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Eliza’s Story: “I Am Not a Disability”

Every student wants to learn. Every artist wants to create. Every person wants an opportunity to be the best they can be. The administration at Southern Oregon University has denied Eliza Schaaf all three.

Eliza graduated high school this year, loves expressing her creativity and decided to take that to the next level in college by enrolling in an art course called Introduction to Ceramics.

“I have always loved learning and I like working with clay,” Eliza says. “I just wanted to take a course and learn the basics of pottery with other college students my age.”

However, university officials have shut her down. Just seven classes short of completing the requirements for the entire course, Eliza was removed from class. University administrators told Eliza, “At this time, Southern Oregon University does not offer a program specifically designed to provide specialized learning opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities. We have determined that even with the support of the accommodation(s) available at the post-secondary level, you are currently not otherwise qualified to meet the academic standards necessary to participate in this course.”

Eliza has Down syndrome and had attended previous classes with the help of a personal assistant. Eliza’s art projects were progressing nicely, and now all she wants to do is finish them.

In her words: “I have never thought of myself as being disabled. I am not a disability. I am a person who loves to learn.”

You’re totally missing the point. That’s what The Arc would like to say to the administration at Southern Oregon University.

It’s not just about what she might reasonably be expected to learn. It’s not just about how much she “gets” out of what’s going on. It’s not just about academic progress. It’s about allowing her to participate in the college experience to the best of her ability, alongside classmates who support her.

What Can You Do?

  • Spread the word via social media.
  • Tweet about it using the hash tag: #4eliza
  • Make a donation to The Arc so that we can help Eliza and cases like hers, directly.
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Did You Miss Convention? Here’s a Wrap-up

There are plenty of recent posts about the 2010 National Convention in Orlando on the blog, but if you missed any of the action, check out our Convention 2010 Wrap-up page. It has recaps of all of the major happenings at convention, plus a link to our Flickr gallery that includes tons of photos.

Thanks to everyone who made it to Orlando, and we hope to see you next year in Denver.

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Branding: What’s the Big Deal?

The Arc’s CEO, Peter Berns, was recently quoted in an excellent article about branding nonprofit organizations. The article offers nonprofits a new perspective on branding, taking it out of the realm of sales and marketing, and putting it squarely in the realm of relationship-building. It points out that a brand encompasses every aspect of an organization and therefore does not belong exclusively to the marketing team, but should be understood and promoted by everyone.

Branding is generally thought of in terms of selling and product or service-and therefore sometimes dismissed by nonprofit organizations who believe they’re not in the sales business. But a big part of selling a product is building some sort of relationship with the consumer, much the same way we build relationships with our constituents, both the people we serve and those who support us.

That is why branding is such a big deal in the nonprofit arena, and why The Arc is undertaking a huge initiative in 2011 to introduce a new brand identity to the world. Branding doesn’t end with a new logo, or new colors or a slick brochure or ad. Branding is carried on every day, by every staff member, volunteer and advocate every time they tell someone about The Arc, organize a workshop, host an event, and even just answer the phone. Read this article and start thinking about how you define and support our brand and what a difference that can make.

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Families Fight to Care For Children With Disabilities at Home

Check out this NPR story reported by Joe Shapiro about families fighting to care for their kids with disabilities at home. It’s a window into families caring for someone with disabilities and getting long-term health care. The story highlights The Arc’s position that people in the Medicaid program should have care at home and in the community, not in an institution or nursing home.

You’ll meet Olivia Welter, 20, of Illinois, who like countless thousands, is cared for at home and requires intensive 24-hour care. She gets life-saving medical care through a program provided by Illinois’ Medicaid program. But since it’s a program for children, she will no longer be eligible for that care when she reaches 21.

It’s expensive to care for Olivia at home – nurses cost about $220,000 a year – less than half the cost of what the state counts as the alternative — having her live in a hospital. Olivia’s parents, Tamara and John Welter, are grateful for what Illinois has done in the past but they figure they’ve saved the state millions of dollars by keeping her at home.

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Convention Day Two: Honors, New Projects, and Reflecting on the Past and Future

The second and final day of The Arc’s 2010 National Convention wrapped up yesterday, and the highlights flowed all day. In fact, there were so many highlights, we’re putting them into a list! Here are the top five moments from day two at The Arc’s 2010 National Convention:

3. Margaret-Lee Thompson received the Advocacy Matters! award, which was established in honor of the late Lorraine Sheehan. Margaret was chosen to receive the Advocacy Matters! Award because she exemplifies the spirit of Lorraine, who spent her life advocating for the rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

4. Ann Cameron Caldwell provided an overview on the exciting new Autism Now project, stemming from a $1.87 million grant awarded to The Arc by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities in September.

5. Sharon Lewis, Commissioner of the ADD and Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for the Administration on Aging, spoke at plenary sessions. Plus, Melody Musgrove, Director of the Office of Special Education, also took the podium at a plenary session.

For more photos of yesterday’s activities, see our Facebook page and our Flickr profile. And remember, you can get breaking updates from our Twitter profile, and follow the conversation via our hash tag: #thearc10.

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A Glee-ful Start to Convention 2010

Image and Inclusion Award 2010

Actresses Robin Trocki and Lauren Potter, from the hit show Glee, received The Arc’s Inclusion & Image Award in recognition of their achievements in television for breaking down barriers, increasing awareness, and challenging stereotypes.

Yesterday turned into one of the most memorable days in The Arc’s history. The Arc’s celebrated its 60th year with an opening day at its National Convention. The day included a sneak peek of our new brand and logo, to be revealed to the public in March, and a visit by Actresses Lauren Potter and Robin Trocki from the hit show Glee.

The stars received The Arc’s Inclusion & Image Award in recognition of their achievements in television for breaking down barriers, increasing awareness, and challenging stereotypes. The actresses answered questions from the audience, signed autographs for people, and posed for pictures with fans. Both women said they love acting and being on the TV show Glee.

But all fun aside, both actresses and their family members, emphasized the importance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities embracing a life full of determination, advocating for themselves all along the way. Their example is an inspiration to many.

For more photos of yesterday’s activities, see our Facebook page and our Flickr profile. And remember, you can get breaking updates from our Twitter profile, and follow the conversation via our hash tag: #thearc10.

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Four Ways to Follow the 2010 National Convention

The Arc's 2010 Convention image

Whether you’re attending this year’s convention or not, there’s plenty going on that you’ll want to keep up with. Following all the happenings is easier than ever, thanks to the web and social media.

  • Follow this blog. It seems like a no-brainer, but we just launched, so help us spread the word. We’ll fill this spot with all the news and information coming out of convention. You can find the latest headlines from the blog right on our home page, in the bottom left-hand corner.
  • Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Each day, we’ll be posting real-time updates on our social media profiles as well, in addition to meatier updates here. On Twitter, you can use the hash tag, #thearc10 to follow the conversation centered around the convention. If you’re at convention, and tweeting, feel free to jump into discussion.
  • Visit our Flickr page. Flickr, a place to share photos, will be the first place we post photos each day from convention events. Also, if you’re taking and posting photos there, we invite you to post them to our group page.
  • Use the Convention website. Our convention website is still the best place to go for all the convention particulars, like the schedule, list of sponsors, and exhibitors and more.
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Bullying in Schools Could Violate Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Department of Education issued guidance last week to support educators in combating bullying in schools by clarifying when student bullying may violate federal education anti-discrimination laws. The guidance comes in the form of a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to schools, colleges and universities, explaining educators’ legal obligations to protect students from student-on-student racial and national origin harassment, sexual and gender-based harassment, and disability harassment. President Obama also recorded a message about the problem broadcast on YouTube.

The White House and Department of Education also announced next steps to address bullying and harassment in schools. Early next year, the White House will host a conference to raise awareness and equip young people, parents, educators, coaches and other community leaders with tools to prevent bullying and harassment. This conference will build upon efforts led by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to spark a dialogue on the ways in which communities can come together to prevent bullying and harassment.

“We’ve got to dispel the myth that bullying is just a normal rite of passage, or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not,” said President Obama. “We have an obligation to ensure that our schools are safe for all of our kids. Every single young person deserves the opportunity to learn and grow and achieve their potential, without having to worry about the constant threat of harassment.”

Following the release of today’s guidance, the Department plans to hold technical assistance workshops around the country in early 2011 to help educators better understand their obligations and the resources available to take prompt and effective steps that will end harassment and bullying in schools and on college campuses.

The Obama administration launched a Stop the Bullying Now campaign and www.bullyinginfo.org, a national database of effective anti-bullying programs. Read the “Dear Colleague” letter here or hear the President’s message here (or view it above).

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The Arc of Indiana’s John Dickerson on the “Real Problem”

On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported that some state workers in Indiana suggested leaving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at homeless shelters if they can’t be cared for at home due to decreased funding for support services.

The Arc of Indiana’s John Dickerson wrote on his blog about the “real problem.”

He said:

No family who cares for a loved one with a developmental disability—such as autism, Down syndrome, or cerebral palsy—should ever be told that a homeless shelter is an option. But, punishing state employees will not address a very real problem.

The real problem is that viable options are not being made available to families due to Indiana’s revenue short fall and changes in state policy. Families in need are facing a crisis in receiving critical services.

What can you do to help?

  • Learn a bit more about what we do.
  • If you’re in Indiana, join The Arc and contribute to the solution.
  • Or you can make a donation, and know that it will go a long way in helping create solutions to this pressing issue.
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Indiana Ends Food Aid for People With Developmental Disabilities

The Arc of Indiana’s John Dickerson, the chapter’s executive director, says:

We’ve got to have some sort of a way to cover people in the meantime because otherwise this new food policy could leave people without any food budget at all.