PARENTS AND ADVOCATES SUE STATE OF GEORGIA OVER SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL EDUCATION FOR THOUSANDS OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

by The Arc

Parents of Children with Disabilities, The Georgia Advocacy Office, The Center for Public Representation, The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, The Arc, DLA Piper LLP, and The Goodmark Firm File Class Action Lawsuit Against State of Georgia

ATLANTA, GA (Oct. 11, 2017) – Today, parents of children with disabilities, the Georgia Advocacy Office, the Center for Public Representation, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, The Arc, DLA Piper LLP, and the Goodmark Law Firm filed a class action lawsuit in federal court alleging that the State of Georgia has discriminated against thousands of public school students with disabilities by providing them with a separate and unequal education via the State’s Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports Program (GNETS).

The complaint filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, alleges that the State, in denying GNETS students the opportunity to be educated with their non-disabled peers in neighborhood schools violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For more information about the litigation, please visit www.centerforpublicrep.org/court_case/gao-v-georgia/.

“The Georgia Advocacy Office (GAO), the independent Protection and Advocacy System for People with Disabilities in Georgia, is demanding the State abandon GNETS and stop segregating youth with disabilities,” said Ruby Moore, Executive Director of GAO. “GNETS programs are a relic of a time where people with disabilities were thought to be uneducable. GAO has and will continue to fight against GNETS and any program or service that unnecessarily segregates people with disabilities.”

GNETS are segregated programs that serve only students with disabilities, housed in entirely separate buildings or in separate wings of neighborhood schools, for students who need services for their disability-related behaviors. In 2016, over 5,000 students with disabilities were placed in GNETS. Most of these students are African-American and 100% of the students enrolled experience disabilities. “The State of Georgia’s segregated GNETS system flies in the face of long-standing Supreme Court

precedent,” said Alison Barkoff, Director of Advocacy for the Center for Public Representation. “The Court recognized long ago that ‘separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.’ And the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. made clear that the ADA forbids the needless isolation or segregation of people with disabilities, because it deprives them of opportunities like getting an education and social contacts with peers.”

GNETS students are denied access to physical education, art, music, and extra-curricular activities, and many GNETS centers have no library, cafeteria, gym, science lab, music room, or playground. Some GNETS centers are located in buildings that were used to teach African-American students during the Jim Crow era, much of the instruction is performed via online programs rather than with certified teachers, and educational curricula are not aligned with State standards. Accordingly, GNETS students rarely earn a diploma. The GNETS graduation rate is only 10% in contrast to a nearly 80% graduation rate in neighborhood schools. Students in GNETS are physically restrained on a routine basis, nearly 10,000 times in 2014-2016. “Although advertised as ‘therapeutic,’ GNETS are anything but – often student behavior worsens once placed in GNETS because of the harsh and punitive atmosphere in the schools,” said attorney Craig Goodmark. “Decades of research and practice show that students with and without disabilities do best academically and socially when they learn alongside each other.”

Instead of providing local school districts with the resources to offer the services these students need, the State is spending millions of dollars on segregated settings. “GNETS was intended to be a placement of the last resort. Instead, GNETs has become a dumping ground for students whom local school districts do not want to educate,” said Ira Burnim, the Bazelon Center’s Legal Director. “Georgia is the only state in the country to systematically segregate students with disabilities on a statewide basis. This is a plain violation of federal disability laws intended to ensure that students with disabilities are able to learn and receive services in integrated settings along with their peers without disabilities.”

In response to the efforts of a broad coalition of stakeholders seeking to end the illegal segregation of students in GNETS, the Georgia Coalition for Equity in Education, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) performed a multi-year investigation (www.ada.gov/olmstead/documents/gnets_lof.pdf) of GNETS. The investigation eventually culminated in a lawsuit against the State, alleging that the State’s administration of the GNETS system violates the ADA by “unnecessarily segregating students with disabilities from their peers” and providing “unequal” education opportunities to GNETS students. That lawsuit has been put on hold pending a decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding DOJ’s authority to bring suit.

“The Arc has long fought for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be educated in their neighborhood schools with appropriate services, supplementary aids, and supports,” said Stacey Ramirez, Director of The Arc’s Georgia state office. “Georgia’s systemic segregation of students with disabilities is unacceptable to The Arc and its constituents in Georgia. With DOJ’s lawsuit now on hold, the children of Georgia can wait no longer.”

About The Arc

The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families. In partnership with its network of 650 chapters across the country, The Arc works to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, work, and learn in the community free from discrimination. Through its Georgia state office, The Arc seeks to ensure that students with I/DD throughout the state can meaningfully access the myriad benefits, programs, and services offered to students in neighborhood public schools. To learn more, visit www.thearc.org.

About The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

The Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law is a national legal advocacy organization protecting and advancing the rights of people with mental disabilities. The Center promotes laws and policies that enable people with mental disabilities to live independently in their own homes and

communities, and to enjoy the same opportunities that everyone else does. For more information, visit www.bazelon.org.

About The Center for Public Representation

The Center for Public Representation (CPR) is a national legal advocacy center for people with disabilities. For 40 years, CPR has been enforcing and expanding the rights of people with disabilities and others who are in segregated settings. CPR uses legal strategies, advocacy, and policy to design and implement systemic reform initiatives to that promote integration and full community participation. To learn more about our work, visit www.centerforpublicrep.org.

About DLA Piper LLP

DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world. To learn more, visit www.dlapiper.com/en/us.

About The Georgia Advocacy Office

The Georgia Advocacy Office is Georgia’s designated Protection and Advocacy System. GAO envisions a Georgia where all people have value, visibility and voice; where even the most difficult and long-lasting challenges are addressed by ordinary citizens acting voluntarily on behalf of each other; and where the perception of disability is replaced by the recognition of ability. GAO’s mission is to organize our resources and follow our values and legal mandates in ways which substantially increase the number of people who are voluntarily standing beside and for people in Georgia who have significant disabilities and mental illness. To learn more, visit www.thegao.org.

About The Goodmark Law Firm

Since 1999, Mr. Goodmark has dedicated a majority of his practice to representing families, teachers and students in their pursuit of equality, fairness and justice in Georgia’s schools. To learn more, visit www.goodmarklaw.com.

National Disability Employment Month: Push for Progress

by The Arc

By: Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy, The Arc of the United States.

October marks National Disability Employment Month – it’s a time to reflect on the progress of making employment for people with disabilities a reality, and to push forward on necessary changes to make that a reality for more individuals throughout the country. People with disabilities have shown their desire to work and thrive in their workplaces and communities. Employers all over the country are also recognizing the potential for people with disabilities in their workplaces and the contributions they can make to the culture of their business, and to the economy.

The Arc@Work is supporting employers large and small across the country with targeted outreach and recruitment, employer staffing solutions, and training and consultation. Much of this work is done on the ground via many of our 650 chapters nationwide.

As businesses continue to show their commitment to adding individuals with disabilities to all levels of their workforce, we must also support individuals with disabilities to develop the skills they need to find the jobs that they desire, AND to build careers in the field of their choice. Individuals with disabilities are succeeding in meaningful careers in a wide range of private businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, while others are becoming entrepreneurs with their own micro-businesses.

It is important to remember why a job is so important to an individual with a disability. My brother Chris is 28 and has autism, and I asked him why getting a job is important to him. Here is his response:

“I think that a job is essential to a person with a disability because it gives us purpose, and common ground to build on with the rest of the world. All my siblings get so much of their identities from their jobs, I should have the same chance. All my brothers and sisters in disability deserve the opportunities to work in our communities, for fair pay, so that we can fulfill our destinies.”

As we work on the federal and state level to align policies and practices to make the road to employment smoother for individuals with disabilities, no matter their level of need, we must remember that a job is an essential part of what gives someone standing in their community. The value in having a response to “what do you do?” is immeasurable for individuals with disabilities across the country, including my brother Chris.

October 6, 2017 – The Arc’s Statement on House Passage of its Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 Budget

by The Arc

Washington, DC – Federal budgets lay out the Nation’s priorities for spending and revenue for the decade ahead. The one passed this week by the House of Representatives reflects priorities that can do real and lasting harm to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Entitled “Building a Better America,” this FY 2018 budget would most benefit our wealthiest citizens and it would create a far worse America for most people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by prioritizing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy over funding for critical disability programs.

The House of Representatives officially began the process of developing a budget for Fiscal Year 2018 by passing a budget resolution that includes provisions which would undermine the foundation of community living for people with I/DD for the second time this year. People with I/DD, their families, caregivers, service providers, and advocates have barely had time to rest from battling to protect Medicaid from massive cuts and fundamental restructuring based on similar language from the joint House-Senate budget resolution for FY 2017 earlier in the year.

The Senate is now working on its version of a budget resolution and, once passed, the House and Senate will have to negotiate which version to adopt or whether to jointly adopt a compromise version. Advocates will continue to oppose inclusion of language deemed harmful to people with disabilities.

House Committee Advances Bill to Cut Off Basic Income for Adults with Disabilities and Seniors

by The Arc

Yesterday, by a vote of 23 to 14 the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means advanced legislation to cut off Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for potentially hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities and seniors.

As amended by the Committee, H.R. 2792 would revive a failed former policy by targeting SSI recipients with outstanding arrest warrants for alleged felonies or alleged violations of probation or parole. This former policy ended following the resolution of class action litigation.

Federal law already prohibits payment of SSI benefits to people fleeing from law enforcement to avoid prosecution or imprisonment, and the Social Security Administration has a process in place to notify law enforcement of the whereabouts of such individuals.

Based on experience with the former policy, H.R. 2792 would not help law enforcement to secure arrests, but instead would target people whose cases are inactive and whom law enforcement is not pursuing. Most of the warrants in question are decades old and include warrants routinely issued when a person was unable to pay a fine or court fee, or a probation supervision fee. Many people are not even aware that a warrant was issued for them, as warrants are often not served on the individual. Some people will be swept up because of mistaken identity, or paperwork errors, which can take months or even years to resolve. Many people will face barriers to clearing their records based on the nature of their disabilities or their current circumstances, for example, an individual with Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.

Resolving an old arrest warrant can often involve significant time and expense, such as when a person has moved and lives far from the jurisdiction that issued, but never pursued, a decades-old warrant. Anecdotally, a very high percentage of people affected by the former policy were people with mental impairments, including people with intellectual disability.

“SSI benefits average $18 per day and are the only personal income for over one in three beneficiaries. Cutting off these modest SSI benefits will cause significant hardship and will only make it more difficult for people to resolve old, outstanding arrest warrants. Congress should reject this extreme and unconscionable proposal,” said T.J. Sutcliffe, Director, Income and Housing Policy.

As discussed at the Committee markup, the House is expected to propose to use savings from cuts to SSI under H.R. 2792 to pay for legislation to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, also marked up by the Committee yesterday.

“Home visiting helps to improve maternal and child health and increases access to screening and early intervention for children with disabilities. Reauthorization of this valuable program should not be paid for by cutting off SSI for people with disabilities, seniors, and their families,” said Sutcliffe.

As highlighted in a fact sheet by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, here are two stories of people harmed by Social Security’s former failed policy: Rosa Martinez, the lead plaintiff in one of several class action law suits brought against the policy, and a juvenile survivor of childhood abuse:

  • Mistaken Identity: Rosa Martinez, the lead plaintiff in Martinez v. Astrue was, in 2008, a 52-year old woman who received notice from SSA that she was losing her disability benefits because of a 1980 arrest warrant for a drug offense in Miami, FL. Ms. Martinez had never been to Miami, never been arrested, never used illegal drugs, and is eight inches shorter than the person identified in the warrant. Despite an obvious case of mistaken identity, Ms. Martinez was left without her sole source of income while she cleared up the error on her own, without any help from SSA. It was only after filing a lawsuit that Ms. Martinez was able to receive her benefits.
  • Juvenile Survivor of Childhood Abuse: A young man in California with intellectual disability and other mental impairments had his SSI benefits stopped because of an Ohio warrant issued when he was 12 years old and running away to escape an abusive stepfather. The 4’7” tall, 85-pound boy was charged with assault for kicking a staff member at the detention center where he was being held until his mother could pick him up. Many years later, he had no recollection of the incident.

More stories of people harmed by SSA’s former failed policy are available from Justice in Aging.

 

The Arc Responds to Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson Health Care Proposal

by The Arc

Architects of this bill are still ignoring the pleas of their constituents with disabilities

Today, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Dean Heller (R-NV), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and former US Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) unveiled the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The Arc released the following statement in response:

“While this piece of legislation has a new title and makes new promises, it is more of the same threats to Medicaid and those who rely on it for a life in the community. The Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal cuts and caps the Medicaid program. The loss of federal funding is a serious threat to people with disabilities and their families who rely on Medicaid for community based supports.

“Many of the provisions in this legislation are the same or worse than what we encountered earlier this year, which shows that the architects of this bill are still ignoring the pleas of their constituents with disabilities. The talking points sugar coat it, but the reality is simple – under this proposal less money would be available despite the fact the needs of people who rely on Medicaid have not decreased.  The Arc remains staunchly opposed to legislation that includes per capita caps or block granting of Medicaid. We need Members of Congress to find a solution that actually takes into consideration the needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Peter Berns, CEO of the The Arc.

Choosing Between a Paycheck and Health: New Report on Paid Family Leave and the Disability Angle

by The Arc

Washington, DC –Today, The Arc and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality are releasing a first of its kind paper outlining why paid family and medical leave is a necessity for the economic security and stability of people with disabilities and their families.

The need for paid family and medical leave is universal. Nearly all of us will need paid leave at some point – to care for a family member’s or our own serious medical condition, or to welcome a new child into a family. Missing from the national conversation is the disability angle. One in five Americans live with a disability. Yet the reality is, in the U.S. workforce, only 1 in 7 workers has access to paid family leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Roughly 2 in 5 workers report they lack access to any paid leave.

“Millions of workers in our economy either have a disability, or have a family member with a disability. Yet largely under the radar has been the disability community – too many people are being forced to choose between a paycheck and their own health or a family member’s health. This paper aims to elevate the disability angle on paid leave, a national issue with growing momentum,” said co-author TJ Sutcliffe, Director, Income and Housing Policy, The Arc.

“If policymakers are serious about improving employment outcomes of people with disabilities, they should work to establish a comprehensive and inclusive paid family and medical leave program,” said co-author Kali Grant of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. “We know paid leave has wide-reaching benefits, and that’s particularly true for people with disabilities and their families.”

Many people in the U.S. struggle to get by and pay for basics. That’s particularly true for people with disabilities and their families, who are more likely to live in poverty, have limited savings to fall back on, and face added disability-related expenses and barriers to work.

The paper found that households with one or more members with a disability have an average household income that is only about two-thirds that of households where no one has a disability. As highlighted in the paper, according to the National Disability Institute, 31% of people with disabilities say it is “very difficult” to cover their monthly expenses, compared to 15% of people without disabilities. And 4 in 5 people with disabilities lack any sort of rainy day fund.

Workers with disabilities are particularly likely to be in part-time, low-wage jobs that often don’t offer even basic benefits – much less paid family and medical leave. Over 2 in 3 part-time workers don’t have even one sick day. Workers with disabilities are twice as likely as workers without disabilities to be part-time.

“By offering job-protection, continuing health coverage, and temporary replacement income, comprehensive paid leave has the potential to ensure financial stability for the millions of working families with a member with a disability,” said Grant.

To fully address the needs of all Americans, including people with disabilities and their families, the paper recommends that a national paid leave approach should, among other things, be accessible to all working people and reflect a modern definition of family, cover all the major reasons that people need to take leave (one’s own health, a family member’s health, a new child), replace sufficient wages so that people can make ends meet, be for long enough to promote positive outcomes, ensure that people can keep their jobs and health insurance, and include education and outreach that is fully accessible to people with disabilities.

“Knowing that your job will be there for you if you take paid leave is a must for nearly all of us. And disability knows no geographical, socio-economic, or political boundaries. Other countries have done better, and American workers, including people with disabilities and their families, desperately need better,” said Sutcliffe.

Hear one family’s story about paid leave, and meet others who have personal experience with paid leave.

The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

The Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality (GCPI) works with policymakers, researchers, practitioners, and advocates to develop effective policies and practices that alleviate poverty and inequality in the United States. Further information about GCPI and their Economic Security and Opportunity Initiative (ESOI) is available at www.georgetownpoverty.org.

The Arc on the DACA Announcement: “Ending DACA is an assault on community inclusion”

by The Arc

Washington, DC – Today, The Arc released the following statement on the news that President Trump will wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program:

“The Arc’s public policy goals include protecting against forms of discrimination including that based on disability, ethnicity, race, religion, language, national origin, or any other protected status. The goals also call for providing a fair opportunity for people with disabilities to reside legally in the U.S. and to become citizens. We also urge appropriate waivers of immigration law to allow for active recruitment of direct support workers.

“For hundreds of thousands of young people with the DACA protected status, their nightmare came true with the news that the program will end and they are at risk of deportation for a decision years ago made by others when they were children. Many would be sent to countries they have no real knowledge of or contacts in. In some cases, deportation could be dangerous.

“Amongst those at risk are people with disabilities, their parents, siblings, friends, and allies. The natural support system for a person with a disability tends to be their family, and over the last several decades, American society has moved toward inclusion in the community instead of isolation for people with disabilities. And so when the family is ripped apart – siblings sent thousands of miles away, a person with a disability separated from their parents – life is turned upside down. When communities lose people of different abilities and backgrounds, we all lose. Ending DACA is an assault on community inclusion and would move our country backwards.

“This is a cruel outcome that Congress must fix before it’s too late – before people are shown the door and their lives, families, and communities are impacted forever,” said Peter Berns, CEO, The Arc.

Are you #ABLEtoSave?

by The Arc

Are you or your family member with a disability #ABLEtoSave? Now is the time to find out if an ABLE account should be a part of your plan for the future.

What is an ABLE account?

This new type of account enables some individuals with disabilities to save money for disability related expenses, without losing important federal benefits. ABLE accounts are similar to college savings plan accounts but are not the same as those accounts with different rules and restrictions.

Less than three years after the ABLE Act was signed into law, twenty-eight states have launched ABLE programs. According to the ABLE National Resource Center, over 10,000 accounts have been opened across the country and there are over $25 million in assets under management by ABLE programs.

Can I open an ABLE account and how do they work?

The Arc’s National Policy Matters on ABLE Accounts answers your questions about who is eligible to open an account, how the accounts work, what the contribution limits are, what types of expenses the funds can be used for, how the accounts impact federal, means-tested benefits, what happens to money remaining in the account, and more.

Eligible individuals can open only one ABLE account in their home state or another state program. Some, but not all, states allow nonresidents to open accounts in their programs. Visit the ABLE National Resource Center to learn about the different state programs.

An ABLE account can be an important part of a future plan. To learn more about creating a financial plan for the future, visit The Arc’s Center for Future Planning.

This Week is the 52nd Anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare: The Irony of Celebration During Times of Attack

by The Arc

By: Nicole Jorwic, Director of Rights Policy

This week in July is always a big one, this year the disability community came together to celebrate the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the 52nd anniversary of the Medicaid and Medicare programs. But a large looming shadow hung over these celebrations, the current healthcare proposals in the House and Senate.

Medicaid Anniversary

During the past six months, most of my professional life has been consumed by the fight to save Medicaid. Today I was honored to speak as a sibling and professional at a Capitol Hill event celebrating the 52nd anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare, to highlight why we must continue our fight to SAVE MEDICAID.

My Remarks:

My name is Nicole Jorwic, I am the Director of Rights Policy at The Arc of the United States. The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

I am here today though, as a sister. My brother Chris will be 28 years old tomorrow and has autism, he is the reason that I do the work that I do, and as a Medicaid recipient, he is one of the millions of individuals at risk if the proposals in the House and Senate healthcare reform bills become law.

Chris and Nicole

We know the numbers – between 22-32 million will lose coverage, millions will lose Medicaid and anywhere from $202 billion (in the “skinny repeal”) to $836 billion (in the House bill) in cuts to federal Medicaid spending. But those numbers represent people, they represent Chris, they represent the 43 heroes from National ADAPT that were arrested last month after staging a die in at Senator McConnell’s office.

That’s right, a die in because Medicaid is literally life and death for people with disabilities. I was lucky enough to be there in solidarity with National ADAPT last month and as I watched people who I respect and admire being pulled from the wheelchairs they use, literally putting their bodies on the line for people like Chris, I wept.

The current proposals quite simply devalue groups of human beings, gutting the Medicaid program, a program that over 10 million people with disabilities and families like mine rely on, and they show that the drafters of this legislation don’t see the value in investing in the lives of the poor, the aging population, pregnant women, people with disabilities, including my Chrissy.

Medicaid is so much more than a health program, it funds long term supports and services that allow people with disabilities to live their full life in the community. Medicaid funded the communication device that gave my nonverbal brother a voice, so that he can advocate for himself. Medicaid funds the day support services that allow my mom, a college professor, and my dad, a small business owner, to remain in their jobs.

Siblings

Families like mine started The Arc over 65 years ago to get people OUT of Institutions and included in their communities, and now those antiquated and segregating services may be the only thing left. This is because institutions and nursing homes remain mandatory services, while home and community based services are optional, and will therefore be the first cut when the devastating federal cuts to Medicaid come to the states. We cannot let that happen, we must SAVE MEDICAID. People’s lives literally depend on it. Chris’ does.

The proposals to decimate the Medicaid program to provide tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy is morally reprehensible. As an advocate and Chris’ sister I will do everything I can to stop the current healthcare bills and protect the integrity of the Medicaid program that we are here celebrating today.

Learning From Our Peers: Advice on Organizational Transformation From Those Who Have Done It

by The Arc

As more community-based providers of supports and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) strive to reinvent themselves to offer inclusive opportunities and keep up with Employment First, WIOA, CMS Final Settings Rule, DOJ’s application of Olmstead to employment, and expectations of the ADA generation, organizational leadership may find themselves wondering how to accomplish such a feat. Where’s the finish line? Where’s the starting block?

The Arc believes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities belong in the community and have fundamental moral, civil and constitutional rights to be fully included and actively participate in all aspects of society. The Arc is pleased to be working toward finding and sharing information to support its chapters on their journeys toward community employment with leading employment researchers as a sub-grantee of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Advancing Employment for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a project of ThinkWork! at the Institute for Community Inclusion at University of Massachusetts – Boston on a five-year National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) grant aimed at employment of people with I/DD. As part of this collaboration, staff from The Arc co-conducted interviews with leadership from eight organizations which have transformed their employment service delivery from sheltered work to competitive community employment. A brief sharing advice from those interviews was recently released telling us to Commit. Plan. Engage. Implement.

The next step in this collaboration is an intervention aimed at service providers to aide them in transforming their sheltered workshop models to community-based employment programs. This intervention will provide best practice information and other resources to service providers via a comprehensive toolkit.

We are currently looking for chapters to participate in our intervention pilot this summer. The pilot will be six weeks in duration and will consist of reviewing the toolkit, preliminary planning and implementation of pertinent best practices, and providing feedback to The Arc national staff to ensure that the final version of the toolkit is useful and will best support organizations with implementing the conversion process. If you are interested in learning more or participating in the pilot process, please contact Jonathan Lucus, Director of The Arc@Work at: lucus@thearc.org or at 202.534.3706.