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Where Have You Been, Barbara Walters?

By Mohan Mehra, Immediate Past President, The Arc of the United States Board of Directors, and dad to Brian, a young man with Down syndrome

Last week, Barbara Walters used her platform on “The View” to defend comedian Bill Maher when he used the “R” word to describe Sarah Palin’s five year old son, Trig, who has Down syndrome.

“I don’t think he intended to be mean spirited,” said Ms. Walters. Of course he did. Hiding behind jokes often becomes a form of bullying. We see it in schools, on the playing field, and in the media when celebrities who have a large platform like Mr. Maher are looking for a laugh or attention.

To excuse Maher due to possible “ignorance of the language” is unacceptable. He is a public figure, seeks the limelight in his public and private actions, and pleading ignorance does not fit his outspoken style. Where have you been, Bill Maher and Barbara Walters?

Historically, the “R” word was a clinical term used to describe people with an intellectual disability. Today, society uses it as an insult or to degrade people with intellectual disabilities. A recent survey of youth age 8-18 done by Special Olympics and the University of Massachusetts showed that 63% said that they felt bad for the person being picked on and only 9% of the youth said that they laughed or did not care. Where have you been, Barbara Walters?

In 2010, both houses of Congress unanimously passed, and the President signed Rosa’s Law, a bill that removes the “R” word from all federal health, education and labor policy and replaces it with “intellectual disability.” Nick, Rosa’s eleven year old brother said during the hearings, “What you call my sister is how you will treat her…. It invites taunting, stigma and bullying.” Words are mere vessels for meaning. Where have you been, Barbara Walters?

In our culture, the media enjoys a special status. With over 3 million viewers of “The View”, and a large following on social media, Ms. Walters has a large platform to inform and educate, in addition to entertain. It would indeed be fitting that in the memory of her sister, Jackie, who had an intellectual disability, she calls out such use of the “R’” word as hurtful and insulting to people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

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The Arc Launches Dynamic New National Brand Identity

Washington, D.C. – The Arc, the largest organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), including Down syndrome, autism, FASD, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses, is changing its look and adopting a new visual identity. The Arc is joined in the launch of this rebranding initiative by state and local chapters representing more than 30 states.

“This is an exciting time in The Arc’s history,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc. Our powerful, new, shared identify reflects the energy and the action of our organization as we work to transform the lives of people with IDD.  This impactful and fresh identity will move us further in revitalizing The Arc – an organization that has been on the frontlines of advocacy and service for over 60 years –by harnessing the incredible power of those we serve.”

The Arc’s vibrant new logo and tagline communicate the organization’s commitment to promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. The Arc’s logo is
emblematic of the organization’s embracing nature with the flowing “catalyst” icon; a burst of energy is symbolic of our support of independence. The new tagline, Achieve with us, conveys The Arc as a provider of opportunity, hope, growth and change.

The Arc’s new identity grew out of a lengthy, collaborative effort that began in spring 2008 and has involved literally thousands of The Arc’s volunteer and staff leaders, constituents and other stakeholders to create a visionary plan for the future: The Strategic Framework 2010-2019. A survey of chapters of The Arc demonstrated widespread support to rebrand and create a more compelling vision for The Arc.

The launch of The Arc’s new brand coincides with the commemoration of Developmental Disability Awareness Month in March. Nearly a quarter century ago, The Arc’s advocacy led to President Ronald Reagan officially proclaiming March to be Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month. Chapters of The Arc across the nation are celebrating DD Awareness Month with special events and activities. Over the past six decades, The Arc has championed groundbreaking legislation that has improved the lives of people with IDD.

“There is tremendous energy and ‘buzz’ as we begin to implement The Arc’s new brand identity” said Mohan Mehra, Board President of The Arc. “This will help raise public awareness of The Arc and translate to greater support at both the local and national levels. I am especially invested in the new brand and have been involved since the start of the process. Having served as a business manager with Kraft Foods with experience in business strategy, marketing and sales I know that a new brand can make a real difference.”

The Arc selected CoreBrand, an award-winning branding firm, to design and execute the new identity led by Brand Director Jonathan Paisner.  “As a branding consultant, this was the rare opportunity to help discover and unleash a powerful brand simply waiting to be born,” Paisner said.  “A true collective voice –- one shared by and reflected in over 700 chapters – will certainly be a boon to fundraising, volunteerism and visibility in the corporate world. Yet the true impact of a greater national presence will ultimately bring all of these elements together to advance The Arc’s goals of inclusion, hope, opportunity and achievement.”

The look and feel of the new brand will advance further with the May 10, 2011 national announcement of The Arc’s FINDS (Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports) survey results at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.  The FINDS survey will yield a candid and current view on issues concerning the needs for disability supports across the lifespan. This unprecedented assessment of data from nearly 6,000 individuals will enable those in the field to better understand what services are available, what gaps exist and what new supports are needed.

Today, across the United States, the 700+ chapters of The Arc share common goals:

  • The Arc is embracing, determined and experienced in promoting and protecting the rights of people with IDD;
  • The Arc provides key needed services and supports across the arc of a lifetime and across diagnoses, such as Down syndrome, autism and many other intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • The Arc is banding together around the new and vigorous identity that embodies the energy and movement of The Arc to help people with IDD feel empowered and included.

“We are thrilled,” Berns added, “that upon the launch today we will have more than 150 of The Arc’s state and local chapters simultaneously unveil The Arc’s new brand identity in communities across the country.  With close to 25% of chapters of The Arc on board already, and more chapters signing on daily, the successful implementation of our new brand strategy is well underway,” Berns explained.

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The Arc Announces New Members to Serve on National Board

Washington, D.C.—A roster of dynamic new members have joined the national board of The Arc. This distinguished group includes activists in the intellectual and development disability (IDD) movement and leaders from a wide range of professions, including business.

The new board includes a vice president of one of the world’s leading investment groups, a former Policy Director for a United States Senator, a corporate attorney, an executive with MetLife and a coach with the Washington Redskins football team.

“It is my privilege to serve as the new President of The Arc,” said Mohan Mehra who has served on The Arc’s Board of Directors since 2004. “This remarkable group shares the quality of being deeply committed to improving the lives of people with IDD and each brings talent, energy, insight and experience. This is an exciting time for The Arc as we assume our position as the largest human service organization in this country serving those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I look forward to working with board members to move us into the future,” Mehra said.

“The Arc is moving in a clear, new direction as we experience rapid growth including plans to launch a fresh and powerful brand identity this spring. These leaders will help to reinvigorate our organization and propel us even further with their passion and energy. The board brings additional bench strength to The Arc in their communities and nationally; their unique skills will complement and enhance the board’s collective contributions,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

In a recent survey by Forbes magazine of the 200 largest U.S. charities, The Arc ranks eight (8) in total revenue

National Board Members of The Arc:

  • President: Mohan Mehra served as Secretary of The Arc and has been a member of the Board of Directors since 2004.
  • Vice President: Nancy Webster, who has served on the Board since 2002.
  • Treasurer: Ron Brown has served on the Board since 2006.
  • Secretary for the Board: Michael Mack, who previously served as Vice President and as Treasurer.
  • M.J. Bartelmay, Hermitage, PA. Immediate Past President of The Arc of Pennsylvania. Previously served as Director at Large on The Arc’s national board.
  • Barbara Coppens, Cherry Hill, NJ, Self-Advocate, Advocate Assistant with Disability Rights New Jersey.
  • Hugh M. Evans, CFA, Baltimore, MD. Vice President of T. Rowe Price Group, Inc.
  • Connie Garner, Ph.D., Burke, VA. Policy Director with the law firm of Foley Hoag LLP. Former Policy Director, Special Populations for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) where she worked closely with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
  • Gary Horner, Chief Financial Officer, ACHIEVA. Elected by the National Conference of
    Executives (NCE) to serve a two year term as NCE’s second representative.
  • Thomas A. Judd, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Attorney, Fredrikson & Byron P.A.
  • Joe Meadours, Sacramento, CA. Self-Advocate and Executive Director of People First of
    California. Elected to a second term on the Board.
  • Pat Napoliello, San Francisco. Founder of the California Alliance for Inclusive Communities and former President of The Arc of San Francisco. Elected to a second term on the Board.
  • Kurt Rutzen, Minneapolis, MN. Self-Advocate. Program Specialist for the University of
    Minnesota Institute on Community Integration’s Research and Training Center on Community Living.
  • Lou Spanos, Pittsburgh, PA. Linebackers coach for the Washington Redskins. Previously spent 16 seasons as a defensive assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
  • Directors-At-Large
    • Doug Church, Oak Hill, VA. Vice Chairman, Virginia Heritage Bank.
    • Kelly Piacenti, Chester, NJ. Director of the MetLife Center for Special Needs Planning.
    • Stacy Taylor, San Diego, CA. Partner in the international law firm DLA Piper.

The Arc is especially grateful to Lynne A. Cleveland who served as the President of the national board since October, 2008 and has served on the Board of Directors of The Arc since 2000.

The Arc also thanks our outgoing Board members: Kim Brown, Shirley Dove, Bill Dusold, Chester Finn, Janet Albert-Herman, Cindy Johnson, Mary V. Jordan, and Deb Seman, NCE Representative to the Board.