March 29: A Day for Disability Awareness

Disability Awareness

March is national Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and The Arc invites you to join us on March 29 in a grassroots initiative to help raise awareness about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

What should you do? Simply make plans to go out somewhere in public on Saturday, March 29. That’s all. Just plan a day out and about with friends and family or by yourself enjoying the things you like to do. And, in the process help raise awareness and generate some conversation about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This one-day movement will serve to harness our collective power to gain allies, foster understanding, dispel myths and encourage people without disabilities to recognize that we’re not so different after all.

Year round, The Arc works to promote and protect the rights of people with I/DD to live, learn, work and play as valued and contributing members of their communities. We fight for legislation to remove barriers to full participation and inclusion and have been successful on many fronts. But sometimes the barrier has nothing to do with the width of a doorway or an employer’s hiring practices. Sometimes the barrier is as subtle as a nervous glance from an uninformed person in line with you at the market.

This March 29, let’s all go out and start breaking down those social barriers once and for all. This is your chance to personally help raise awareness about people withI/DD just by being yourself and participating in the things you enjoy alongside others in your community without disabilities. If you are a person with I/DD, make plans to hit the movies, the park, your local shopping center or restaurant for a day out and maybe spark some conversation in the process. Or, if you are a friend or family member of a person with I/DD, make plans to enjoy a fun activity together in public and take the opportunity to show others that we’re all not so different after all.

Visit The Arc’s website at and find out more about this campaign and things you can do join in. And spread the word using the hashtag #DDAware on social media during the month of March.

New Fun Opportunity

Studies indicate that people with disabilities are more socially isolated than their peers.  Arc Games and More is an opportunity for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to decrease isolation, increase social skills, and gain experiences to help develop interests and hobbies for quality of life; to help them reach their full potential and lead full and satisfying lives in their communities.  High school and adult volunteers will assist to make it a more inclusive experience.

Arc Games and More, which takes place in Moorhead on the 4th Friday of the month, starting September 27th, is a place to connect with others and the community in an environment that fosters friendships and celebrates individual abilities and talents.  Each session will include noncompetitive teamwork activities and creative (sensory) activities, based on a different theme each month,  that appeal to children, teens and young adults, using art, music, community groups and more.

The vision is to create opportunities for every  person with a developmental and /or intellectual disability to build enduring friendships and embrace community connections, while enhancing the lives of ALL individuals involved; people with disabilities and volunteers.

There will be a punch card system to attend.  Buying the punch cards in advance is recommended.

3 punch card (good for 3 sessions, 1 punch per session)
$15 for a for members
$20 for non-members
$7 at the door for a single session (whether a member or not)

Personal Care Attendants are encouraged to participate with anyone who needs one on one attention.

Check Arc West for updated  theme.




Fair Wages for Workers With Disabilities

Rock Center with Brian Williams will be airing a segment on subminimum wages paid to Americans with disabilities on Friday, June 21st at 9:00 pm on NBC.

You may or may not be aware that Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) allows entities holding what are called “special wage certificates” to pay their workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. These entities are almost always segregated workplaces, sometimes called “sheltered workshops,” that employ workers with various disabilities, including sensory, physical, and cognitive or developmental disabilities.  Wages are most often based on productivity.

The Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act of 2013 (H.R. 831) has been introduced by Congressman Gregg Harper. The bill, if passed, would repeal Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act and phase out the discriminatory practice of paying workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage, which can be as low as $1/hour.  See for an analysis from Association of  People Supporting EmploymentFirst (APSE).

How Are Wages Based on Productivity Determined?

1)      Jobs paid by the piece:

Each step in the process is carefully timed so as to determine the time it takes for a typical non-disabled worker to perform that particular operation.  Whenever possible, several non-disabled workers are studied and their times are averaged.  From this information, an industrial standard is calculated; that is to say, the number of “pieces” a typical worker can be expected to produce in an adjusted hour.  This number is then divided into the prevailing community wage for this type of work to yield the client’s pay per each piece of work.  For example, if the non-disabled expectation for placing labels on envelopes is 418 pieces per hour, and the prevailing wage for such work is $9.32 per hour, then the rate paid to our clients for each piece produced would be .023, or just a bit under two and one-third pennies each.

2)      Jobs paid by the hour:

In many cases (landscaping, janitorial, and clean up, for example) jobs and tasks are such that establishing piece rates is not practical or advisable.  In these cases, the work program establishes fair hourly rates for each client, based on that client’s actual productivity.

For tasks that are related to, but incidental to piece rate work, the client’s percent of productivity while on piece rated jobs is calculated and often is used to establish an hourly rate to be applied to any non-piece rate time that is worked.

For clients whose jobs do not permit any piece rate paid time, a subjective performance evaluation is made, at least every six months, using methods prescribed and permitted under Federal and State labor law.  Generally, this involves establishing non-disabled standards for various portions of the job description, assessing the client’s performance against those standards, and calculating a weighted average percentage of productivity.  This percentage is then applied to the prevailing wage for the job to determine the client’s individual commensurate wage.  For example, if a client’s weighted average productivity is 78%, and the prevailing wage for the job is $15.21 per hour, then the client’s individual commensurate wage would be $11.87 per hour.

Under both the piece rate pay system and the subjective hourly evaluation system, each client receives accurate information about his/her current level of productivity, feedback regarding recent vocational progress or lack thereof, and strong financial incentives to set and meet objectives for improved competency and output.

More interesting articles:

National Council on Disability Report on Subminimum Wage and Supported Employment

Conversely, not all agree with this analysis.

Living a “Regular” Life

My kids and I were recently interviewed for a television story.  My understanding was that the story was about a man who became blind, and looked at life from the viewpoint of life before & after this life change.  We were asked to contribute our perspective on how we participate in a “regular” life.

Opportunity is one of my favorite words.  I try to take advantage of many of the opportunities that have presented for my kids.

Aaron and Nicole are two young adults with Down syndrome.  They have participated in activities designed for people with disabilities and many that are available for anyone, with or without disabilities.  This has given them the opportunity to be a part of the fabric of our community.

We have been blessed in our community to have many activities available.  My kids have been in T ball, softball, soccer, swimming, park programs, Sunday school, choir, Bible school, confirmation, handchime camp, drama camp, WINGS, ushering and helping with communion in church, style shows, Challenger Baseball, Cool Kids Club, YMCA, Yoga, Community Education classes (both Choices for Adults with Disabilities and general classes), special events in the community, 5K with the Fargo Marathon, dances, proms, Special Olympics, and the list goes on…

Our latest passion is Tae Kwon Do, where we participate as a family and are in a regular class with people who do not have a disability.  Belts are earned, not just handed out.  Aaron is one belt away from becoming a black belt.  Nicole started later, but is more than halfway there.

Nicole is an enthusiastic young woman who was involved with the high school Key Club and regularly volunteers various places.  She took 5 years of piano lessons and is proud to be a level 2 certified coach for Special Olympics Bocce.  Nicole participated in Partners in Policymaking.  She has no problem approaching people and getting donations for various fundraisers.  She is the manager of my handbell choir & the adult choir at church.  She is an avid Facebook participant.  She is a very typical big sister (i.e. likes to be in charge!)

Aaron has  a joy for life, and isn’t quite as social or verbal as his sister, but still enjoys getting out in the community.  He is big into technology: Gameboy, DS, computer, iPod, Wii, and is very competitive.  He can figure out how to work electronic things that I have never even tried to do.

Like any mom, my goals for my kids are for them to be happy and healthy, find employment they enjoy, and have a life that is fulfilling.  Nicole has two part time jobs (competitive employment), a boyfriend,  and hopes to one day live in her own place and get married.  Aaron is just finishing school, & will be exploring employment opportunities this summer.  He is not afraid of working hard and does chores around the house that include shoveling, vacuuming,  & mowing.

Have we had challenges in life?  Absolutely.  Do we get tired of paperwork, issues with waivers, Social Security, insurance,  IEPs and other meetings?  Sure.  But we cannot live a life that only concentrates on the negatives.

We actively try to take advantage of opportunities that come our way.  We try to live by the tenants of Tae Kwon Do:  Courtesy, Integrity, Self Control, Perseverance, and Indomitable Spirit.  In the end, we want a life that has been well lived.       Donna






Self Advocate Workshop and Dance

Join us for A Self Advocate Workshop and Dance for People with Disabilities

Saturday June 22nd, 2013, 1pm – 5pm

Location: Cleveland Elementary School 919 Northern Ave, Fergus Falls

Free Sessions on:

Speak Out: Stay Safe – Personal safety, and relationship planning.

Presented by Jeanine Thompson of Someplace Safe

Self Advocacy: Standing up for Yourself and Others

Bingo (Please bring a $1 item to be used as a prize)

Dance 4pm-5pm.

Sponsored by Arc West Central, Fergus Falls Community Education and Someplace Safe.

Autism Awareness

On April 2 every year, the global autism community celebrates World Autism Awareness Day, which was declared in perpetuity by the United Nations in 2007. Check out

April is Autism Awareness month; a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. Autism statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify around 1 in 88 American children as on the autism spectrum, nearly a doubling of the prevalence since the CDC began tracking these numbers.These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.

The president of Autism Speaks, Mark Roithmayr, states that  autism should now officially be  declared an epidemic in the United States.

It is believed that doctors are getting better at diagnosing autism, communities are getting much better at providing services to children with
autism, and CDC scientists are getting much better at tracking which kids in the communities.

On the tail of this statistic is the news that in May, the American Psychiatric Association will change the diagnosis criteria of the collection of disorders commonly known as autism.  It would create a new category called “autism spectrum disorder (ASD)” and pull under its umbrella previously separate disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder. Supporters of the proposal say its more strict criteria would lead to a more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

It is unknown how the new system will influence the ability to receive a diagnosis or services.  The concern is that persons struggling with autism symptoms may not qualify for a diagnosis under the new system, especially those who are more cognitively capable.

Under the proposed changes, a person would need to fit a much narrower description, showing three deficits in social interaction, and at least two repetitive behaviors.

In recent studies, researchers found that under the new definition, 9 – 40% of children and adults with high-functioning forms of autism would not meet the current definition. Dr. Catherine Lord, one of the experts working on those new autism guidelines for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) disagrees, saying the criteria will to better job of diagnosing the people who have ASD, so they get the appropriate treatments.

Autism researcher Dr. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, expressed “cautious optimism” at the revisions. She said small studies have suggested the new criteria will be effective. But she said it will be crucial to monitor so that children don’t lose services, a major concern of the organization that it has discussed with the committee during the revision process.

“We are reassured that the  committee has stated that all individuals who currently have a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, including those with Asperger syndrome, will be able to retain an ASD diagnosis,” Dawson wrote on Autism Speaks’ website. “This means that no one with a current diagnosis on the autism spectrum should “lose” their diagnosis because of the changes in diagnostic criteria.”




National Down Syndrome Day

Today is National Down Syndrome Day. The goal is to raise people’s awareness and understanding of Down syndrome.  We celebrate the lives of people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, and appreciate the opportunities they have to participate in  their communities, schools and churches.

Sixty  years ago when The Arc was founded, parents and  had to work to alter the perceptions of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to educate parents and others regarding the potential of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc also worked to procure services for children and adults who were denied an education, the right to attend day care and preschools, and the right to work.

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.

As the mother of two young adults with Down syndrome, I appreciate the efforts of those that came before us to include people with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities in regular activities and facets of life.

I can attest to the fact that people with Down syndrome are more like other people than different.  Sure, they have their challenges, but don’t we all!

My two kids are very different from each other.  They have different interests, different strengths, different temperaments, and different challenges.  Though they have differences, both of them like to participate in Tae Kwon Do, play bocce ball, bowl, use the computer, go out to eat, watch movies, and participate in their community and church.  My daughter enjoys working at a local grocery store, and my son looks forward to the day when he can be employed (he is in his last year of school).

Someone with Down syndrome has the right to be thought of as a person with a disability, and not be defined by their disability. Please join me in celebrating the life of people with Down syndrome and the potential they have to live a fulfilling life in their communities.


March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

We at Arc West Central are proud to join advocates across the country to recognize March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This month commemorates the progress in improving the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and highlights the challenges that remain in achieving full inclusion.

The Arc’s advocacy efforts were crucial to President Ronald Reagan’s signing of a proclamation in 1987 affirming that “Americans are becoming increasingly aware that such disabilities need not keep individuals from realizing their full potential in school, at work or at home, as members of their families and of their communities.”

This month, we join more than 700 chapters of The Arc nationwide and advocate with and on behalf of individuals with I/DD. Their right to live, learn, and work as they choose must not be ignored. These individuals are our neighbors, colleagues, friends and family members and we must ensure that they have a fair opportunity to achieve their dreams. While there has been much progress over the years, there is still much to be done.  We hope the community will join our efforts and help us raise awareness.

Sixty  years ago when The Arc was founded, parents and other concerned individuals had to work to alter the perceptions of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to educate parents and others regarding the potential of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc also worked to procure services for children and adults who were denied an education, the right to attend day care and preschools, and the right to work.

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.  This is an ongoing effort that requires all of us to be vigilant and spread awareness of those rights.

Developmental Disabilities Month is our time to make a difference. Together lets change hearts and minds in March.

Spread the Word to End the Word

Today is Spread The Word to End the Word Day.  Take a stand and raise awareness of the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the R-word (retarded, or retard), and help encourage others to think before they speak.

People use slang words mindlessly on a daily basis, without considering that if you use a word to mean “stupid,” it is equating the medical
terminology with that interpretation as well.   The R-word is just as cruel and offensive as any other slur. Word are powerful, and  can  reflect a painful stereotype of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities

“Offense Taken” is a DVD produced by Self-Advocates of Minnesota (SAM), which brings attention to the hurtful use of the “R” word.  A link to a video clip can be found on our website

“Spread the Word to End the Word is Special Olympics’ awareness campaign.   Make your pledge to choose respectful people first language at go to to learn more.

Legislative Considerations for People With Intellectual Disabiities

The following statements encompass The Arc stands on considerations we feel are important for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to bring to our legislators.

Our state human services budget should empower people with disabilities and their families. 

  • Our disability services and funding should give people with disabilities more control over their services and more say in how those services are provided.
  • The Governor’s budget has some promising proposals that could give people with disabilities more control over their services and funding.
    • The Reform 2020 proposal, for example, would change the way that personal care assistance (PCA) services are provided.  Under the proposal the PCA program would be changed to a new program called Community First Services and Supports.  This new program could give people with disabilities more say in how their PCA dollars can be spent, in ways that better meet their needs and help them remain at home and in the community.

We need state human services budgets that meet the needs of all people with disabilities and their families. 

  • There are still 3,600 Minnesotans with disabilities who wait for services that will help them be more independent and be part of our communities.
  • There is a growing number of people being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  One in 88 children is now diagnosed with ASD.  The demand for services will increase.
  • The Governor’s budget provides $12 million in new funding to help children with ASD improve their communication and social skills and deal with challenging behaviors.  I support this proposal.
  • Our state should fund services so people with disabilities and their families get the right support at the right time in the right place.
  • Services for people with disabilities have been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade.

Legislators should raise revenues to help balance the state budget and protect services that help people with disabilities live in and contribute to their communities.

  • Community services for people with disabilities have already been cut by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade and should not be cut further.
  • Many families are already paying unaffordable fees for the services that help keep their children with disabilities at home or living in the community
  • The approaches of cutting state services, borrowing from schools, and shifting money from other sources of revenue has not balanced our budget.
  • I might not be an expert on tax policy and can’t comment on the specifics of the Governor’s tax proposal, but I support his efforts to raise revenue in a fair manner.

Legislators should support disability programs that create better lives at a better value for our tax dollars.

  • The Arc’s statewide Housing Access Services program has moved more than 650 people with disabilities who are ready for greater independence into homes of their own, often a lower cost than traditional housing for people with disabilities.
  • Families who have more control over their services and funding under programs like the Consumer Directed Community Supports program have shown that they can spend that funding more efficiently than traditional services.
  • While more revenues are needed to protect disability services, there will be a growing demand for all state services as our population ages.  We need to spend any state dollars as efficiently as possible.