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Shut Out Again: COVID-19 Relief Package Again Excludes Needs of People With Disabilities, Families, Service Providers

After months of hardship and danger from the COVID-19 pandemic, and relentless advocacy by The Arc and advocates across the country, last night Congress passed a COVID-19 relief package without critical funding for people with disabilities to access the services and supports necessary for a life in the community.

As COVID-19 continues to spread nationwide, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are struggling to access the services they need to continue to live in the community, and their families struggle with balancing work and caregiving responsibilities. Congress should have allocated desperately needed funds to support home and community-based services but they fell short.  They also failed to provide funding for personal protective equipment (PPE) and resources for the workforce that has supported people with disabilities tirelessly throughout this pandemic.

Congress did authorize a second round of smaller stimulus payments, but once again left out many people with disabilities – those who are defined by the IRS to be “adult dependents.” This group was inexplicably cast aside despite bipartisan support for including them.

Congress extended tax credits available for business to cover paid leave, but eliminated rules about when business must provide leave and did not extend the tax credits to cover all caregivers as the pandemic continues. Congress also failed to provide a solution to a COVID-related overpayment issue with Social Security benefits. The needs of people with disabilities, their families, and the workforce that supports them were excluded to honor an arbitrary bottom line.

“It’s unconscionable that Congress ignored the dire needs of people with disabilities, their support staff, and families as this pandemic rages across the country. For months, our leaders have known the consequences of their inaction. People with disabilities are getting infected at higher rates. Support staff are putting their lives on the line day and day out with the protection they need. And families are struggling with it all. Yet in the waning days of 2020, they have shut us out in the cold in COVID-19 relief legislation,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

Home and community-based services, or HCBS, make life in the community possible for millions of people with disabilities who often need help with things like eating, dressing, personal hygiene, and managing health care or finances. As COVID-19 spread in congregate settings out of the community, like nursing homes and institutions, HCBS became even more important for health, safety, and independence. Without this critical federal emergency funding, as state budgets continue to take hits due to the pandemic, the HCBS systems will be hit hard.

Through The Arc, almost 150,000 calls and emails have flooded Congress in recent months to demand action for funding for these services, along with the PPE needed by staff to safely deliver these services to people with disabilities. Chapters of The Arc across the country have been scrambling throughout the pandemic to access PPE and other medical supplies. They are in need of resources to cover these costs as well as the funding to pay their direct support professionals fairly for the vital work they do.

“This is not hyperbole – this is life and death for people with disabilities and their support systems. Before, during, and someday after the pandemic, a life in the community is vital for people with disabilities. Congress turned its back on desperately needed funds to support these services, protect the staff doing the work, and pay them for the risks they are taking in this public health crisis,” said Berns.

silhouette of a hand casting a paper ballot into a box

The Arc’s Statement on the 2020 Election

The Arc released the following statement about the 2020 Presidential election:

“This was an historic election given the challenges our nation faces, and voters turned out in record numbers to make their choice about our future. While people with disabilities still face far too many barriers to accessing the right to vote, including physical obstacles and state laws that prohibit some people with disabilities from voting, millions persevered amidst health and safety concerns to exercise their right.  Their votes counted, as did the votes of their family members, friends and supporters.  

“While the election is over, our nonpartisan advocacy continues at the local and state levels, in the halls of Congress, at the Supreme Court, and will continue in 2021 with the Biden Administration.

“We are still in the COVID-19 crisis. This virus has disproportionately impacted people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and direct support professionals.

“People with disabilities have died from COVID-19. They have faced discriminatory medical policies and practices. Lives have been interrupted, inclusion in the community has been snatched away. Their family members, who were already taking on the majority of caregiving responsibilities, have taken on even more, in many instances disrupting their own lives. And the dedicated direct support professionals have dealt with challenges in protecting health and safety without the necessary protective equipment.

“These impacts are still with us today and will be until our country gets this virus under control and policies in place that meet the needs of people with disabilities, their families, and caregivers. We also must continue to address the many injustices that people with disabilities experience on a day-to-day basis.

“In just a few days, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that threatens to undo all the progress we made with the Affordable Care Act. Access to consistent and reliable healthcare is critical for individuals with disabilities, and the law created much-needed reforms to health insurance, addresses systemic discrimination, and expands coverage.

“We must address the high unemployment rates of people with disabilities and the economic insecurity too many families and individuals face. We have to support families as they struggle with caregiving responsibilities by implementing inclusive paid leave.

“There still is a lot of work to do and, just as The Arc has done throughout our 70-year history, we will not rest until the humanity and needs of people with disabilities are respected,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

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The Arc Deeply Troubled by U.S. Supreme Court Voting Rights Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Arc is deeply troubled by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Merrill v. People First of Alabama, effectively banning curbside voting in Alabama, a critical accommodation to ensure the health and safety of voters with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of voters with underlying health issues who were concerned about the health risks of in-person voting during COVID-19. Nearly 1.6 million people—almost half of the state’s electorate—are high-risk individuals who are more susceptible to death or serious illness from COVID-19 and are protected as individuals with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). People First of Alabama—a group of people with developmental disabilities dedicated to self-determination and autonomy—served as an organizational plaintiff in the lawsuit to fight for the rights of people with disabilities in Alabama to receive the accommodations they need to access the polls.

“The Supreme Court’s decision endangers and disenfranchises voters with disabilities in Alabama who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and experiencing life-threatening complications and death from the virus,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “The Arc has been a leader in fighting for the rights of people with disabilities during this pandemic and has long advocated for necessary accommodations that enable many with intellectual and developmental disabilities to exercise their right to vote—a right which has all too often been denied. We are deeply disappointed the Court would deny the option for such an important accommodation days before Election Day, and without legal explanation, thereby depriving more than one million people with disabilities in Alabama of equal access to the polls.”

Because of the risks it poses during the pandemic, Alabama’s in-person voting program is essentially inaccessible to voters with disabilities who face a heightened risk from COVID-19. Curbside voting allows voters to receive and return ballots from inside their vehicles, enabling them to avoid crowds of other voters and limit contact with poll workers, thereby limiting their exposure to the virus. This accommodation is especially critical during COVID-19, but it has also been a widespread practice in nearly thirty states and encouraged by the U.S. Department of Justice even before the pandemic as a reasonable accommodation for voters with disabilities who face a variety of barriers accessing polling places. While Alabama has an absentee voting program, the ADA still requires states to make in-person voting accessible to people with disabilities. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Election Assistance Commission have recommended curbside voting as a safer alternative to traditional in-person voting during COVID-19.

The right to vote is fundamental. People with IDD have the right to participate in our democracy, though this right has all too often been denied. It shouldn’t have to come at serious risk to a person’s health or life. In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that “absentee and in-person voting are different benefits, and voters with disabilities are entitled to equal access to both” and quoted plaintiff Howard Porter, Jr., a Black man in his seventies with asthma and Parkinson’s, who told the district court: “‘[S]o many of my [ancestors] even died to vote. And while I don’t mind dying to vote, I think we’re past that – we’re past that time.’”

Ensuring voting independence, accuracy, and access are key issues for The Arc. Too many polling places and voting technology and practices throughout the country remain inaccessible and disenfranchise voters. To access resources for voters with disabilities during this election season, please visit our Voting page.

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 I/DD 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 Arc Recognizes Comcast NBCUniversal With the 2020 Catalyst Award

The Arc today announced it will honor long-standing partner Comcast NBCUniversal as the recipient of its 2020 Catalyst Award for their collaborative efforts to provide people with disabilities increased access to technology and more independence. The award recognizes businesses, individuals, and other organizations that have made extraordinary contributions toward greater social inclusion and the advancement of the human and civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

“We are thrilled to award Comcast NBCUniversal with one of The Arc’s greatest honors. The Catalyst Award recognizes Comcast NBCUniversal’s commitment to people with IDD through its efforts in technology, services, and public awareness. In 2020, people with disabilities face unprecedented challenges, amidst a global pandemic. Comcast NBCUniversal continues to step up as an ally and outstanding corporate leader in accessibility, and a champion of inclusion of people with disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The 2020 Catalyst Award recognizes Comcast NBCUniversal’s expansion of internet access before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its advances in accessibility such as voice-activated remote control, X1 eye control, and the company’s dedicated services center for customers with disabilities.

“It’s a fact that people with disabilities are less likely to have access to the internet and the technology necessary to lead more independent lives. It is our belief that everyone should have access to affordable internet, relevant assistive technology and the appropriate digital skills training.  We are honored to both partner and be recognized by The Arc for our collective efforts,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Comcast Corporation.

In recent months, as the nation was abruptly shifting into stay-at-home orders and virtual connection became paramount in the pandemic, Comcast NBCUniversal acted quickly to expand the Internet Essentials high speed internet adoption program for low-income households, with 60-day free service offers to new customers and increasing internet speeds for all subscribers. They are working directly with school districts across the country to help connect families to the internet and provide access to devices for virtual learning. The company’s commitment builds upon their largest-ever expansion of Internet Essentials in 2019, when the eligibility was broadened to all qualified low-income households including those with people with disabilities. And their ongoing efforts to innovate and respond to their customers have resulted in tech advances that meet the needs of people with disabilities, and customer support in American Sign Language.

This year, Comcast NBCUniversal has also made important contributions in raising public awareness of the negative impacts the pandemic is having on people with IDD by including meaningful coverage of key issues on TODAY, MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin, and the NBC News digital platform.

The Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation has also provided flexible funding to community partners including The Arc so we could support immediate needs in our chapter network. Throughout our partnership, Comcast NBCUniversal’s continued and generous support of The Arc’s Tech Coaching Centers to expand digital technology opportunities for people with IDD has changed lives and opened doors for people with IDD. The company has a deep and meaningful commitment to advancing digital equity for people with disabilities, and that encompasses support of other disability organizations such as Easterseals and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

Comcast NBCUniversal is the sole recipient of The Catalyst Award this year.

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

The Arc Reviews Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Record on Issues Impacting People With Disabilities: What Is at Stake

By Shira Wakschlag, Senior Director, Legal Advocacy & General Counsel

On September 26, President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court following the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee began today. The Arc is not taking a position on Judge Barrett’s nomination. As the confirmation process for this lifetime appointment unfolds, here we provide an overview of Judge Barrett’s disability and civil rights record to ensure our members and constituents in the disability community are fully informed about issues that impact people with disabilities.  

Judge Barrett was nominated by President Trump to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals on May 8, 2017 and confirmed by the Senate on October 31, 2017. Prior to her appointment to the Seventh Circuit, she was a professor at Notre Dame Law School and a judicial clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. Given her relatively short time on the bench, this overview includes sources such as law review articles and public speeches, in addition to key opinions from her judicial record. 

Health Care

Background: The Arc has long fought for the rights of people with disabilities to have timely access to high quality, comprehensive, accessible, affordable health care that meets their individual needs, maximizes health, well-being and function, increases independence and community participation, and is aligned with principles of non-discrimination and equity. Through its public policy and legal advocacy work, The Arc has vigorously advocated for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as essential for people with disabilities in providing affordable and necessary health care, Medicaid expansion, and protections for pre-existing conditions and against discrimination. The ACA also protects against lifetime coverage limits, guarantees coverage of services for mental health and developmental disabilities, and provides access to long-term home-based health care, allowing people with disabilities to live in the community, rather than institutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated healthcare disparities and underscored the critical importance of the ACA given the millions of newly unemployed Americans who would not otherwise be able to afford health insurance, the increase in disabilities and long-term healthcare needs resulting from COVID-19, and the possibility of discriminatory medical rationing prohibited by the ACA.

Judge Barret’s Record: Though Judge Barrett has not ruled in a case involving the ACA, she has been a vocal opponent of the law in a number of public forums. In a Notre Dame law review article discussing various approaches to judicial interpretation of statutes, Judge Barrett criticized the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2012 NFIB v. Sebelius decision upholding the ACA, writing that Chief Justice John Roberts had “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute. He construed the penalty imposed on those without health insurance as a tax…had he treated the payment as the statute did—as a penalty—he would have had to invalidate the statute as lying beyond Congress’s commerce power.”

In 2015, in King v. Burwell,the U.S. Supreme Court again upheld the ACA, with Chief Justice Roberts writing the majority opinion and noting: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” Justice Scalia dissented based on his interpretation of the law to prohibit subsidies in states with federal exchanges. Judge Barrett supported Justice Scalia’s interpretation in an interview on public radio. On November 10, the Court will hear oral arguments for California v. Texas, a case in which the constitutionality of the ACA has been challenged, threatening the law’s overall validity. Given Judge Barrett’s previous remarks on ACA-related cases and the shifting makeup of the court, the future of the ACA is under great threat, putting the health care of millions with disabilities in jeopardy.

Federal Disability and Civil Rights Laws

Background: The history of living with a disability in the U.S. has largely been one of discrimination, segregation, and exclusion from education, work, housing, and routine daily activities. Over its 70 year history, The Arc has been instrumental in the enactment of federal disability civil rights laws—including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—which have helped society make great strides in protecting the civil rights of people with disabilities. The Arc has fought vigorously against a variety of attempts to narrow the scope of these protections. A robust interpretation and enforcement of federal disability and other civil rights laws is critical to ensuring the right of people with disabilities to live, work, learn, and play in the community, free from discrimination.

Judge Barrett’s Record: In 2019, Judge Barrett joined a decision out of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the state of Wisconsin’s open-enrollment program allowing public school students to apply to transfer from their resident school district to a nonresident district with available space. Plaintiffs—parents of students with disabilities who were denied transfers based on their special education needs—challenged the program as discriminatory.  The program allows districts to distinguish between “regular education and special education spaces” and nonresident districts can deny a student’s transfer application if the district lacks the services or space necessary to meet their disability-related needs.

The court found for the state, holding that: “Differential treatment of special-needs students doesn’t make the program unlawful. Federal law ‘forbids discrimination based on stereotypes about a handicap, but it does not forbid decisions based on the actual attributes of the handicap.’ The program makes decisions based on the actual needs of disabled students, so it complies with federal law.” The ADA was enacted to provide a “clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” The court’s interpretation that the law is narrowly limited to protecting against “stereotypes” rather than discrimination based on the actual needs of people with disabilities is deeply concerning and inconsistent with the purpose of the statute.

More broadly, outside of the disability realm, Judge Barrett has consistently interpreted civil rights laws extremely narrowly to the detriment of marginalized groups, including people of color, older adults, and the LGBTQ+ community.[1]

Discrimination in Immigration Policy

Background: In 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced the “public charge” rule which allows the federal government to deny admission into the U.S. based on the likelihood of an individual relying on public benefits for support. Through public policy and in the courts, The Arc has fought this rule because it discriminates against people with disabilities by allowing the government to deny admission into the U.S. based solely on a person’s disability and the use or expected use of public benefits like Medicaid. It also discourages immigrant families from utilizing critical public services—such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, housing assistance, and other important programs—out of fear of harming their immigration status. Overall, the rule unfairly restructures immigration in a way that is detrimental to people based on their disability.

Judge Barrett’s Record: Earlier this year, in Cook County v. Wolf, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction of the “public charge” rule, holding that it discriminates against people with disabilities by making it more difficult for immigrants with significant disabilities to come to the U.S. because of their increased likelihood of relying on government benefits for support: “The conclusion is inescapable that the Rule penalizes disabled persons in contravention of the Rehabilitation Act.” Judge Barrett dissented, writing that she would vacate the injunction based on her understanding that “DHS’s definition is a reasonable interpretation of the statutory term ‘public charge.’”[2]


[1] See, e.g. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. AutoZone (7th Cir. 2017) (denying petition for en banc rehearing of a case in which the lower court ruled for the employer where the EEOC claimed that AutoZone had an unlawful practice of segregating employees by race when it assigned Black employees to stores in Black neighborhoods, which the dissent criticized as an unlawful “separate-but-equal arrangement”); Kleber v. CareFusion Corporation (7th Cir. 2019) (joined majority opinion holding that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects only current employees from discrimination due to disparate impact, not outside job applicants. One dissenting judge criticized the opinion, noting: “Wearing blinders that prevent sensible interpretation of ambiguous statutory language, the majority adopts the improbable view that the Act outlawed employment practices with disparate impacts on older workers, but excluded from that protection everyone not already working for the employer in question.”); Amy Coney Barrett, Hesburgh Lecture, Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute, 2016, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yjTEdZ81lI (criticizing Obergefell v. Hodges (U.S. 2015)—Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional protection for marriage equality for same sex couples—and noting that Title IX should not be interpreted to extend its protections to transgender people.). Judge Barrett also provided paid speeches in 2015 and 2016 to the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

[2] For more information on Judge Barrett’s disability record, see The Bazelon Center, “Amy Coney Barrett’s Record on Issues Affecting People with Disabilities”

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Comcast NBCUniversal and The Arc Team up to Support Local Disability Agencies and Digital Literacy for People With Disabilities

The Arc of the United States and Comcast NBCUniversal today announced a three-year renewal of their national partnership to expand digital technology opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Comcast NBCUniversal is providing $400,000 to The Arc’s Tech Coaching Centers, which operate their national digital literacy program, as well as chapters that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are immensely grateful for Comcast NBCUniversal’s continued support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the work we do to protect their human rights and support their participation in society,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. “Many of our chapters have been hit incredibly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are truly fortunate to have such a longstanding and steadfast partner in Comcast NBCUniversal in our work to support our chapters and expand access to digital technology that will open up doors online and offline for people with disabilities.”

The Arc’s national network of more than 600 chapters provide vital resources and services to individuals with IDD and their families to promote greater independence and opportunity in the community. With the support of Comcast NBCUniversal, The Arc will continue the important work of connecting its clients with digital skills to enhance their paths to independence through digital literacy training and financial support. Since 2017, more than 1,800 clients have received basic digital skills training at 16 sites around the country. Additionally, for the next year, Comcast will help fund general operating costs for some chapters of The Arc that face financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.

“Through the Tech Coaching Centers and our long-standing partnership with The Arc, we’ve witnessed so many examples of individuals gaining employment, learning digital skills, navigating the internet, and more,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, EVP & Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation. “We believe it is vital to continue supporting these efforts to help create economic mobility for people with disabilities.”

About Comcast Corporation

Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is a global media and technology company with three primary businesses:  Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal, and Sky.  Comcast Cable is one of the United States’ largest video, high-speed internet, and phone providers to residential customers under the Xfinity brand, and also provides these services to businesses.  It also provides wireless and security and automation services to residential customers under the Xfinity brand.  NBCUniversal is global and operates news, entertainment and sports cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, television production operations, television station groups, Universal Pictures, and Universal Parks and Resorts.  Sky is one of Europe’s leading media and entertainment companies, connecting customers to a broad range of video content through its pay television services.  It also provides communications services, including residential high-speed internet, phone, and wireless services.  Sky operates the Sky News broadcast network and sports and entertainment networks, produces original content, and has exclusive content rights.  Visit www.comcastcorporation.com for more information.

The United States Capitol Building

The Arc Supports National Coronavirus Commission Act to Assess Response to Pandemic for People With Disabilities

Today, Members of the U.S. House and Senate introduced the bipartisan National Coronavirus Commission Act of 2020. The proposed legislation seeks to create an independent, non-partisan commission to assess the nation’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission would also make recommendations to improve readiness in the future. The Commission has a specific charge to review the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities.

The Arc supports the bipartisan bill and believes establishing a National Coronavirus Commission is important to ensure that as a country we fully understand the extraordinarily detrimental impacts the pandemic has had on millions of people with disabilities across the country. The pandemic continues to disproportionately harm them. Recognizing where the country’s response has fallen short and committing to doing better in the future is key to truly moving forward in a way that is intentional and inclusive of people with disabilities.

“We are pleased to support this important bi-partisan effort to ensure that we have a full accounting of the National response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We specifically thank Senators Menendez and Collins for ensuring that the Commission is charged with reviewing the health and economic impacts of the pandemic on people with disabilities, a population that is far too often overlooked in the face of crises, this information will be vitally important,” said Nicole Jorwic, Senior Director of Public Policy at The Arc.

We are hopeful the bill will move swiftly through Congress as people with disabilities work to rebuild their lives.

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The Arc on Passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Her Mark on the Disability Rights Movement

The Arc released the following statement on the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

“Often lost in the day to day of life are the big moments in history that make today possible. Today, a life in the community for millions of people with disabilities is possible because of the actions of those who came before them, that led to justice. We mourn the loss of one of those champions, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the opinion in the landmark ruling affirming that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is discrimination.

“Thirty years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act transformed the country in important ways, changing expectations for the lives of people with disabilities. Thanks to the work of countless committed advocates, we have taken meaningful steps toward the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Two advocates that carried the promise of the law all the way to the Supreme Court were Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson. Their bravery and refusal to live behind the dark walls of institutions led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead v. L.C. decision in 1999. The case established that unjustified segregation of people with disabilities is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act – and that people with disabilities have a right to live in the community rather than institutions.

“In the opinion, Justice Ginsburg focused on the fact that ‘institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable of or unworthy of participating in community life.’

“This big moment, and her staunch affirmation of the human dignity of people with disabilities and their rightful place in the community of their choice, fundamentally changed the course of the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities. With this history in our hearts, we will carry on our fight for inclusion and justice for all people with disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

Unacceptable Police Shooting of Teenager With Autism: The Arc Calls for Transparent Investigation and Reform

Washington, D.C. – Yet another unnecessary police shooting of a person with a disability has occurred, this time in Salt Lake City, Utah, where 13-year-old Linden Cameron was shot by officers multiple times on Friday night while he was in crisis. His mother had called police for assistance when Linden, who has autism, was experiencing behaviors related to his disability likely due to a disruption in his routine. Linden needed an intervention but instead, police responding to the situation shot the teenager multiple times, causing significant injuries.

“How this call for help escalated, and so quickly, into a tragic shooting of a 13-year-old is incomprehensible. A thorough, swift, and transparent investigation must be done for Linden, his family, and the community.

“No one should ever be hurt or killed by police because of who they are. But time and time again, interactions between police and marginalized communities, including people with disabilities, end in violence. According to research, almost half of people killed by police have some kind of disability.  The Arc stands in solidarity with all communities that continue to face over-policing and mourn for those lost to police violence.

“To achieve the full participation of people with disabilities in their communities, we must demand recognition and respect for their human dignity, as well as understanding and acceptance of their differences. Whether the call goes to police, or another crisis intervention team, these are the fundamentals that must be ingrained in our society. We must develop systems that support individuals and families in these situations so that law enforcement is not called in.  We have to change our response – not the person with the disability, or the person in crisis. In the meantime, I fear for millions of people like Linden who simply by being who they are, are at risk of tragic violence when they or a loved one call for help,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

The Arc is committed to learning from every instance of police violence against marginalized communities in order to advocate effectively for much-needed reform. The Arc’s National Center on Criminal Justice and Disability (NCCJD) is key to this effort. NCCJD promotes safety, fairness, and justice for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, especially those with hidden disabilities and marginalized identities, as victims, witnesses, suspects, defendants, and incarcerated persons. Without access to justice, individuals with disabilities will continue to be overrepresented in every part of the criminal legal system. Law enforcement must receive effective training to prepare them for situations involving interactions with people with disabilities. To address this critical issue, NCCJD created Pathways to Justice, a comprehensive, community-based program that improves access to justice by creating and building relationships between the disability and criminal justice communities.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), 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 I/DD 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 Announces Grant From The Coca-Cola Foundation

WASHINGTON – Students with disabilities and their families are experiencing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties in special education, as the COVID-19 pandemic forces schools and families all over the country to try to figure out the best path forward. But long before the pandemic, students with disabilities and their families faced disparities in education and unmet needs in the classroom. The pandemic underscores the need for vast systemic improvements in special education and more resources for students and families.

Today, The Arc is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a grant from The Coca-Cola Foundation to expand our support of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families during this critical time. The funding will allow The Arc@School to develop new online resources for students and families to ensure they receive the benefits of public education in the least restrictive setting possible, as mandated by federal and state law.

“We are thrilled to receive support from The Coca-Cola Foundation. It will give The Arc@School the capacity to create new resources that will help students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families become empowered during uncertain and challenging times in education, whether they are learning virtually or in the classroom,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc. “The Arc fought hard in the 1960s and 70s to force open the schoolhouse doors and win the right for students with disabilities to attend public schools. But just like other civil rights struggles, the work is far from over. Equal access to education lays important groundwork for people with IDD to have a place in their communities and make meaningful contributions as adults. We thank The Coca-Cola Foundation for understanding the importance of education for people with IDD and for their generous support.”

The Arc@School is The Arc’s National Center on Special Education Advocacy. The Arc@School supports students with IDD (and other disabilities) and their families to successfully navigate the special education system and get the supports and services they need to thrive in school. The program also supports educators to better understand and fulfill their responsibilities toward students and families in the special education system.