Greetings from the Arkansas Council. We have had a busy few months. Thanks for visiting our Blog!
On July 26th we celebrated the 33rd anniversary of the ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law in 1990. The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. The ADA is divided into five titles (or sections) that relate to different areas of public life.
The week of July 26th, some Council and designated state agency (Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration) staff attended the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) annual conference in Orlando, Florida. We learned a lot and made some important connections. GCDD Arkansas is a member of NACDD, an outcomes-oriented, mission-driven organization.
NACDD leads the way in advancing issues that improve the lives of people with DD and their families by actively listening to all stakeholders, identifying and exploring emerging trends, and proactively reaching out to collaborate with a variety of leaders and organizations to develop effective solutions. NACDD’s values include: Self-Determination, Inclusion, Diversity, Learning, Innovation, Collaboration, Communication, and Accountability. NACDD is the national association for the 56 Councils on Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils) across the United States and its territories.
In August, we celebrated ABLE to Save Month, spreading awareness about AR ABLE, or Arkansas ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience), a program by the Arkansas Treasurer’s office. ABLE Accounts are tax-advantaged investment accounts that help qualified individuals with disabilities and their families save for disability-related expenses. Learn more here.
The week of August 16th, some Council staff and members attended the Arkansas Waiver Association conference in Hot Springs, Arkansas. We came together to build better opportunities for Arkansans with disabilities and their families. There were sessions on advocacy, disability justice, direct service professional wages and the direct care workforce shortage, quality of life, and use of new technology in disability services and supports, among many other great topics.
The Arkansas Waiver Association (AWA) is one of Arkansas’ disability service provider associations. It is a not-for-profit corporation guided by a Board of Directors who serve without compensation of any kind. The AWA Board is comprised of individuals who receive Waiver services, families of individuals who receive Waiver services, and professionals who work for developmental disability community providers. You can learn more about the AWA here.
During September we shared information about Disability Voting Rights Week, National Preparedness Month and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Month.
National Preparedness Month is an observance each September to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time. The Ready Campaign’s 2023 National Preparedness Month theme is “Take Control in 1, 2, 3”. The campaign will focus on preparing older adults for disasters, specifically older adults from communities that are disproportionally impacted by the all-hazard events, which continue to threaten the nation. You can learn more here.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Month is a meaningful time to raise awareness of FASDs and to celebrate the strengths, talents, and victories of the estimated one in twenty Americans who have an FASD. This year is the 50th anniversary of FASD in the United States (first diagnosed in 1973), and there are important activities on the horizon. Keep up with the action here.
Disability Voting Rights Week (DVRW) was September 11-15, 2023. There are over 38 million people with disabilities who are eligible to vote, but access barriers keep many disabled voters from accessing their right to vote. Disability Voting Rights Week is all about protecting the rights of people with disabilities to participate fully in our democracy. Each day of the week had a theme and call to action. From sharing on social media, attending workshops to panels to voter registration events, there’s lots of ways to get involved! Learn more here. DVRW is a campaign supported by The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) works to increase the political and economic power of people with disabilities. As a national disability-led and cross-disability rights organization, AAPD advocates for full civil rights for over 60 million Americans with disabilities by promoting equal opportunity, economic power, independent living, and political participation.
GCDD Annual Retreat 2023
On September 17th-18th, the Council held its annual member retreat on Petit Jean Mountain at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. It’s a time when we reconnect, train and plan for the work ahead. Thanks to all who attended. We welcomed speakers Haley Moss and Larry Stang.
Haley Moss, our keynote speaker, shared her presentation about neurodiversity and encouraging authenticity. Moss is an attorney, speaker, author, advocate, and consultant with lived experience of an Autism diagnosis in early childhood. She is the author of several books and numerous articles about neurodiversity in the workplace and as a whole. You can learn more about Haley by visiting her website.
Larry Stang is the executive director of the DDPA (Developmental Disabilities Provider Association). He spoke to attendees about the the primary public health issue facing the IDD community at this time – the public health workforce shortage. The workforce shortage has reached a critical point both for individuals with IDD who are currently supported in the community and even more for those still waiting for community-based supports. Many people with disabilities do not have access to the direct care support professionals (DSPs) they need to live healthy lives because provider organizations are unable to fully staff; this is leading to some people with disabilities not being served and increasing poor health outcomes. Provider organizations and DSPs need more support to address this systemic failure of the service system. Stang provided details on a rate study the DDPA commissioned on the rates paid for those receiving support services, which included rate of pay for DSPs (to ascertain the value of an hour of service in relationship to the expenditures for DSP wages).
DDPA represents sixty-eight non-profit community programs that provide medical care and related services and supports to children and adults with developmental disabilities across the state. Many of DDPA’s provider members were founded by family members of children and adults with significant disabilities and include family members and individuals with developmental disabilities on their boards of directors.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is an annual, month-long event which celebrates the important role people with disabilities play in a diverse and inclusive American workforce and recognizes the contributions of workers with disabilities. NDEAM also provides a time to showcase employers with supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices. We kicked off our celebrations with an event at the Arkansas State Capitol on October 5th with other events planned throughout the month. You can learn more here.