokesperson for the I/DD movement. She filmed a compelling PSA for Spread the Word to End the Word campaign against the “r” word with her co-star Jane Lynch and has spoken out against bullying. She was recently in Washington, D.C. with The Arc to help us publicly release the results of the landmark FINDS (Family and Individual Needs for Disability Support) survey and taped a special message to close our newest PSA currently airing across the country.

Finally, Convention attendees will be treated to a keynote presentation from best-selling author and noted animal scientist Dr. Temple Grandin, who has autism. Dr. Grandin’s life and work was the subject of a popular 2010 HBO biopic starring Clarie Danes. The film was highly-praised and recognized with Emmys, Golden Globes and a Peabody Award.

As you can see, it’s an all-star lineup so grab your autograph book and make your reservations now for The Arc’s National Convention September 16-19 in Denver, CO.

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Achieve With Us and See Yourself in ABILITY Magazine

The Arc recently kicked off our Achieve with us contest inviting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to share their inspirational stories of achievement for a chance to win a trip to Washington, D.C. Now, we’ve sweetened the pot by partnering with ABILITY Magazine, the leading source for information on health, disability and human potential. This award-winning publication has provided new insights into individual levels of ability for nearly 20 years and they want to feature the winning entry in The Arc’s Achieve with us contest in an upcoming issue.

So if you or someone you know has a winning story to share, visit and enter today for your chance to win a 2-day, expenses paid trip to the nation’s capital and be featured in the pages of ABILITY Magazine. Plus, they’re kicking in a free one-year subscription to the magazine for the winner along with 25 complimentary copies of an issue to share with friends and family. Enter NOW until July 14 then encourage everyone you know to vote for your story between July 15 and August 15 to win! Who knows, your smiling face could end up in the pages of ABILITY Magazine!

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Groundbreaking FINDS Report Picked up by National Media

The Arc recently released the results of its groundbreaking Families and Individual Needs for Disability Support (FINDS) survey and media across the country have been covering the startling statistics. A major goal for this project has been to raise awareness of The Arc and the urgent unmet needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), and the media has responded by reporting findings from the survey to the general public and highlighting the work of local chapters.

We know that while we have come a long way in promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD, there is still much more work to be done. Throughout our efforts to bring about greater awareness, two findings from the survey have struck a nerve – one-third of parents and caregivers (potentially 1 million families) reported that they are on waiting lists for government funded services, with the average wait more than five years. And in this recession, 62 percent of caregivers reported a decrease in services for their family member with a disability, leaving them financially vulnerable.

On the morning of June 14, we released Still in the Shadows with Their Future Uncertain, our report on the FINDS data. The Arc’s CEO Peter V. Berns and Lauren Potter, star of the hit FOX show “Glee,” participated in more than twenty television and radio interviews in top media markets across the nation, including Boston and Greensboro, North Carolina. Peter and Lauren shared the findings of the report and talked about what needs to be done to improve the lives of people with I/DD. Following these interviews, The Arc hosted a press conference at the National Press Club to officially unveil the report, and the national newswire Reuters quickly ran a story. Throughout the day, media continued to pick up on the report, interviewing local Arc executive directors and self-advocates, like Jamie Liban and Katherine Olson from The Arc of Virginia who did an in-studio interview at WTVR in Richmond.

The FINDS survey continues to have momentum, as Health & Home Report, one of the longest running syndicated video magazines on television, will begin airing on July 1st one of the television interviews with Peter and Lauren. Health & Home Report is hosted by an award winning reporter and anchor, Laura DeAngelis, and has gained a loyal following because of its useful consumer tips and interesting stories. The show is distributed to 20 broadcast stations and 91 cable systems across the country, reaching an audience between 3 to 4 million.

We encourage you to read the FINDS survey report and spread the word about The Arc’s call-to-action to motivate 1 million Americans to join the movement for people with I/DD. Use this information to make the case to everyone you know that more needs to be done to help people with I/DD be fully included and participate in the community throughout their lifetimes. Build on the publicity generated by media coverage of the report and share this blog with your networks. Thank you!