What is The Arc?
The Arc is the world’s largest community-based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 700 state and local chapters across the nation, including The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties. The Arc is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties advocates, educates, and provides services and supports for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Our vision is that all persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities be fully included in the community with the right to choose where they live, learn, work, and play.
Nationally, The Arc’s vision is that every individual and family affected by intellectual disability in the United States has access to the information, advocacy, and skills they need to participate as active citizens of our democracy and active members of their community. We work to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families have the supports they need to live an ordinary American life:
- People with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families are valued, respected and included in all communities.
- People with intellectual and developmental disabilities direct their own lives. People choose their services and supports from many available sources.
- People are empowered through nonprofit advocacy. State and federal governments administer programs and set budgets that meet everyone’s needs.
- The Arc is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors.
Is “The Arc” an acronym? If yes, what does it stand for?
No, The Arc is not an acronym. However, throughout its history, The Arc’s name has seen many changes:
- 1950: Founded as the National Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Retarded Children
- 1953: The name was changed to the National Association for Retarded Children (NARC).
- 1973: The name was changed to the National Association for Retarded Citizens. (NARC)
- 1981: The name was changed to Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States. (ARC)
- 1992: The name was changed to “The Arc of the United States.” For the first time, the word 'retarded' was removed from the name.
What is People First Language?
Language is very powerful. The words we choose to talk about people who have disabilities can spread awareness and enlightenment, or they can perpetuate prejudice and misconceptions.
One of the reasons The Arc changed its name years ago from The Association for Retarded Citizens to The Arc was to get rid of the “R” word. Most people with disabilities and their families find the term offensive and stigmatizing.
As Self Advocates have stated, “The term mental retardation has become hurtful. Stop using it! Words hurt and labels limit human potential. It is un-American! Try calling people by their name.” (From the Vision of the Alliance for Full Participation, September 24, 2005, Washington DC).
It’s also important to remember that people always come first: For example: A woman with a physical disability, or A man with an intellectual disability. This is commonly referred to People First language. Keep in mind that we're all different, with different abilities. Words like victim, defective, patient, suffers from, afflicted or stricken carry serious derogatory connotations that focus on disability rather than abilities and people.
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy on the individual or systems level is acting with or on behalf of an individual or group to resolve an issue, obtain a needed support or service or promote a change in the practices, policies and/or behaviors of third parties. Advocacy is essential for promoting and protecting the civil and human rights of people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and for establishing, maintaining or improving their quality of life.
The Arc’s Advocacy Services Program – the only program of its kind in the Lehigh Valley – touches the lives of people in a multitude of capacities and provides a wide variety of support, assistance, and resources to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families live life to their fullest potential, and we provide our services free of charge. The program includes Education Advocacy for children/youth, Adult Advocacy for adults and seniors, Specialized Training Sessions for families and others, and our Family Resource Center lending library with perhaps the Valley’s largest collection of resources related to intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Where and when can I use an advocate?
There are many different ways to serve as an advocate for people, such as legislative advocacy or systems advocacy, as examples. Our Advocacy Services Program focuses on responding to the unique needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families who seek expert assistance with a significant problem that they are experiencing, often with an issue(s) that threatens their individual quality of life. Depending on the need of the individual, our advocacy efforts may take on many different roles, such as serving as:
An advisor / mentor for a frustrated family with a child in the Valley’s public schools who needs help to better understand the Special Education system, to know their legal rights, to stand with them and offer advice as they meet with the school to plan their child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and to learn how they can serve the best interests of their son or daughter.
A representative for an adult with developmental disabilities who was falsely accused of a crime and in need of the assistance of experts in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities to work with defense attorneys to help prove innocence.
An instructor who provides meaningful training sessions for families to better understand important issues that almost all families with a member with disabilities will face such as Transition from School To Adulthood, Estate Planning, and Accessing the State’s Social Service Delivery System.
A facilitator of information or resources for individuals, families, teachers, nurses, social workers or others who are looking for answers on questions related to intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our team of advocates, along with the librarian of our Family Resource Center lending library, is available to provide one-on-one assistance on any issue related to disabilities. If we do not have the resources or the answers to a particular question, we will help connect them to other possible sources of help.
Is there a fee for Advocacy Services?
Although many local chapters of The Arc have a sliding fee scale for advocacy services, The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties provides advocacy services to the people of our community at no charge at this time. We use charitable income to cover the costs of advocacy services.
If I live outside Lehigh and Northampton Counties, can I still access your services?
Government guidelines direct people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who use government-funded programs to receive services within their local region. Some program participants pay the program fee privately. Regardless of where the person resides, anyone has access to our Family Resource Center lending library, and may attend trainings we sponsor.
The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties is a non-profit organization as defined by IRS regulations. A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania, 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.