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Message from the Executive Director

Stacy Gillett,
Executive Director of
The Arc of King County

Dear Friends in our Arc Community,

So many people have reached out to us, concerned about families in Texas struggling to cope in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and wondering what they can do to help.  
 
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are often among the most vulnerable when natural disasters strike. During rescue attempts, many people may be forced to evacuate without necessary medical equipment; they may be separated from their families; need medications and special supplies; others may need special accommodations not available in shelters.  Some 394,000 people who have a disability live in Harris County.
 
We spoke yesterday to Teri Hawthorne, Executive Director of The Arc of Greater Beaumont in Texas, and asked how The Arc family here could help.   We learned that our Arc friends down in Texas, at the Greater Beaumont chapter, have already provided emergency shelter for more than 40 people with I/DD in the main The Arc office, because they have nowhere else to go.
 
Teri shared that even as she has lost her own home, and all her staff have suffered flooding in their homes - their biggest concern is supporting survivors of this disaster with I/DD—the people we as The Arc serve and work with every day.  
 
What do these brave hurricane survivors need the most right now? Many individuals with I/DD , especially those sheltering at The Beaumont Arc office, have lost all their belongings, and urgently need everyday necessities.  
 
Here are the ways that you can help:
 
Store gift cards for these individuals to purchase clothes, sheets, and other necessities when the stores re-open will be the first priority. 
 
If anyone is interested in sending gift cards, please email Teri Hawthorne at teri.hawthorne@arcofbmt.org
 
The Arc of Texas has established a webpage that includes links to resources for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and their families. The site also includes a list of needed items and a donation button to support Texas chapters and the people they serve. Please join us in sharing this webpage through your communication channels. https://www.thearcoftexas.org/harvey/
 
The Arc US will continue to host a disaster relief donation page for those who would like to donate to chapters in Louisiana and Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey. This page also includes a link for those interested in connecting directly with chapters. https://www.thearc.org/donatedisasterrelief
 
The Arc of King County cares for those affected by this terrible hurricane and we are happy to continue to provide updates as we receive them.  Thanks for your generous concern for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are displaced, frightened, and still recovering from this unanticipated disaster.   Please let us know if you need more information or have any questions about these contacts. 
 
And thanks, in advance, for your thoughts and concerns for our friends in Texas. 
 
Warm regards,
 
Stacy Gillett
Executive Director
The Arc of King County
 
 

Previous Messages from the Executive Director

  • Americans with Disabilities Act's 27th Anniversary

    Dear Arc Community:

    It has been 27 years since the landmark enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibiting discrimination toward people with disabilities. While it has not been a perfect journey, we pause to celebrate that the ADA offers us continued hope, leverage, and opportunity to ensure equity for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our public schools, places of employment, in public accommodations, government services, and transportation.

    The ADA opened the door for the Supreme Court's decision in Olmstead v. L.C., a ruling that requires states to eliminate unnecessary segregation of people with disabilities and provide supports in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.

    “Confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment." U.S. Supreme Court, Olmstead v. L.C., 1999

    During his time in office, President Obama issued a proclamation launching the "Year of Community Living," and directed a redoubling of enforcement efforts aimed at ending discrimination based on disability. Since that time, the federal government has responded by working with state and local governments officials, the Department of Health and Human Services, and disability rights groups and attorneys around the country to enforce the creation of an effective, nationwide system which implements the mandate for integration.

    Unfortunately, over the past several months, this promise of community integration has been deeply challenged. Congress has put forward legislation that demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding about what it takes to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the supports they need to live, work and engage in their communities, to experience self-determination and choice, and not lead lives of isolation and institutional dependence.

    Medicaid services have been designed as the foundation for services that support community integration for people with disabilities. These services are threatened by the current discussion in the Senate to deeply cut the Medicaid program and significantly decrease access to home and community based services.

    18 years after Olmstead and more than 27 years after passage of the ADA, we must continue to fight for the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities - because for too many people with disabilities, we continue to see a real gap between what the law guarantees and what people experience. We must take effort to preserve the promise that the Medicaid system offers for community-based services, and we must be thoughtful about what we can do in our local communities about transportation, education, employment and criminal justice issues.

    We continue to see challenges with public transportation as people with disabilities face unlawful barriers to getting around their communities. The most recent audit of the King County paratransit Access system reveals glaring design flaws that continue to isolate people with disabilities, jeopardizing access to care, preventing access to gainful employment, causing safety issues, and reducing opportunities to meaningfully engage in healthy lifestyles and activities. We have asked for leadership from the King County Council to ensure this system is redesigned and listens to what its customers need. We hope you will share your story if you have one.

    We see this gap in employment, as 450,000 people with disabilities nationwide still spend their time in segregated sheltered workshops or day programs, with some paid just pennies per hour. We have a call to action to businesses in the Puget Sound region to make the Pacific Northwest a welcoming place for people with social, behavioral and intellectual differences and ask for their leadership in affecting significant social change through employment of people with disabilities and training their employees to be good stewards to their customers with disabilities.

    We see this gap in education, as public schools deny children with disabilities the opportunities they deserve to learn and thrive alongside their non-disabled peers. When students with disabilities are disciplined for behavior related to their disabilities, isolated in separate classrooms and are not provided opportunities to learn skills that successfully connect them to peer and school life - they don’t get the opportunity to learn the full needed skills, or get the resources and experiences they need to contribute, learn and reach their potential in school, in the workforce and in life. As importantly, we deny a new generation of students to develop relationships with and see people with I/DD as part of their community and daily life.

    And finally, we see this gap in our justice system, as too many people suffer from policies that criminalize their disabilities. Fear and mistrust continues to exist between many people with disabilities and their families and the officers that serve and protect them. We must work together to address the root problems that face both people with disabilities and law enforcement agencies. Here in the city of Seattle, as part of a consent decree, for example, the city and their police department has created an advisory committee specifically focused on crisis intervention - but there is still no specific training required to address the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Crisis intervention means recognizing when conditions such as intellectual or developmental disability may impact one’s behavior. It means recognizing that a person may not understand commands. It means dispatching a specialized Crisis Intervention Team or CIT-trained officers to respond to crisis-related calls. And it means responding with care and communication to defuse tensions rather than resorting to unnecessary force.

    As a society, we share a collective responsibility to reverse these trends by expanding and investing in community-based care and taking action.

    It is important that we recognize the difference between equity and equality as we eliminate barriers for people with disabilities to live, learn, work and place in the community. Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Disability is diverse and it requires us to be person-centered and look at principals of universal design to thoughtfully include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our communities and services.

    To combat stigmas, to empower communities and to bring our country closer to its ideals, we must start in a place where all people are treated with dignity and worth and design our communities, businesses, neighborhoods and governments as places where all people get a fair chance - including people with disabilities. So with this in mind, we say thanks to the ADA and happy anniversary.