The Arc Applauds the Passage of Rosa’s Law

Washington, DC – In a huge victory for self-advocates and The Arc, Rosa’s Law – legislation that substitutes the term “intellectual disabilities” for the term “mental retardation” in many federal laws – passed the House last night.

The Senate passed Rosa’s Law earlier this year. Passage by the House will send the measure to President Obama for his signature. The Obama administration supports this legislation and it is anticipated that the President will sign the bill into law shortly.

This is an important stepping stone for shaping future legislation that will transform these outdated terms in entitlement programs. This legislation substitutes the outdated, stigmatizing terms “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” with the terms “intellectual disability” and “individual with an intellectual disability” in federal health, education and labor policy statutes.
The legislation does not cover entitlement programs, which includes SSI, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The Arc was instrumental in the passage of Rosa’s Law by galvanizing support across the nation and through vigorous advocacy. “When President Obama signs this into law we will have achieved another historic milestone in our movement. We understand that language plays a crucial role in how people with intellectual disabilities are perceived and treated in society. Changing how we talk about people with disabilities is a critical step in promoting and protecting their basic civil and human rights,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Joe Meadours, Executive Director of People First of California and a member of the board of directors of The Arc of the United States said, “As a self-advocate, passing Rosa’s Law sends a powerful message that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve respect. We want the same things everyone wants and deserve to live in the community just like everyone else. We want to take advantage of our constitutional rights to access education, employment and independent living in the communities we call home.”

Self-advocates and The Arc have led the effort to get the bill enacted into law as part of a nationwide effort to remove the stigma of the “r-word.” The majority of states have altered their
terminology by replacing the term “mental retardation” with “intellectual disability in state laws and in the names of state agencies that serve this population.

“Adoption of “people first” language by the federal government encourages the general public to follow suit and is a major step forward in changing attitudes, which will ultimately result in increased opportunities for people with I/DD to be fully included in society,” Berns said.

The Arc’s Disability Survey Focuses On Military Families

Washington, DC – The Arc, a national organization that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families is engaging military families connected to individuals with I/DD to determine their disability needs through a national survey. The Arc is partnering with the National Military Family Association (NFMA) and other military channels to distribute a special version of The Arc FINDS (Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports) survey to military families who have a family member with a disability.

The Arc FINDS (Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports) is a free, online survey designed to tap into the knowledge and perspectives of families and individuals with disabilities on issues which arise across an individual’s life span. FINDS has been in the field since late July and already has more than 4,500 respondents, which makes it one of the largest single collections of perspectives from individuals and families connected to intellectual and developmental disabilities in the history of the field. Results will provide greater understanding about what disability-related services and supports are being received currently, where gaps exist, and what new supports may be needed from the military family perspective.

“Reaching out to military families through The Arc FINDS survey increases the meaningful involvement of populations we serve in determining what services are provided and our success rate in delivering those services. We have much to gain from the perspective of military families when you consider the diversity of the force and the unique challenges these families face while serving our country,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

Survey questions cover areas of advocacy, education, transition, employment, housing, community participation, civic engagement/voting, transportation, caregiving, and demographics. It is written to allow for both the perspective of individuals with I/DD, as well as their parents/caregivers. It also allows for the differences in service and supports required at different stages of life.

To access the online survey, go to: and link to the survey “Military Families: Click Here.” Please direct questions to Ann Cameron Caldwell, Chief Research and Innovations Officer at

The Arc to Jennifer Aniston — Apologize

Washington, DC – On “Live with Regis and Kelly” this morning, actress Jennifer Aniston used offensive and inappropriate language when speaking about a recent
photo shoot. “You’re playing dress up!” Regis told her. She replied, “Yes, I play dress up! I do it for a living, like a retard!”

On behalf of the millions of Americans impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities, The Arc is calling on Aniston to apologize for her inadvertent remark.

“Aniston employed language that is offensive to a large segment of the population in this country and when someone with her visibility uses language like this, it only reinforces stereotypes and perpetuates negative perceptions,” said Peter V. Berns, CEO of The Arc.

“We estimate that there are probably in excess of 5 million people in the country with intellectual disabilities, and when you think about all of them, their family members and friends, you’re talking about tens of millions of people who find the use of that term to be really offensive,” Berns said.

“Every time folks hear that word, it reminds them of all the discrimination and oppression they’ve experienced in their lives. Even if it wasn’t intended to insult them, that is the effect of it,” Berns said.


Protect Americans
 from Insurance 

The Arc of the United States (The Arc), the nation’s oldest and largest advocacy group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, joined with other disability and disease‐specific organizations to support the arguments of the United States in opposing the Commonwealth of Virginia’s legal challenge to the constitutionality of the new health reform law.

People with disabilities are often denied health coverage because of their pre‐existing conditions. Developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disability, autism, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy, originate in childhood and constitute pre‐existing conditions for purposes of access to health insurance coverage. Without the new health care reforms, these disabilities can mean the loss of health coverage, resulting in economic hardship and bankruptcy for a family, and huge uncompensated care costs for the system, which will be borne by those who have coverage.

The recently enacted health reform law, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act), offers people and their families the promise that they will be able to access affordable, nondiscriminatory health care coverage. The Arc believes this helps all Americans and that these protections must remain in place.

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will finally open the doors to health insurance coverage for many of our constituents. Many of our family members have had vital health coverage denied to them due to their child’s pre‐existing disability. It is disconcerting that litigation to remove this critical protection is already being pursued,” said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc.

The Arc joined with more than a dozen other advocacy groups in its statement to the courts to protect patients and keep health law intact, including The March of Dimes Foundation, The American Association of People with Disabilities, Breast Cancer Action, Friends of Cancer Research, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Virginia’s Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli filed suit against U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. No monetary damages or awards are being sought. Specifically, Virginia challenged the minimum coverage provisions which require that individuals maintain health coverage. Experience in several states has shown that it is necessary to require minimum individual coverage in order to successfully eliminate insurance company use of pre‐existing exclusions for coverage.

The Arc of the United States Announces 45 Sub‐Grant Awards for Transitioning Youth from School to Adult Life Funded by the Walmart Foundation

Washington, D.C. – Thanks to a $3 million grant from the Walmart Foundation, The Arc of the United States (The Arc) is awarding grants to 45 local chapters of The Arc across the U.S. in support of a new initiative designed to help youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

These Sub‐Grants are being awarded as part of the Walmart Foundation School‐to‐Community Transition Project. The project aims to increase transition outcomes and to build inclusion and involvement of youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities in independent living, employment, post‐secondary education or vocational training, and community, social and civic affairs.

“The Sub‐Grants for the Walmart Foundation School‐to‐Community Transition represent dynamic, new and innovative projects of chapters of The Arc – they will set a high standard in best practices for youth to adult transition initiatives for years to come,” said Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.

“The Walmart Foundation is committed to improving the lives of people with disabilities and ensuring they have opportunities to live better,” said Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation. “Our recent grant to The Arc reinforces our commitment by supporting programs of The Arc across America.”

The following chapters of The Arc are recipients of Sub‐Grants:

Arc Chapter/Affiliate State Executive Director / CEO
The Arc of Shelby Co. AL Karen H. Stokes
The Arc of Southeast Los Angeles Co. CA Kevin P. MacDonald
The Arc of San Francisco CA Timothy Hornbecker
The Arc of Ventura Co. CA Fred Robinson
The Arc of Colorado CO Marijo Rymer
WeCAHR CT Shirley Ricart
STAR, Inc. CT Katie Banzhaf
The Arc of the District of Columbia DC Mary Lou Meccariello
The Arc of Jacksonville FL Jim Whittaker
The Arc in Hawaii HI Michael Tamanha
The Arc of Rock Island County IL Kyle Rick
Community Support Services IL Gaye Preston
Seguin Services IL John Voit
Achieva Resources IN Dan Stewart
Evansville Arc IN Deidra R. Conner
The Arc of Kentucky KY Patty Dempsey
The Arc of Greater New Orleans LA Cliff Doescher
The Arc of Baton Rouge LA Barry Meyer
The Arc of Massachusetts MA Leo V. Sarkissian
Northeast Arc MA Gerard L. McCarthy
The Arc of Frederick Co. MD Joanna Pierson
The Arc of Prince George’s Co. MD Jack Ramsey
The Arc Downriver MI Kevin P. McGuckin
The Arc of Kent Co. MI Tammy Finn
The Arc of Northwest Wayne Co. MI Christine A. Lerchen
The Arc of the Greater Twin Cities MN Kim Keprios
The Arc of St. Louis MO Kathy Meath
The Arc of Mississippi MS Matt Nalker
The Arc of Haywood County NC Holly Lemieux
The Arc of Wake Co. NC Steven R. Strom
The Arc of Nebraska NE Marla Fischer‐Lempke
The Arc of Gloucester NJ Ana Rivera
The Arc of Monmouth NJ Mary Scott
The Arc of New Mexico NM Randy Costales
AHRC – New York City NY Michael Goldfarb
NYSARC ‐ Rensselaer NY Hanns Meissner
NYSARC – The Arc of Oneida‐Lewis NY Angela Z. VanDerhoof
The Arc of Oregon OR Marcie Ingledue
The Arc of Philadelphia PA Bruce Hulick
The Arc of York Co. PA Gregory D. Knox
The Arc of Tennessee TN Carries Hobbs Guiden
The Arc of Davidson Co. TN Norman Tenenbaum
The Arc of Northern Virginia VA Nancy Mercer
The Arc of Washington State WA Sue Elliott
The Arc of Clark Co. WA Jesse L. Dunn

Letter From The Arc to Rush Limbaugh: Meet With Us

February 5, 2010

Mr. Rush Limbaugh
1270 Avenue of the Americas, 9th Fl.
New York, NY 10020

Dear Mr. Limbaugh:

I am writing on behalf of The Arc of the United States (The Arc), the oldest and largest national nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With 730+ chapters nationwide, The Arc is committed to the full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life.

Earlier this week, on behalf of The Arc, I participated in a frank discussion with White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, regarding comments he made that offended our constituency. On the same day, you engaged in extensive commentary about that meeting, as well as the events surrounding it, using the same offensive language.

I am inviting you to meet personally with a group of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their parents, and siblings to engage in an open and honest dialogue regarding the language you used in your recent commentary. We would like to provide you the opportunity to hear, first hand, why people with intellectual and developmental disabilities believe the words “retard” and “retarded” and similar phrases need to be removed from common use.

Self-advocates, parents, disability rights activists and others are rightly concerned that your comments simply serve to further degrade and denigrate the 7 million individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities who struggle on a daily basis to be included in society. We believe that a face to face meeting to discuss these concerns and share the personal impact on these individuals would go far in informing you and your listeners.

I cannot understate the effect of a word many consider an epithet – it is deeply offensive to people that are living with intellectual disabilities, and the tens of millions of their parents, siblings, family members and friends. It is a harsh reminder of the institutionalization, sterilization, abuse, discrimination, violence and exclusion they have faced, and continue to face, as they merely seek to live typical lives.

I invite you to meet with a group of people with intellectual disabilities and their families in a city of your choosing – New York, Washington, DC, or another location. I look forward to a favorable reply.


Peter V. Berns
Chief Executive Officer

The Arc Invited to White House Meeting on ‘the R-word’

Washington, D.C. – The Arc of the United States (The Arc) has been invited to join a meeting at the White House today with other disabilities rights advocates to discuss the controversy around White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s use of “the r-word.”

Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc, wrote a letter to Rahm Emanuel pressing for White House support of Rosa’s Law. This legislation would change the term “mental retardation” or “mentally retarded” to “intellectual disabilities” in several federal statutes such as education and employment laws.

WHO: Peter V. Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc; Andy Imparato, American Association of People with Disabilities; Hannah Jacobs, parent; Julie Petty, self-advocate; Tim Shriver, Special Olympics; and Ricardo Thornton, self-advocate.

WHAT: Meeting with disabilities advocates to discuss Chief of Staff’s use of “the r-word.”

WHEN: TODAY, Wednesday, February 03, 2010 at 2:00 p.m.


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