Legislation & Public Policy
The Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities Arkansas advocates for policy and system changes that improve the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
We encourage the participation of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families in the design of community service systems that enable them to live their best lives.
The Council also works to keep policymakers informed about disability issues and the potential impact of proposed legislative and policy changes on the lives of Arkansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. If you need more information, please contact GCDD Arkansas Exective Director, Jonathan Taylor, at 501-682-2912 or email to email@example.com.
Arkansas Disability Policy Platform
People with disabilities have the right to live, learn, work, and play freely in Arkansas. For that to happen, our State must commit to providing quality, inclusive home and community-based services that address:
- The catastrophic workforce shortage.
- Individual’s right to make decisions about one’s own life.
- Safe, affordable, and accessible housing.
- Opportunities for real work for real pay.
- Safe, comprehensive, and inclusive education for every student.
Resolving these issues will empower Arkansans with disabilities to fully participate in life in the Natural State.
Public Policy Priorities
SUPPORT OUR DSP WORKORCE
Better wages for better support. #BetterWages4BetterSupport
There is currently a catastrophic workforce shortage of direct support professionals (DSP) in Arkansas. DSPs support individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD)* to have a better quality of life by promoting their independence, health, safety, and well-being and by facilitating the communication of their needs, goals, and desires.
The Medicaid Waiver offers services in communities throughout Arkansas to support people with IDD with all major life activities. The goal of the waiver is to help a person with IDD thrive in a community setting rather than in an institutional one. This is achieved thanks to the work of Direct Support Professionals.
Unfortunately, our state suffers from a shortage of DSPs, and needs far more to meet the needs of people who have disabilities. The reasons for the shortage aren’t a secret:
- their pay is too low,
- their benefits are too few, and
- their training and support resources are not sufficient for them to excel at their duties.
Like everyone else, people with disabilities want to be valued, contributing members of their communities. For that to happen, they must be empowered, included, and supported.
DSPs are the cornerstone of the home and community-based service system for Arkansans with disabilities. They are essential in ensuring that disabled Arkansans can live meaningful lives in the homes and communities of their choice.
Having a well-trained and well-paid DSP workforce is an investment, not an expense. DSPs are more than home-health aides. They help their clients be successful in their chosen workplaces as well. DSPs allow the families of people with disabilities to continue their own work lives, contributing to the state’s economy. Their work is intimately tied to the long-term financial health of Arkansas.
Direct Support Professionals who support people with IDD through the Medicaid Waiver are vital to our community and should be paid fairly. The Council is concerned about the current DSP workforce shortage. Please help strengthen our community by ensuring that DSPs can make livable wages for the work they do.
What can Arkansas do?
- Mandatory regularly scheduled rate reviews to ensure that the (DSP) rates being paid meet the actual needs of clients and providers
- Renegotiating PASSE agreements with providers
- Using state surplus and returned PASSE risk corridor monies to shore up the DSP workforce
- A percentage of the PASSE Community Reinvestment Funds be devoted to DSP Career Training and Certification
- DSPs must be paid a competitive wage and benefits package that attracts and retains them in the profession.
SUPPORT OUR RIGHT TO SELF DETERMINATION
At home, at work, and within the community.
People with IDD have the same right to self-determination as all people and are entitled to the freedom, authority, and supports to exercise control over their lives. People with IDD must understand that they can direct and influence circumstances that are important to them. This right to self-determination exists regardless of guardianship status.
Family members, friends, and other allies play a critical role in promoting self-determination by providing supports and working collaboratively to achieve the individual’s goals. Families, friends, and other allies should understand, recognize, and promote the rights and responsibilities of self-determination and respect the limitations on their own authority. Service providers, educators, and substitute decision-makers must recognize and respect the individual’s right to self-determination and the limitations on their authority.
Supported Decision-Making allows individuals with disabilities to make choices about their own lives with support from a team of people they choose. Individuals with disabilities select people they know and trust to be part of a support network to help them make important decisions about their own life. Supported decision-making promotes self-determination, control, and autonomy. It fosters independence and productivity.
We ALL engage in self-determination through supported decision-making in our daily life. We consult with family or friends, colleagues or classmates, and other experts like mechanics or mentors before we make decisions. We may seek support to decide whether to go on a blind date, buy a used car, change jobs, renew a lease, or undergo cataract surgery. We confer and consult with others, and then we decide on our own. All Arkansans should have the right to self-determination, whether they have disabilities or not.
What can Arkansas do?
- Promote alternatives to guardianship including supported decision making
- Ensure timely access to Home and Community Based Waiver Services
- Support individual's ability to choose where and with whom they wish to live in the community
- Broaden access to enabling technology, including broadband, to provide greater independence while also putting safeguards in place to prevent possible abuses and negligence
- Ensure accessible and equitable access to the democratic process, including voter registration, poll access, and absentee ballots
- Educate Arkansas attorneys and judges on the full range of guardianship options
SUPPORT SAFE, AFFORDABLE, ACCESSIBLE HOUSING
Arkansans with disabilities need more options to live as independently as possible.
People with IDD, like all Arkansans, have a right to live in their own homes, in the community. Children and youth belong with families. Adults should control where and with whom they live, including having opportunities to rent or buy their own homes, and must have the freedom to choose their daily routines and activities. The recognition that people with IDD belong in the community has led to a growing demand for community-based housing.
People with IDD face a housing crisis – there is a serious lack of safe, affordable, accessible, and integrated housing in our communities. Forty-six percent of extremely low-income renter households are seniors and/or householders with disabilities. This severe shortage of appropriate, available housing for renters with IDD is a serious barrier to independence and productivity.
What can Arkansas do?
- Permanently fund the Arkansas Housing Trust Fund to provide safe, stable homes for the people who need them
- Expand renter’s rights and establishing a warranty of habitability for rental properties
- Require more robust state monitoring of (service) providers, to ensure that they are providing an accessible, safe, and clean environment for their clients
SUPPORT REAL WORK FOR REAL PAY
Competitive, integrated employment is not charity, its good business.
Arkansans with disabilities deserve meaningful employment, fair wages, and career advancement opportunities. Employers need capable, dedicated employees. Competitive, integrated employment is a win for everyone.
Only by earning a real wage can a person truly become self-sufficient and independent. People with disabilities have the same right to work at a job that pays them minimum wage or more. They should be working alongside of co-workers with and without disabilities. And they should have the same opportunities for raises and career advancement as their non-disabled peers. This is called Competitive Integrated Employment, or CIE. The right to CIE is especially important for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, who are often given jobs earning far below minimum wage. It is very difficult to support yourself on minimum wage - and on subminimum wage, it’s impossible. This is a significant barrier to independence and productivity for Arkansans with IDD.
In 2023, people with disabilities across Arkansas can be, and are, part of the general workforce. In today’s economy, people with disabilities have access to resources like job training, job coaches (in-person and virtual), and adaptive technologies that enable people to work in integrated and inclusive settings.
A workplace that includes people with disabilities will generate results that are good for any business: improved retention, superior customer engagement, and tax benefits are just a few.
What can Arkansas do?
- Commit to a transition plan to move sheltered workers to competitive, integrated employment
- Implement an employment first approach, asking individuals what kind of work they want rather than if they want to work
- Increase funding for job coach programs
- Educate employers about existing financial incentives such as WIOA and WOTC
- Increase the state’s WIOA allocation
- Expand comprehensive benefit planning for providers, including ABLE accounts
- Understand how much you can work without jeopardizing benefits
- Adequately fund pre-vocational services throughout the state
SUPPORT INCLUSIVE EDUCATON
Safe, comprehensive, and inclusive education for every Arkansas student.
All students have the right to a quality, equitable education in a safe, supportive and inclusive school. We know that every student, regardless of their race, religion, disability or socioeconomic status, can reach their full potential when the school environment is one in which they feel truly valued. The Council advocates for policies and legislation that ensure equity for every disabled student, are grounded in social justice, and support the whole child and family.
Arkansas can do more than offer the bare minimum requirements of Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Those regulations require a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified person with a disability. Education has a transformative role in not only children’s lives, but in society in general. And our society includes students with disabilities.
A child’s learning experience should always be positive, and never traumatic. When children cannot learn in a safe, supportive environment, they are unable to reach their full potential. They are less likely to thrive and develop the essential life skills needed to gain social and economic later in life. Learning and safety can no longer be thought of as separate entities. When people think about special education, they often think about separate classes or schools. Public schools are supposed to serve students who get special education services in the same classrooms as other students as much as possible.
Students who qualify for special education get an Individualized Education Program (IEP) with services tailored to meet their unique needs. Other students may get a 504 plan that gives equal access to learning. According to our Governor, "...every child growing up in Arkansas should have access to a quality education, a good-paying job, and a better life right here in our state..." We need decision makers across Arkansas to prioritize safe, comprehensive, and inclusive education for ALL our students.
What can Arkansas do?
- Enforce the legislative ban on restraint in schools by the Department of Education
- Expand inclusive education opportunities for students with disabilities
- Fund an increase in paraprofessional training in the classroom to accommodate greater integration
- Increase of teacher pay, statewide, to retain and attract the best educators
- Add curriculum on educating and engaging students with disabilities to teacher PD (Professional Development) and Arkansas collegiate degree programs
Potential Legislation (New Bills In The Legislature)
When your state legislature is in session, they may be drafting and introducing bills that have the potential to have direct impact in your daily lives. ALL Policy is Disability Policy - that is why Arkansans with disabilities, their families, and communities should be engaged and informed in this process.
You can search for bills directly on the Arkansas State Legislature website here.
Our DD Network partner, Disability Rights Arkansas, has a listing of current bills of interest to the disability community here.
State Council Governing Legislation
The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000
Public Law 106–402, 106th Congress, Oct. 30, 2000 [S. 1809]
State of Arkansas, Executive Department Proclamation, Executive Order 15-19
July 30, 2015
Advocacy is Action
Contact Your Elected Officials
Your input does matter. Be polite and to the point. Some lawmakers prefer certain methods of communication, so ask yours which they prefer. Find out more by visiting our Civic Engagement resource page.
Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Visit the Governor’s Website
In session: (501) 682-2902
Out of session: (501) 682-6107
Find your senator
In session: (501) 682-6211
Out of session: (501) 682-7771
Find your representative
Intellectual Disability (ID) is a lifelong condition where significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior emerge during the developmental period (birth to 22 years of age).
Developmental Disabilities (DD), first defined in 1975 federal legislation now known as “The DD Act,”, are a group of lifelong conditions that emerge during the developmental period (birth to 22 years of age) and result in some level of functional limitation in learning, language, communication, cognition, behavior, socialization, or mobility. The most common DD conditions are intellectual disability, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, fetal alcohol syndrome, and fragile X syndrome.
The acronym “IDD” is used to describe a group that includes either people with both ID and another DD or a group that includes people with ID or another DD. The supports that people with IDD need to meet their goals vary in intensity from intermittent to pervasive.
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