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An Inspiring and Invigorating National Convention and International Forum

This past Saturday evening, The Arc and Inclusion International wrapped up an inspiring and invigorating National Convention & International Forum. If you weren’t able to join us in Washington, D.C. for the event, here are some photos and a video to give you a taste of what you missed.

Participants from across the U.S. and more than 25 countries including the U.K., Germany, China, Cambodia, Israel, New Zealand, Malwai, Spain, Panama and Kenya came together to promote the concept of inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They discussed the tough issues, socialized and celebrated, and learned much from each other through informative sessions, meetings and fun events.

We heard from the former first lady of Panama who is a fierce advocate for people with IDD along with Eve Hill from the U.S. Department of Justice speaking about her efforts to enforce laws which help people with IDD live fuller lives in their communities with greater accessibility. Self-Advocate Ricardo Thornton and the chief of the UNICEF Disability Section shared their experiences with us and we were treated to a performance from the inclusive arts group, Artstream.

The Arc elected a new president of our Board of Directors, Nancy Webster, along with several new board members. And our out-going President, Mohan Mehra presented the President’s Award to Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue for his work in reducing the amount of time people with disabilities must wait to recieve benefits from his Administration. Also, we honored the amazing advocacy work of The Arc of Virginia and the efforts of Don and Laurie Istook of Istook’s Motorsports for helping create The Arc Audi Racing Program – a unique initiative to introduce professional race teams and fans and people with IDD to each other.

We enjoyed a thought-provoking and entertaining The Arc & Sprout National Film Festival and we danced the night away with the National Hand Dance Association.

See all the highlights of The Arc and Inclusion International’s National Convention and International Forum in a video, produced by Jerry Smith of the Research & Training Center on Community Living, Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota.

We thank everyone who helped make this year’s event such as success and we hope you will consider joining us in Bellevue, Washington (near Seattle) in 2013 for The Arc’s National Convention and International Forum.

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Follow the 2012 National Convention and International Forum

National Convention and International Forum, The Arc, Inclusion International: Achieving Inclusion

Just like in years past, we’ll keep you up to date on the 2012 National Convention and International Forum in Washington, D.C. with social media and other online channels. If you can’t join us in person, don’t worry – there are many ways you can be a part of the Convention online:

  1. Follow this blog. We’ll post all the news and information coming out of convention each day, and try to post as many photos as we can.
  2. 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, #AchieveInclusion, to follow the conversation centered around the event. If you’re at Convention, and tweeting, please join the discussion. Don’t forget to share your photos there too!
  3. Follow our new blog focused on chapter called We Are The Arc. We’ll post photos as we get them there.
  4. Use the Convention website. Our event website is still the best place to go for all the particulars, like the schedule, list of sponsors and exhibitors and more.

We’re looking forward to seeing everyone this year!

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Don and Laurie Istook of Istook’s Motorsports to Receive National Award at The Arc’s Convention

Washington, DC – On October 25, Don and Laurie Istook will receive The Arc’s Image and Inclusion Award during the National Convention and International Forum. This award recognizes a person or group who has had an impact on accurate and positive portrayals of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). In 2012, The Arc launched The Arc Audi Racing Program, a new partnership between The Arc and Istook’s Motorsports. The program provides a unique opportunity for people with IDD to get a taste of what it is like to be part of a fast-paced professional race crew at select races in the 2012 Pirelli World Challenge race series across the country, and serve as “Honorary Crew Members” with Don’s team.

“There is still a lingering misperception that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can’t have meaningful jobs in the community. Don and Laurie Istook know better than that and have helped open the eyes of the racing community and many others through their work running The Arc Audi Racing Program. We admire the Istooks for bringing this innovative idea to The Arc earlier this year, but most of all we admire their work to promote the inclusion of individuals with disabilities in the community, the workforce, and now on racetracks across the country,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Long time racer and team owner Don Istook and his wife Laurie have a personal connection to the IDD community. Two of Laurie’s brothers, Mark and Tyson, have Fragile X, but this does not stop them from being an active part of Don’s professional race team pit crew. Inspired by their success, Don and Laurie contacted the national office of The Arc to propose a program to give select chapters of The Arc across the country the opportunity to be an integral part of five races in 2012. Participants in The Arc Audi Racing Program have been able to see the cars, talk to the crew and play a hands-on role in preparing the cars for the race. Chapters of The Arc have attended Pirelli World Challenge races in Long Beach, CA; Monterey, CA; Detroit, MI; Lexington, OH; and Sonoma, CA. With this experience in hand from 2012, the team is preparing for an even greater 2013 season, which will feature an additional Audi TT RS to make a two car team.

Speaking about her brother, Mark, Laurie Istook said: “Mark loves being able to say ‘I work for a race team.’ It just gives him a meaning and a purpose for his life. It gives him something to look forward to – that’s what we all want.”

She added: “I remember after the first race this year, Don came over and just hugged me for the longest time. And he said ‘I don’t ever remember feeling this great after a race.’”

Previous recipients of The Arc’s Image and Inclusion award include Lauren Potter and Robin Trocki from the hit TV show Glee and Dr. Temple Grandin, world renowned scientist.

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Disability Advocates Share the Stage at The Arc’s National Convention and International Forum

Washington, DC – Next week, The Arc will play host to nearly a thousand disability advocates from across the globe during The 2012 National Convention and International Forum. The theme, “Achieving Inclusion Across the Globe,” reflects The Arc’s partnership with Inclusion International for this year’s convention. This four-day event will allow world renowned advocates, self-advocates, experts in the disability field, and family members of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to come together and discuss shared experiences, policy, and advocacy techniques.

“We look forward to addressing issues facing individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities not only domestically but internationally during this year’s convention. I hope each attendee can leave with the knowledge that their advocacy work, research, and experiences are shared with millions across the globe who are also working to promote inclusion for individuals with disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Professional race car driver and Istook Motorsports owner Don Istook and his wife Laurie are being honored with The Arc’s Image and Inclusion Award this year. This award recognizes a person or group who has had an impact on accurate and positive portrayals of individuals with IDD. In 2012, The Arc launched The Arc Audi Rac­ing Program in partnership with Is­took’s Motorsports. The program allowed individuals with IDD the chance to be part of a fast-paced professional race crew as Honorary Crew Members at select races in the Pirelli World Challenge.

The Arc will also be presenting the 2012 Advocacy Matters! Award to The Arc of Virginia. Earlier this year, The Arc of Virginia’s advocacy efforts were rewarded when the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement requiring the state to move people with IDD out of institutions and provide community-based services through Medicaid waivers and family supports for thousands of individuals with IDD.

Some of the featured speakers include: Rosangela Berman-Bieler, Chief of the UNICEF Disability Section, Vivian Fernández de Torrijos, former First Lady of the Republic of Panama, Eve Hill, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, and Ricardo Thornton, an inspiring self-advocate who speaks publicly about his life in the community with his family.

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Early Registration Deadline Extended

Early registration for The Arc’s National Convention has been extended. Now you have more time to register and save up to $100 off the regular registration rate.

You don’t want to miss the incredible slate of informative sessions and enlightening speakers we have on tap for you in Washington, DC. October 25-28. Plus, we’re partnering with Inclusion Internationals to bring a global perspective to the question of what it really means to live and be included in the community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Here are just some of the highlights:

  • Kathy Davis, a board member from The Arc’s chapter Noble of Indiana who helped develop The Arc of Indiana’s “Blueprint for Change” to improve service delivery in Indiana at our leadership pre-conference.
  • Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue receiving our President’s Award for his commitment to people with disabilities.
  • A second special pre-conference dedicated to building a self-advocacy movement.
  • Plenaries covering living and being included in the community, advocacy and policy working together for change and the key issues of choice, support and inclusion.
  • A variety of sessions on topics such as aging and disability, transitioning from school to work, assistive technology and political participation.
  • The Arc & Sprout National Film Festival featuring films by and about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • The Marketplace featuring Entrepreneur’s Alley which spotlights microbusinesses run by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Even if you can’t attend the entire conference, one-day and special event tickets are available at lower rates, so register now. Enjoy everything our nation’s capital has to offer, beautiful fall weather and the opportunity to learn and share with the global IDD community. We’ll see you there!

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Are You Coming to The Arc’s National Convention and International Forum?

Have you made your plans yet to join The Arc and Inclusion International for the National Convention & International Forum October 25-28 in Washington, DC? If not, make sure you sign up before early registration discounts end on September 3. You could save $50 to $100 if you register now!

Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue will be on hand to receive this year’s President’s Award. Commissioner Astrue is being honored for a steadfast commitment to people with disabilities, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, during his tenure at the Social Security Administration. He helped reduce the average length of time applicants wait to receive Social Security disability benefits and helped develop and expand initiatives such as Compassionate Allowances and Quick Disability Determinations that seek to provide benefits quickly to applicants with the most severe disabilities.

Also we’re expecting notable advocates such as Eric Rosenthal of Disability Rights International and 100 speakers covering topics as diverse as aging and disability, transitioning from school to work, assistive technology and political participation. If you can’t attend the full four-day event, one-day registrations and special event tickets are available including or Wednesday pre-conferences on leadership and self-advocacy.

Check out the full program and register now. Early registration discounts end September 3. We’ll see you there!

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Get More Out of The Arc’s National Convention and International Forum

The Arc’s National Convention & International Forum, taking place October 25-28, will be filled with enlightening and informative sessions on such topics as what it means to live in the community, be a leader in the movement for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and creating change through advocacy. And, we’ll hear from heavy-weight speakers such as advocate Judy Heumann and Eric Rosenthal of Disability Rights International.

But it’s not all work and no play. If you’re joining us in Washington D.C. this year, come prepared for a weekend filled with fun in addition to the vital information you’ll gain during sessions and the valuable connections you’ll make with others in the intellectual and developmental disabilities community.

Don’t miss the following:

Red Hot on the Red Carpet! This opening night event pairs the glamour of Hollywood with inspiring and thought provoking short films made for and about people with IDD which will be screened during The Arc & Sprout National Film Festival. Plan to get dressed up and stroll the “red carpet” but be prepared for the paparazzi and autograph seekers! The red carpet festivities are open to all, but the film festival is a ticketed event. During the film festival, we’ll be giving away free DVD copies of “One Question” – a short film by Sprout which asks one important question to a group of individuals with disabilities. You’ll be inspired by their answers!

Meet New Friends from Across the Globe. Inclusion International, a global federation of organizations advocating for people with IDD is co-hosting this year’s event and we’re expecting many of their members from countries as diverse as Panama, Lebanon, Uganda and New Zealand. Make new friends and get an international perspective on the issues.

The Arc’s Annual Research Luncheon. Celebrate the international flavor imported by our event partners, Inclusion International, at a tartan-themed luncheon recognizing accomplishments in the research field.

The Market and Entrepreneur Alley. Visit The Marketplace exhibit hall to discover unique micro businesses run by self-advocate entrepreneurs and purchase hand crafted art and other items created by people with IDD.

The Marketplace Bookstore. Browse through titles published by AAIDD and other sources on topics of interest to people with IDD, their families and professionals in the field.

Rock the Night Hand Dancing Celebration. Close out this year’s event with an evening of hand dancing, also known as “D.C. Swing.” Everyone can enjoy this traditional form of swing dancing that can be traced back to the 1920s.

Register Now and Save. Early registration and room rates are available until September 3!

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The Market Allows Self Advocates to Achieve With The Arc Long Distance: An Insider’s Preview

It was an exciting time at The Arc’s National Office last week when I let out a cheer and announced that we had the first six vendors for The Market at The Arc’s 2012 National Convention and International Forum in Washington, DC.  This meant that The Arc’s newest project in honor of self-advocate entrepreneurs will become a reality in this year’s Marketplace on October 26 and 27!  I feel that The Market will be the crowning achievement, which makes the 2012 National Convention EXTRA special.

There is plenty new and different that will already make this year’s Convention unique and one of a kind.  We are co-hosting this event with Inclusion International, and up to 150 international visitors from countries around the world will be in our nation’s capital attending the conference.  This will be an opportunity for attendees from the United States to mingle with professionals, family members and self-advocates from Europe, Asia, Africa, and New Zealand. We will have the chance to learn about the issues surrounding the inclusion of self-advocates in other nations, and explore our own issues and accomplishments surrounding inclusion through a fresh set of eyes.

We were determined to make Entrepreneur Alley bigger and better than EVER this year in honor of this year’s theme of inclusion. There was only one problem: we were getting feedback from self-advocates that travel to Washington, DC and lodging were often hurdles too expensive for our self-advocate microbusiness owners to climb. This is why I LOVE working at The Arc: instead of giving up on this dream, we took this issue as a challenge. And from this challenge, The Market was born!

I have been working the phones for weeks straight pitching our new opportunity to self-advocate run businesses across the country. Sign up to be a part of The Market, and The Arc’s team of dedicated staff and volunteers, spearheaded by yours truly, will sell your merchandise for you right in the heart of Entrepreneur Alley! The area will be set up as a bazaar with a biography and photo of each self-advocate owner, so that their stories can be told. Or, if you prefer, you can send us your marketing brochures, pens, flyers, key chains, or other materials to display and all of our national and international attendees will be able to learn more about you and your business. We waited in anticipation to see if the idea would break through and attract attention, it is always a nail biter to see if a new concept will gain traction, and we are now exited to announce our first 6 vendors at The Market!

  • Aid for Abby features the artwork of a young self-advocate on the autism spectrum named Abby. She loves to share her paintings with the world, and she and her mother Bonnie also sell special handmade dog treats.
  •  JennyLU Designs will be selling charm earrings and necklaces created by a special and talented artist named Jenny, who has Williams syndrome.
  • Just for You CardArt features the handmade greeting cards of best friends and self-advocates Donna and Jenna. Their cards sold wonderfully at The National Down Syndrome Congress in Washington, DC this month, and they cannot wait to share them with us!
  • Through the Same Door is led by self-advocate activist Micah Fialka-Feldman, who loves to tell the inspirational story of his life on the front lines in the fight for inclusion in higher education. He also sells DVDs which tell this story.
  • COMAAT stands for Changing One Mind at a Time, and is run by Jennifer Walsh, a self-advocate with a Master’s degree who speaks at conferences and gives seminars on inclusion.
  • Casey’s Cookies is a tiny non-profit, which sells homemade cookies, which are baked, packaged and sold by self-advocates in the state of Florida.

I want to thank these self-advocate business people for answering our call to join us at The Market this year and hope that this will be the first of many such events to come! If you are a self-advocate entrepreneur, who would like to sell your wares but is unable to afford travel, it is not too late to join The Market! Please call me at (202) 534-3720 or email me at for more details, and I would be happy to sign you up. If you are a supporter of The Arc, who will be attending Convention this year, please be sure to stop by The Market this year to support these wonderful microbusinesses from across the country!

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Meet Teddy: Self-Advocate, Entrepreneur, and Inspiration

By: Annette Downey, Director of Community Living Services of Oakland County in Ferndale, Michigan

Teddy Fitzmaurice is a 28 year old energetic entrepreneur with Down syndrome who promotes human rights and disability advocacy. Teddy lives in his own apartment and loves to play his music loud and watch TV whenever he wants. He enjoys taking care of his bunnies, Chloe and Amy, walking, running, biking, swimming, and hanging out with his many friends.

Teddy began his own business, Teddy’s Ts, in 2006. He sells T-shirts that come in many sizes, along with a multitude of buttons. Teddy has taken his business around the country including Washington DC, Chicago, New York, San Juan, St. Louis, and Columbus just to name a few of his stops. He also displays his shirts in several stores.

The logos displayed on Teddy’s t-shirts and buttons promote improved quality of life, social justice, and equality for all. Teddy promotes community living, self-determination, inclusive education, and people first language. His merchandise proudly displays messages such as “Label Jars, NOT People”, “Shred the word – R E T A R D E D” and “Disabled, Sexy, and Proud!”. Teddy uses a variety of creative methods to share his vision and passion for advocacy.

Always the happy salesman, Teddy is eager to attend every conference he can to sell his shirts. Teddy’s products are creative and inspirational, and they promote disability rights and social justice.

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Join The Arc and Inclusion International for “Achieving Inclusion Across the Globe”

Registration is now open for the 2012 National Convention and International Forum in Washington, DC October 25-28. This year, The Arc will be joined by Inclusion International, a global federation of family-based organizations advocating for the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is an incredible opportunity to connect with others in the intellectual and developmental disability community at this annual gathering of The Arc’s membership, chapter staff and volunteers, professionals and experts in the field and individuals with IDD and their families.

Meet us at the Grand Hyatt in downtown D.C. to explore the global implications of Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Living independently and being included in the community. Inclusion International is involved in an important campaign to promote Article 19, which will culminate at this event with the release of a special Global Report. Also, we’ll focus on national and international issues related to advocacy, employment, and public policy.

This four-day event filled with enlightening and informative sessions kicks off with pre-conferences dedicated to the topics of leadership and self-advocacy. Then, The Arc & Sprout National Film Festival brings you a new slate of entertaining short films by and about people with IDD. The Arc will hold three Annual Business Meetings to adopt several revised position statements and hold elections for its Board of Directors among other important business. And, look for Entrepreneur Alley in the Marketplace where businesspeople with IDD can showcase their entrepreneurial spirit. Then, stick around for a closing event with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray sharing the popular tradition of “Hand Dancing” (similar to swing dancing) with the crowd.

Register now and take advantage of early registration and hotel discounts.

Special Thanks to Our Sponsors: Arc Thrift Stores of Colorado, CARF International, Diversified Nonprofit Services, Hammer Travel, Managance Coaching and Consulting, Marsh, Medisked, MetLife, Mutual of America, NADD, Rest Assured, Special Needs Alliance and Vibrant Creative.