Thursday, December 13, 2012

Senate Rejects UN Disability Treaty

Senate Rejects UN Disability Treaty

Despite strong support from disability advocacy groups, Republican opposition led the U.S. Senate to reject an international disability rights treaty on Tuesday.
In a vote that fell almost entirely along party lines, supporters were unable to secure the two-thirds majority of senators needed to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The treaty calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities worldwide. The measure’s chief supporter, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said that ratifying the treaty would not require any change to U.S. law, but would afford the nation a leadership role in the international community on disability rights issues. What’s more, Kerry said participation would help ensure that Americans with disabilities would have the same protections abroad as they do domestically.
“This treaty is not about changing America, but about America changing the world,” Kerry said just before the vote, adding that the issue had become unnecessarily controversial in the deeply-partisan body. “This treaty is a test of the Senate. It’s a test of whether this body is still capable of voting for change.”

To read more, please visit:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Actors with Down Syndrome in More Films, TV

Actors with Down syndrome in more films, TV; 'Glee' star Lauren Potter says 'we're just like anybody else'

By Hollie McKay

LOS ANGELES – Hollywood is looking for more actors with Down syndrome to play pivotal roles featuring characters with the developmental disability, and actors and industry experts alike say the increase in their visibility is making a big difference both on screen and off.

At least two films being released over the next few weeks feature characters with Down syndrome in pivotal roles. Vanessa Paradis’ “Café de Flore” explores the unrequited love between a mother and her young son with Down Syndrome in the socially stigmatized 1960’s Paris, while Alan Cummings’s “Any Day Now” is inspired by the true story of a gay couple who took in a teenage boy with Down Syndrome abandoned by his drug-addicted mother.

On the small screen there’s “Glee,” which features Lauren Potter, an actress with Down syndrome; Luke Zimmerman, who stars in “The Secret Life of an American Teenager”; and Jamie Brewer who plays a key role in “American Horror Story.” Hit shows “Saving Grace,” “CSI,” “Life Goes On” and “Nip/Tuck” have also recently featured characters with the disability. “We love to see all the actors with Down syndrome in the spotlight, so everyone can witness how people with Down syndrome succeed with support and are able to pursue their dream,” Julie Cevallos, rep for the National Down Syndrome Society, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “We haven’t seen this since the break out of Chris Burke, our NDSS Goodwill Ambassador, who was the star of ‘Life Goes On’ in 1989. It helps reduce the outdated stereotypes by showing beautiful, talented, communicative actors.”

Therapist Dr. Nancy Irwin concurs that the recent boom in roles for those with Down syndrome help audiences understand the disability, and shows Hollywood is trying to more accurately reflect “real” society.

“Entertainment should reflect all of us,” Irwin said. “Not just the ‘perfect’ people.”

For Lauren Potter, who has been on the FOX hit “Glee” for four seasons, her role represents more than just an acting job.

“It feels amazing to be a role model for people with and without disabilities. I get mail from people all over the world now from people who tell me that they didn’t really understand Down syndrome, but because of me they have read about it and studied it and now they know a lot more about it,” she said. “Lots of people with little kids or babies with Down syndrome tell me they aren’t afraid of the future for their child because of what I am doing to help people understand it better.”

Potter acknowledges that opportunities for actors with the disability have grown, but says Hollywood still has a long way to go.

“(It has shifted) but not enough! I love working on ‘Glee,’ and I hope that there are more and more parts for me and other actors with Down syndrome in television and in movies so I can keep working for a long, long time,” she said. “Actors with Down syndrome are just like any other actor, they want to follow their dream to act and have great roles; not just roles that are written for people with Down syndrome, but parts that are written for any man or woman. Parts that can be played by a good actor that just happens to also have Down syndrome.”

That’s where Gail Williamson comes in. For the past two decades as the founder of the non-profit Down syndrome in Arts & Media organization, she has been actively working with studios and agencies to cast actors with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. Some of the shows she has assisted with include “Glee,” “American Horror Story,” “CSI,” “ER, and “Scrubs.”

Williamson says babies born with Down syndrome are perhaps some of the youngest humans ever taught acting. “These children suddenly find themselves meeting a host of new adults (therapists) who will ‘direct’ them in reaching the milestones of babyhood,” she explained. “It’s happening, and there are more people with disabilities like Down syndrome in television and in films today.”

The increased presence of actors with Down syndrome also has a powerful impact on those who work with them. French actress Vanessa Paradis told us that her “Café de Flore” role gave her a deeper appreciation and understanding of those with developmental disabilities.

“He was so smart and charismatic, we had such a strong connection and there was so much intensity, generosity and grace,” she said of Marin Gerrier, the young actor with Down syndrome who played her son. “There is something so pure in the way he interacted with others. He is such a beautiful little boy, really quick and sharp.”

Adam Moore, SAG-AFTRA National Director of Equal Employment Opportunities & Diversity, also praised the recent changes in the industry.

"Seeing someone with a disability onscreen has an unparalleled impact on the way in which audiences engage with issues of disability in every part of their off-screen lives," he said. "For so long now, the lives and experiences depicted in entertainment have been a poor reflection of the actual world in which we live, but I believe that producers and audiences alike are now demanding more truthful representations that include people with disabilities."

Potter agrees.

“People see that even though I have Down syndrome, I am just like anybody else,” she said. “People used to look away because they thought I was different than they; but now people come right up to me and talk to me, they aren’t afraid of the differences. People can watch me and say, ‘wow, she is just like any typical girl.’”

Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report.

Read more:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Students with disabilities benefit from self-advocacy

Self-Advocacy, Mentors Key For College Students With Disabilities

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College remains a hurdle for many with disabilities. Now a new study offers insight on what separates individuals with special needs who are ultimately successful in higher education from those who are not.
In interviews with recent graduates with disabilities, researchers found that students who earned degrees shared the ability to self-advocate and persevere. They also had good insight into their abilities and limitations and often cited a strong relationship with at least one faculty or staff member on campus.

Many overcame significant challenges to succeed in college, with some saying that they earned degrees even after being told by high school teachers that they were not “college material.”

The study included interviews with 20 students with a wide range of physical, emotional and cognitive disabilities who graduated from New Jersey colleges between May 2008 and May 2012.

“The challenges students with disabilities face on college campuses are well documented but little is known about the experience of those students who successfully completed college,” said Paula Barber of Rutgers University who led the study which was published in the Disability and Work research report, a joint publication of Rutgers and the Kessler Foundation.

“To level the playing field for people with disabilities by encouraging college education and completion, it is essential to learn the factors supporting degree completion,” Barber said.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

17th Annual Awards and Benefit Gala - Silent Auction preview

Our 17th Annual Awards and Benefit Gala will feature both a Silent and Live Auction.  Featured items include:  a 55’ LED LCD HDTV with Wi-fi, roundtrip airline tickets to your destination of choice, season tickets to University of Memphis football games, overnight staycations at the Marriott Downtown, The Peabody Memphis, and the Hilton Memphis, tickets to Memphis attractions including the Pink Palace Museum, the Orpheum, the Memphis Zoo, and more!  Contact us at (901) 327-2473 to purchase your tickets.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2012 National Forum on Disability Issues

2012 National Forum on Disability Issues

Tomorrow, September 28, 2012, the 2012 National Forum on Disability Issues will take place in Columbus, Ohio from 12:30 – 3:30 p.m. This event will focus on the disability positions of the presidential candidates for the upcoming November election. Topics to be addressed include issues that directly impact many people with disabilities, such as employment, health care, education, and transportation.

As there are only 500 available seats for this event, this forum will be streamed online for free. Register here to view the forum online.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My thoughts on doing "nothing"...

Liesl K. Becker

A study I read on Wednesday claims that adults with disabilities “do nothing all day” (see reference at bottom of post to read article). I can attest to this. When I came home from the rehabilitation center in Dallas as a then 23 year-old, I really did do nothing. I was not involved any activity. I could very easily have become more involved in functions at my church, I could have actively pursued becoming a member of the alumna association in my sorority, I could have joined a disability support group. But nope: I did nothing of the sort. My lack of activity was a detriment to me in forming relationships with the people in my community, especially with those whom I already had a natural connection with: people of my same faith, people in my same social circle, people who already possessed a disability like I did.

Now, this article indeed discusses how people who lack any activity tend to be more emotional, have increased behavioral and health issues, and possess lower functioning abilities. However, it also mentions that it does not include everyone. Instead, it clearly states that in a survey of nine-hundred, it was just thirteen percent of cases reporting not being routinely involved in vocational or educational activities. Thirteen!

So, this is good news: this particular article does not place everyone with a disability into the same ‘box’! Just because I happened to go through a temporary ‘recluse’ phase, and despite thirteen percent of others having the same lack of motivation that I once had, this clearly does not warrant a generalization of all (or as this article title states: most) people with disabilities doing “nothing”.

Of course, the article clearly states that more work needs to be done to understand the effects of people with disabilities who do ‘nothing’. But perhaps a parent, caregiver, mentor, or even friend can combat this “doing nothing” problem by providing good opportunities that will prevent an individual with a disability from doing just that: nothing. What activities, programs or services can you think of that one might find enjoyable?

(Article referenced: Diament, Michelle (February 15, 2012). “Study: Many Adults With Disabilities Do Nothing All Day”.

New information about developmental delay in the Hispanic community

Developmental Delay Often Overlooked In Hispanic Kids

Hispanic children may be more than twice as likely as other kids to have developmental delay, new research suggests, but in many cases the condition is going unnoticed.
In what’s believed to be the largest study yet to compare the development of Hispanic and non-Hispanic children, researchers found that more than 6 percent of Latino kids had developmental delay. That compares to a rate of just 2.4 percent among other children in the study of over 1,000 California kids ages 2 to 5.
The high rate of developmental issues among Hispanic kids suggests that many children may not be receiving needed services, researchers said of the findings reported in the journal Autism.
“Our study raises concerns about access to accurate, culturally relevant information regarding developmental milestones and the importance of early detection and treatment,” said Virginia Chaidez who led the study at the University of California, Davis. “Autism and developmental delay tend to go undiagnosed when parents are not aware of the signs to look for, and the conditions are often misdiagnosed when parents don’t have access to adequate developmental surveillance and screening.”
In addition to the high rate of developmental delay identified among Hispanic children, researchers also found that about 1 in 5 kids of all ethnic backgrounds diagnosed with developmental delay before participating in the study actually qualified for an autism diagnosis. The finding raises concerns about access to reliable assessments, researchers said.
“That so many children are slipping through the cracks is disheartening,” said Robin Hansen of the UC Davis MIND Institute who co-authored the study. “We need to make sure that all children are getting routine developmental screening, early diagnosis and intervention so they can achieve their fullest potential.”


Monday, September 10, 2012

Autism Thought from This Weekend

by Liesl K. Becker

What can I say: I classify myself as a "boring" 26 year-old who derives her excitement from engaging in somewhat boring activities… such as watching the Fox News Channel (However, as this is what my father enjoys in the evenings, then perhaps I still am a “daddy’s little girl”). Anyway, this is typically how I unwind in the evenings; unfortunately, this may seem peculiar to some because who uses news as a method to ‘unwind’?

Despite this, as I was re-watching an earlier broadcast of “Fox News Sunday” last night, a commercial came on television. Typically, I tend to tune commercials out, but then I heard the words, “1 in 88 children are born with Autism”. Gosh, that sure brought me back down from the clouds! I immediately grabbed a pen and a pad of paper from the other room and wrote down those words.

Now, what commercial was this? I honestly cannot recall, since as I previously stated, I tend to tune commercials out. However, this number really grabbed my attention. But why? Curiosity… perhaps. Astonishment… maybe. Or is it because being completely altruistic is becoming a way of life for me? I cannot be positive of my intentions. I just know that this small fact impacted me in some way.

While I know that ‘1 in 88” may seem like a small number to some, I am sure it matters to that person who just had a child born with Autism.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Upcoming Arc Events

Please consider attending one of these meetings to learn more about DIDD and the waiting list.   Memphis meetings have been scheduled for November 5 at Hollywood Community Center, November 13 at Bert Ferguson Community Center and November 14 at Whitehaven Community Center.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fair Labor Standards Act

Feds Recommend Phasing Out Subminimum Wage

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A key federal agency is calling for an end to a controversial government policy allowing some employers to pay workers with disabilities less than minimum wage.
In a report that’s expected to be sent to President Barack Obama on Thursday, the National Council on Disability is recommending that a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act — section 14(c) — which allows companies to obtain government permission to pay so-called subminimum wage be eliminated over the course of six years.
“The 14(c) program should be phased-out gradually as part of a systems change effort that enhances existing resources and creates new mechanisms for supporting individuals in obtaining integrated employment and other non-work services,” writes Jonathan Young, chairman of the National Council on Disability, in a letter to the president that accompanies the report, a copy of which was provided to Disability Scoop in advance. “NCD recommends a phase-out of the 14(c) program rather than immediate repeal because those who have been in the program for many years need time to transition to a supported employment environment.”
Since the 1930s, employers have been able to request special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay those with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour. About 420,000 Americans with disabilities are now employed under the arrangement, according to the Government Accountability Office.
For the report, members of the council — an independent federal agency tasked with advising Congress and the president on disability issues — conducted site visits in seven states to assess how current employment policy is impacting people with disabilities. They also analyzed research on employment practices.
Under the council’s recommendations, subminimum wage would be phased out over a six-year period. The federal government would immediately stop allowing new employers to obtain permission to pay low wages and schools would no longer be allowed to specify any programs paying subminimum wage as a goal for students in their individualized education programs, or IEPs. Meanwhile, individuals already working for less than the minimum would be transitioned into other employment programs within two to six years depending upon how long they had been in their current program.
At the same time, the panel is recommending that lawmakers institute mandatory information sharing to ensure smooth transitions for those currently employed at submimimum wage. The report also urges incentives to encourage states and providers to increase supported employment services, among other changes.
The National Council on Disability’s recommendation to bring an end to subminimum wage is likely to be contentious even among disability advocates. While an increasing number of people with disabilities are obtaining competitive employment, many advocates and families still argue that there’s a place for jobs that pay less than minimum wage, especially for those with the most severe disabilities.
In its report, the council acknowledges these divisions, likening the debate to that in the 1970s and 1980s over deinstitutionalization and noting that “historically, consensus is hard to come by whenever the disability service provision system has needed change.”
A U.S. Senate proposal last year to restrict — but not abolish — subminimum wage died after significant opposition from some disability advocacy groups who thought the bill didn’t go far enough. Meanwhile, another 2011 proposal in Congress to phase out the program never gained much traction.
Just this week, the National Federation of the Blind said it would spearhead protests outside more than 80 Goodwill thrift stores across the country this weekend to oppose the organization’s practice of paying subminimum wage to thousands of workers with disabilities. Goodwill and other employers who utilize the wage allowance defend the practice arguing that they employ thousands who otherwise might be without work.
In addition to its report, members of the National Council on Disability say that as a next step they plan to draft a legislative proposal this fall.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Purchase an ad in our Gala program booklet!

Looking to support The Arc Mid-South and promote your business at the same time?  Consider purchasing an ad in the Gala Program booklet for our upcoming 17th Annual Awards and Benefit Gala.  Approximately 300 people attend the gala each year and this would be a perfect way to promote your business or organization. 

Cost of Advertisements:
  • §  Full page ad                          $200
  • §  ½ page ad                            $150
  • §  ¼ page ad                            $100
  • §  Business card ad                  $50

Let everyone know that you support the work of The Arc Mid-South and increase business in the process!  To purchase an ad or to receive more information, please contact Liesl Becker at (901) 327-2473.   

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

College for "Glee" character with Down Syndrome

College Urged For ‘Glee’ Character With Down Syndrome
By Michelle Diament

July 24, 2012

When students on Fox’s “Glee” graduated this season, many considered college. Now a Twitter campaign is calling on the show’s writers to make the same plan for a character with Down syndrome.

Using the hashtag #College4Becky, a social media push launching this week is encouraging the “Glee” writers to send Becky Jackson to college at the end of the show’s next season. Though the character is believed to be a rising high school senior, little has been said about her future.

“All of Becky’s friends on the show are heading off to college next year. That’s something she can do too — but we haven’t yet heard what her plans are after graduation,” reads an open letter to the writers of “Glee” from the campaign’s organizers at Think College, a national clearinghouse on college options for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities that’s housed at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“If you make college plans for Becky, you’ll be raising the expectations of all your viewers with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities,” the letter reads.

Currently, Think College’s database lists 199 postsecondary programs at colleges and universities across the country specifically for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nonetheless, awareness of college options for this population often remains limited.

“We want to plant a seed,” said Meg Grigal, the co-director of the group behind the campaign. “College is a real option for people with intellectual disabilities.”

Lauren Potter, 22, the actress with Down syndrome who plays Becky Jackson on “Glee,” attends Irvine Valley College in Irvine, Calif. in real life.

“I know she will love the idea (of Becky going to college) because she loves the idea that she is in college,” Potter’s mother, Robin Sinkhorn, told Disability Scoop, adding that she had not yet had an opportunity to discuss the campaign with her daughter who was traveling Monday. “It would be a great storyline.”

Potter’s character has long been a fan favorite in the disability community and the actress has not shied away from taking a stand. She’s used her platform as a “Glee” cast member to raise awareness about bullying of people with disabilities among other issues and currently serves as a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

Officials at Fox did not respond to a request for comment about the Twitter campaign.

“Glee” returns Sept. 13 on Fox.

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that not all characters on “Glee” indicated plans to attend college.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

National Federation of the Blind Urges Boycott of Goodwill Industries

National Federation of the Blind Urges Boycott of Goodwill Industries

Condemns Practice of Paying Subminimum Wages to Workers with Disabilities

Baltimore, Maryland (June 7, 2012): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), one of the oldest and largest organizations of Americans with disabilities, today called for a boycott of Goodwill Industries International, Inc., the nonprofit manufacturer and retailer, for its payment of subminimum wages to many of its workers with disabilities. Freedom of information requests filed by the NFB confirmed that Goodwill Industries employees have been paid as low as $1.44 an hour. The NFB and over forty-five other organizations support legislation, the Fair Wages for Workers with Disabilities Act (H.R. 3086), which would phase out and then repeal the nearly seventy-five-year-old provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that permits special certificate holders to pay subminimum wages to workers with disabilities.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Goodwill Industries is one of the most well-known and lucrative charitable organizations in the United States, yet it chooses to pay its workers with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage. While this practice is currently legal and many entities engage in it, many other nonprofit organizations have successfully transitioned to paying their employees the minimum wage or higher. That Goodwill Industries exploits many of its workers in this way is ironic, because its president and chief executive officer is blind. Goodwill cannot credibly argue that workers with disabilities are incapable of doing productive work while paying its blind CEO over half a million dollars a year. Goodwill should be ashamed of such blatant hypocrisy. We are calling upon all Americans to refuse to do business with Goodwill Industries, to refuse to make donations to the subminimum-wage exploiter, and to refuse to shop in its retail stores until it exercises true leadership and sound moral judgment by fairly compensating its workers with disabilities.”

For more information on this critically important issue, please visit



Thursday, July 5, 2012

More discussion on restraint and seclusion in schools

Senate To Revisit School Restraint, Seclusion


June 25, 2012
(Updated: June 26, 2012 at 10:46 AM CT)

Lawmakers are set to consider the use of restraint and seclusion in the nation’s classrooms in the coming weeks, rekindling efforts to establish first-ever federal rules governing the practices.

The topic is expected to be front and center at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee originally scheduled for Thursday that is now planned for July 12. A much anticipated ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on the legality of health care reform is expected Thursday morning when the hearing was initially scheduled and is believed to be the reason for the postponement.

The use of restraint and seclusion in schools has been a hotbed for disability advocates since 2009 when an advocacy group report uncovered widespread abuse and even deadly instances, problems which were later confirmed in a government report as well.

Students with disabilities were most often subject to the questionable practices, the reports found.

In response, legislation sharply restricting restraint and seclusion was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, but when Senate talks fell apart later that year, action on the issue largely fizzled.

Currently, a patchwork of state and local rules exist. Disability advocates say that federal requirements are needed to ensure student safety.

However, at least one group representing educators — the American Association of School Administrators — opposes such regulation arguing that it is unnecessary and would put school staff at risk.

The hearing planned for July marks the first time this year that Congress will consider the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Currently bills are on the table in both houses of Congress that call for the practices to be restricted, though support for the legislation is scant.

On the Senate side, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is the lone sponsor of a bill he introduced last December. The measure would bar any type of restraint from being used outside of an emergency situation and prohibit the tactics from being included in a student’s individualized education program, or IEP, among other limitations. (Read all of Disability Scoop’s coverage of restraint and seclusion »)

Meanwhile, there are 44 backers of a House version of the bill and the top Democrat on the body’s education committee is urging leaders to take up the issue. However, the committee’s Republican chair, Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., remains reluctant.

“State and local leaders are taking steps to ensure school practices are safe for students, and have made great progress in achieving this shared goal,” said Kline spokeswoman Alexandra Haynes Sollberger. “Chairman Kline remains concerned that federal intervention could obstruct these efforts, ultimately doing more harm than good to students and educators. For this reason, the committee has not scheduled any action on restraint and seclusion legislation at this time.”


For more information on the bills mentioned in this article, please refer to Senate Bill 2020 and H.R. 1381.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Save the Date!

Please join The Arc Mid-South for an evening of food, fun, and entertainment as we celebrate our 17th Annual Award and Benefit Gala. This year’s theme will be “Imagine, Believe, Expect, and Achieve…Greatness!” Joe Birch from WMC-TV 5 will moderate the event. Please join us as we honor individuals who have helped people with disabilities achieve greatness in their own lives.

The event will take place at the Hilton Hotel on October 27, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. VIP tickets are $100, General Admission tickets are $75, Arc members are $65, and Self-advocates are $35. For more information, please contact us at The Arc Mid-South at (901) 327-2473.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Millions Headed To States For Disability Assistance

Millions Headed To States For Disability Assistance

By Michelle Diament

June 5, 2012
Nearly every state will soon get more federal funding to help people with disabilities obtain services in the community.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week that some $25 million will begin flowing to states to help support local Aging and Disability Resource Centers. The agencies are designed to help people with disabilities learn about and access community-based services.

“We want these programs to serve as high-performing ‘one-stop shop’ models across the country,” said Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Initially eight states will be selected to receive funding in order to establish a national model for administering assistance, officials said.

Up to 40 states are expected to participate within the next three years.