FEDERAL ADVOCACY

A New Call to Action

The Arc invites all people with I/DD, their parents, siblings, other family members and friends, their employers, government, business and community leaders and all people of good conscience to join together in a new movement to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, to learn, to work, and to participate, alongside people without disabilities, in all aspects of community life.

Out of the shadows … into the light

  1. The Arc is calling on 1 million Americans with I/DD, their parents, their siblings and other family members, their colleagues at work, their neighbors and friends, and other people of good conscience, to join our movement by signing up at www.thearc.org/joinwithus.
  2.  As part of this movement, The Arc is establishing:
    a. National Self-Advocates Council to enlist people with I/DD to speak out for themselves and support them in doing so.
    b. National Siblings Leadership Council to enlist the involvement and leadership of their brothers and sisters.
  3. The Arc is calling on people with I/DD and their families to tell your stories. Tell your neighbor, tell your friend, tell your congressman. Tell your story on our website at www.thearc.org/sharewithus.
  4. Participate in The Arc’s social media contest, by submitting a brief story and photo or video on The Arc’s Facebook fan page (facebook.com/thearcus) that chronicles the success, as well as the challenges faced, by people with I/DD.

Out of the shadows … into the voting booth

In preparation for elections, there’s a lot of work to do to put the issues and concerns of people with I/DD on the agenda of all candidates for public office. The Arc is calling on people with I/DD and their families to:

  1. Visit and deliver a message to their Member of Congress at their district offices and in Washington, DC that Congress shouldn’t try to balance the budget on the backs of people with I/DD.
  2. Show up at every town hall meeting, candidate forum and debate and ask incumbents, as well as candidates for public office, what they are going to do to support the right of people with I/DD to live in the community.
  3. Ask candidates to promise to actively support the right of people with I/DD to live in the community.
  4. Register to vote.
  5. Volunteer for and donate to candidates who are committed to upholding, protecting and supporting the rights of people with I/DD to live in the community.
  6. Vote on Election Day.

Out of the shadows … into the workplace

The Arc is calling on people with I/DD and their families to reach out to individual employers, as well as chambers of commerce and other business and professional organizations, and seek their commitment to dramatically expand employment opportunities for people with I/DD.

  1. Ask every employer who is not currently employing anyone with I/DD to hire at least one worker with I/DD in the coming year.
  2. Ask employers who currently are employing people with I/DD to tell their stories about how employing people with I/DD has enhanced their workforce and improved their business performance by visiting www.thearc.org/workwithus. We will share success stories and promote businesses hiring individuals with I/DD through our publications and social media.

The Arc invites businesses to work with our 700+ state and local chapters throughout the U.S. to increase employment for people with I/DD until the rate of employment is comparable to that for the adult population as a whole.

Out of the shadows … into the halls of government

The Arc is also calling on Congress, the Administration, and the States for immediate action on several fronts. There are a number of legislative and regulatory actions that can have a significant positive impact on the lives of people with I/DD. The following are the highest priorities:

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy called us to shine the light on people who were living in the shadows.

  1. Congress and the States should not balance their budgets on the backs of people with I/DD and their families. Funding for programs, services and supports for people with I/DD must be sustained and expanded. People with I/DD and their families have much to lose if the social safety net is dismantled. Federal safety net programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), food stamps and others must be protected from deep cuts. Medicaid, in particular, is a lifeline for people with I/DD and the individual entitlement to the program must be maintained. Nationwide it provides 78% of the long term services and supports for people with I/DD. It provides access to health care for the majority of Americans with I/DD.
  2. In any reform of Medicaid, Congress should reverse the institutional bias in Medicaid and make home and community-based services mandatory, and institutional care the exception.
  3. Congress should reject any attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and states should move forward to implement the law. Maintaining the critical health insurance reforms, expansion of eligibility for Medicaid to 133% of poverty, health insurance coverage expansions, prevention and public health improvements contained in the Act is of paramount importance to people with I/DD. In fact, the Affordable Care Act is the single most important piece of legislation for people with I/DD since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act more than 20 years ago.
    The Administration and Congress should support full implementation of the Community First Choice Option and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act that will expand home and community based services under Medicaid. The States should take advantage of these new options. The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) long term insurance plan must be fully developed and put into place so that workers can pay premiums and be fully covered (without impoverishing themselves for Medicaid eligibility) in the event they need long term services and supports.
  4. Congress should reintroduce and enact into law the “Achieving a Better Life Experience” (ABLE) Act. Families of people with I/DD should be allowed to save for the long term support needs of their loved one with disabilities with the same tax advantages that are available for families to save for their children’s college education.
  5. Congress should fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind) and the Higher Education Act. This means increasing the funding for early intervention services, special education services, teacher training, parental support, transition and other education services. Congress should also amend IDEA to make it easier for parents to challenge schools when they are not living up to their obligations to provide appropriate education to all students with disabilities. And Congress should expand federal support for programs helping students with I/DD attend colleges and universities.
  6. Congress should dramatically expand the availability of employment support strategies such as supported employment and customized employment to achieve more community employment, including fully funding employment and vocational rehabilitation programs. Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, the state workforce programs and the state Developmental Disabilities programs must develop the infrastructure to support transition from school to work and community life. Congress and the Social Security Administration should improve and simplify work incentives for people with disabilities so that it is easier for more people to try to work while maintaining health care and some income support if needed.
  7. Congress should expand the availability of housing supports by adequately funding and implementing the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010 and increasing funding for Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and other federal housing programs.
  8. Congress should help people with I/DD and their families to address their unmet needs by establishing separate federal funding for family supports and for self-advocacy under the Developmental Disabilities Act.

Over the longer term, there are a number of other federal laws and programs that support education, employment and community living for people with I/DD that need to be strengthened. The Arc’s Action Center has updates on current bills proposed and how they impact critical programs.