Close up of the U.S. Supreme Court, focused on the pillars, and doorway.

Amicus Brief Filed in U.S. Supreme Court Case Emphasizes Harms to People with Disabilities

WASHINGTON, DC – Six leading disability advocacy organizations, with the support of Kellogg Hansen, have filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the estate of Gorgi Talevski, who alleges that the Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana (HHC) abused and neglected him while in a nursing home. The amicus brief explains why it is important that individuals, particularly those with disabilities, have the ability to sue state and local governments when their civil rights are violated under Medicaid and other public programs. The case, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski, is scheduled to be heard on November 8, 2022.

The amicus brief focuses focuses on the harmful impact the case will have on people with disabilities, who have long faced pervasive discriminatory treatment within American society. People with disabilities and their families have relied on lawsuits to enforce Medicaid’s antidiscrimination protections, including the landmark Olmstead v. L.C. case. If providers of Medicaid services abuse or mistreat beneficiaries or take away or deny their benefits, private lawsuits – regularly brought by The Arc and its partners – are often the only way to hold government entities accountable and ensure people get the life-saving therapies and everyday living support services they need. Many of these lawsuits will no longer be possible if the Court rules in favor of HHC. Full access to Medicaid services and the right to enforce these services are crucial to achieving community integration for people with disabilities. The brief urges the Court to reaffirm the private right of action to enforce Medicaid guarantees and disability rights.

“This case is a large-scale assault on disability rights around the country,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc of the United States. “Medicaid is the primary source of healthcare for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, the vast majority of whom want to live with dignity in their homes and communities. Protecting their right to private action when such rights are violated would ensure they aren’t unnecessarily institutionalized and prevent the unraveling of antidiscrimination progress set forth by the ADA for over 30 years.”

“The Supreme Court has signaled that it may strike another blow against civil rights in this case,” said Ira Burnim, Legal Director of the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. “An expansive ruling could put at risk the ability of individuals to seek relief in federal court for violations of key civil rights statutes prohibiting discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, or disability.”

“Medicaid covers personal attendants and other in-home services and supports that disabled people need to live in the community and participate in society. Enforcement is a critical right,” said Claudia Center, Legal Director of Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

“Congress intended that people with disabilities have the right to enforce Medicaid, just as they do Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The disability community has used this private right of action to enforce vital civil rights protections repeatedly,” said Maria Town, American Association of People with Disabilities President and CEO. “Any decision from the Supreme Court that does not recognize this right would go against Congress’ wishes, decades of legal precedent, and ultimately, put at serious risk the healthcare, community integration, and civil rights that people with disabilities have long fought to secure.”

In Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana v. Talevski, HHC is appealing a ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that Mr. Talevski and his family could sue to enforce his rights under the Nursing Home Reform Act provisions of Medicaid. For 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that people can sue if their rights are violated under safety net programs. The inability to pursue legal recourse will affect millions of people who rely on Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and more.

The amici are also concerned that a broad ruling in favor of HHC may undercut individuals’ rights to sue to enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (prohibiting discrimination based on sex), Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, or national origin), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (prohibiting disability discrimination).

Major health organizations, legal experts, and scholars also uphold the importance of private suits under Medicaid and other federal statutes. Over twenty other amicus briefs have been submitted in support of the defendant, Gorgi Talevski, who is being represented by Ivanka Talevski in his death.

 

 

Media Contacts: 

Jackie Dilworth, The Arc of the United States, dilworth@thearc.org

Jalyn Radziminski, The Bazelon Center, jalynr@bazelon.org

Claudia Center, The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, ccenter@dredf.org

Rachita Singh, The American Association of People with Disabilities, rsingh@aapd.com

Steven Schwartz, The Center for Public Representation, sschwartz@cpr-ma.org

 

About 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 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.

About The Bazelon Center: Since 1972, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has advocated for the civil rights, full inclusion and equality of adults and children with mental disabilities. We envision a society where Americans with mental illness or developmental disabilities live with autonomy, dignity, and opportunity in welcoming communities, supported by law, policy, and practices that help them reach their full potential. The Bazelon Center accomplishes its goals through a unique combination of litigation, public policy advocacy, coalition building and leadership, public education, media outreach and technical assistance.

About The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund: The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national, nonprofit law and policy center led by people with disabilities and dedicated to advancing and protecting the civil and human rights of disabled people. As a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) funded by the US Department of Education, DREDF serves families of children with disabilities and disabled young adults in 33 California counties.

About The American Association of People with Disabilities: The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) is a convener, connector, and catalyst for change, increasing the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for the over 61 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation. To learn more, visit the AAPD Web site: www.aapd.com

About The Center for Public Representation: The Center for Public Representation (CPR) is a national public interest advocacy organization assists people with disabilities to control their own lives, to make their own decisions, and to fully participate in their communities. CPR has litigated numerous cases to ensure that people with disabilities can leave nursing facilities and other segregated institutions, and live productive lives in the community.

The Arc logo

Congress Fails to Block Use of Shock on Residents with Disabilities at Judge Rotenberg Center

Washington, DC – Medical and disability leaders have worked for years to ban the use of electric shock devices for behavior modification on people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The brutal treatment is widely recognized as cruel, harmful, and ineffective. Yet the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC), an institution in Massachusetts for people with IDD, still subjects its residents to this extreme practice. We prevailed in 2020, but the Food and Drug Administration’s ban of the use of the device was overturned on a technicality just one year later. The Arc and our advocates have been asking Congress to put an end to this barbaric treatment in the 2022 FDA User Fee Package – and they have failed to stand up for the basic human rights of people with disabilities.

Today, Senate and House leaders announced they are moving a bill forward to fund the FDA for another five years without the ban. Initial versions of this bill that passed the House and the Senate HELP Committee with bipartisan support included the ban on the shock device. The Arc of the United States, its 600+ chapter network, and people with IDD and their families are devastated by this omission.

“This practice is torturous and a violation of basic civil rights. We will continue fighting for justice for JRC’s residents by working with our partners to get a ban into the end-of-year spending package and ensuring every single representative prioritizes the health and safety of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc logo

The Arc Applauds New Effort to Reduce Red Tape in Medicaid and Other Federal Health Programs

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the Biden Administration proposed a new rule finally updating the eligibility and enrollment processes for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This is welcome news to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families, who navigate a complicated bureaucracy to access the health and community-based services they need for their wellbeing and independence.

This announcement is the culmination of efforts by The Arc and many other organizations and individual advocates to raise the struggles that people face with accessing and maintaining eligibility for these critical programs. In addition to covering basic health care, Medicaid also provides home and community-based services, or HCBS, which make life in the community possible for millions of people with disabilities who often need help with things like eating, dressing, personal hygiene, working, and managing health care or finances. CHIP is an important health coverage program for kids with disabilities who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

This rule, if finalized, would standardize and improve eligibility and enrollment policies, such as limiting renewals to once every 12 months, allowing applicants 30 days to respond to information requests, requiring prepopulated renewal forms, and establishing consistent renewal processes across states.

“The bottom line is these proposed changes are going to help a lot of people navigate getting the benefits they need and keeping them. We frequently hear from people with disabilities and their families how incredibly overwhelming it is to get started, and once they have Medicaid or other federal health benefits, maintaining eligibility is a struggle due to red tape. We look forward to working with the Administration to finalize these changes to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families,” 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 over 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.

The United States Capitol Building

Senate Leaves Out of Reconciliation Bill a Badly Needed Investment in Disability Services

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the U.S. Senate’s vote today on the Inflation Reduction Act, people with disabilities, their support staff, and families will continue to fight for desperately needed resources for the home and community-based services system that has been strained to the breaking point throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the budget reconciliation process, The Arc and our allies in the disability, labor, and direct care worker communities has been advocating for a historic investment in home and community-based services. But the legislation that just passed the Senate completely left out the needs of the disability services system, and the workforce that is disproportionately women of color, who are long overdue for the recognition and benefits of a raise for their important work. It also fails to address other longstanding needs of people with disabilities, family caregivers, and workers, such as paid leave. The bill does help our community in other ways – it will directly impact people with disabilities and their families by lowering drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, continuing health insurance subsidies, and taking steps to address climate change.

“We are deeply disappointed that Congress is not taking this historic opportunity to provide people with disabilities and their families the services and supports they need to live as independently as possible.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the disability services system has been teetering on the brink of collapse. The entire care infrastructure already had huge gaps and cracks, and the unprecedented pressure of this crisis galvanized people with disabilities, their support staff, and their families to advocate for the investment needed to help people now and into the future.

“For the first time, many people who don’t have a personal connection to disability became aware of the needs of our community, thanks to advocates willing to share their deeply personal struggles with legislators, the media, and their neighbors. The uprising generated hundreds of thousands of pleas to Congress to enact a care package that would provide more access to services in the community, and pay the people doing the work a fair, living wage.

“We will not stop pushing for what we need because home and community-based services for people with disabilities make all the difference in the quality of life for a person with a disability and their family,” said Bethany Lilly, Senior Director of Public Policy, The Arc.

Roll of red, white, and blue "I voted" stickers on a white table

Federal Court Strikes Down Texas’ Election Law Provisions Restricting Assistance for Limited English-Speaking and Disabled Voters

Washington, DC – A federal court has struck down provisions of Texas’ election law, S.B. 1, that illegally restrict necessary assistance to limited English-speaking voters and voters with disabilities. Last week, Texas officials declined to appeal this ruling. This means that these provisions of S.B. 1 are now permanently enjoined and cannot be enforced.

The order from Judge Robert Pitman prohibits Texas from limiting voting assistance to only reading and marking the ballot and from requiring individuals assisting voters to sign an oath requiring them to confine their assistance to reading the ballot to the voter, directing the voter to read the ballot, marking the voter’s ballot, or directing the voter to mark the ballot. The court further ordered Texas to revise its training and instructional materials for state and county officials, and to distribute notice to all county elections departments clarifying the S.B. 1 provisions that they should not enforce. The provisions at issue directly violated a 2018 injunction holding that such limitations on assistance violated the Voting Rights Act.

In September 2021, The Arc, Legal Defense Fund (LDF), and Reed Smith filed a separate federal lawsuit on behalf of the Houston Area Urban League, Houston Justice, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, and The Arc of Texas challenging S.B. 1, which includes a series of suppressive voting-related provisions that will make it much harder for Texas residents to vote and disenfranchise some altogether — particularly Black and Latino voters and voters with disabilities. The lawsuit alleges that several provisions of S.B. 1, including the provision recently struck down, violate the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Among other violations, Plaintiffs claim that the law imposes barriers that discriminate against voters with disabilities and deny people with disabilities full and equal opportunities to participate in the state’s election process. This complaint remains pending before Judge Xavier Rodriguez.

“This is a significant victory for voters with disabilities in Texas,” said Shira Wakschlag, Senior Director, Legal Advocacy and General Counsel for The Arc. “Texas voters with disabilities who need assistance to vote will now be able to receive that assistance without illegal restrictions placed on their fundamental right to access democracy. At the same time, many discriminatory aspects of S.B. 1 currently remain in place and we will continue fighting to ensure equal access to the polls for voters with disabilities.”

“Judge Pitman’s order is an important victory for people with disabilities in Texas,” said Georgina Yeomans, Assistant Counsel at LDF. “But there is still work to be done to completely eradicate the discriminatory effects of S.B. 1. That these provisions directly conflicted with a federal injunction at the time they were drafted and passed only highlights the Legislature’s disregard for the law when it enacted S.B. 1.”

“While this order is an important early victory in our challenge to S.B. 1, many egregious and anti-democratic restrictions still remain in violation of the law by intentionally targeting and burdening methods and means of voting used by voters of color, limited English-speaking voters, and those with disabilities,” said Reed Smith partner Ken Broughton, who will argue the plaintiffs’ case in a trial set for next summer. “As we’ve said before, a true democracy seeks to increase voter turnout, not inhibit it, and these restrictions remain fundamentally anti-voter.”

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.

Nurse holding the hand of a patient

Disability Advocates Urge for Investment in Launch of 988 Hotline: A Mental Health Crisis Deserves a Mental Health Response

The Arc of the United States through its National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability, and the Autism Society of America, two of the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots organizations representing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), mark the national rollout of the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, by calling for true transformation in crisis response across the nation.

On July 16, 2022, the U.S. will transition to using the three-digit 988-dialing code, nationwide. The expanded hotline will provide 24-hour access to people across the country experiencing a mental health crisis or behaviors that are part of their disability.

According to the National Center for the Dually Diagnosed, 30% -40% of people with IDD are likely to have co-occurring mental health disabilities (almost 70% for people with Autism). In addition, the Centers for Disease Control says adults with disabilities are almost four times more likely to report suicidal ideation compared to persons without disabilities (31% versus 8% in the general U.S. population).

Too often, people with disabilities in crisis have nowhere to turn and call 911, many times resulting in bad outcomes. In some instances, family or friends call 911, only escalating the situation. Research shows people with mental health conditions are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement, people with disabilities make up 33% of people killed by law enforcement, and these risks increase for Black people and other people of color (Policing and Racial Injustice: A Disability Rights Perspective Impacts and Solutions, Disability Rights Ohio).

Disability-related behaviors can be misunderstood by law enforcement officers who are trained to gain control and compliance on a scene but typically not trained to identify a disability or know how to interact or communicate with persons with disabilities. Behaviors such as rocking back and forth, walking or running away when being approached or questioned, and having trouble communicating can be misunderstood and wrongly believed to be indicative of violent behavior or behavior associated with drugs.

“A mental health crisis deserves an emergency response that addresses behavioral health, as well as intellectual and developmental disability for people with co-occurring diagnoses. We applaud the launch of 988, but we believe more investment in the system is needed to ensure people with IDD who have mental health challenges, in every state, have access to the hotline and to make sure 988 effectively serves communities,” said Peter Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc of the U.S.

“Suicidal ideations and attempts disproportionately affect the Autism community at a rate at least three times greater than the neurotypical rate. The Autism Society put together a Suicide Prevention Task Force, which is working to provide more actionable guidance for crisis centers, like the 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline, to better support the Autism community,” said Chris Banks, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America.

We urge the federal government to:

  • Invest in the creation of community-based infrastructure that can effectively respond to individuals in crisis, and avoid inappropriate institutionalization, hospitalizations, or incarceration.
  • Require a national training curriculum for 988 call-center staff to understand how to respond to callers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, such as Autism, Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). For example, The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability offers the Pathways to Justice training program. The program offers not only training, but also supports a community-based response through Disability Response Teams that address the topic of people with IDD and criminal justice issues. 988 call center staff can be part of Disability Response Teams, joining a community-side effort to support people with IDD in their own communities.
  • Expand the definition of “first responders,” generally thought of as police, paramedics and firefighters, to include civilian mental health crisis responders.
  • Develop nationwide mobile crisis teams equipped with trauma-informed mental health professionals, peer supports, and community de-escalators.
  • Invest in training mental health professionals, first responders, and related personnel in meeting the needs of people with IDD.

As 988 is rolled out in states and communities across the country, we must work to ensure community-based supports are in place for all callers, including those with mental health disabilities and IDD.

On September 13, The Arc is hosting a free, virtual teach in and workshop, titled “Disabled BIPOC: Disrupting Danger in Crisis Response”. Learn more and register.

the verizon logo in black on a white background

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.

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 woman with shoulder length curly brown hair wearing a blue turtleneck sweater and tortoise frame glasses.

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.

The Arc logo

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.”