Survey findings from human rights organization, The Arc, reveal nation's efforts fail to provide fundamentals for individuals and families.
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy called on the nation to bring people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) "out of the shadows," to give them opportunities to lead productive, quality lives. Sadly, new data released today from The Arc's Families and Individual Needs for Disability Support (FINDS) survey shows efforts have plateaued and not nearly enough progress has been made to create these opportunities. While budget cuts and economic strain have hurt all Americans, the 7 million living with I/DD and their families are among the hardest hit, with access to needed services drastically reduced. In fact, 62 percent of caregivers reported a decrease in services for their family member with a disability. Meanwhile, budget proposals in Congress threaten to dismantle Medicaid, making it even harder for people with I/DD and their families to achieve.
The Arc, the nation's largest and oldest human rights organization for the I/DD community serving more than a million individuals and their families, conducted a national survey of nearly 5,000 respondents on educational, housing, employment and support needs. The results of this landmark survey are being released in a report today, "Still in the Shadows with Their Future Uncertain."
According to the FINDS survey, one-third of parents and caregivers (potentially 1 million families) reported that they are on waiting lists for government funded services, with the average wait more than five years. The survey also found that the promise of integrated, community-based employment is not being met. In fact, 85 percent of families reported that their adult family members with I/DD are not employed at all. Opportunities for inclusive education, a pre-requisite for employment, are also not being met. Too few students are completing high school - in fact, 52 percent of families reported that their family member with I/DD left school without receiving a high school diploma.
"People with I/DD have a fundamental moral and civil right to be fully included in all aspects of society. Every day, The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetime," says Peter V. Berns, chief executive officer of The Arc and newly appointed member of President Barack Obama's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (May 2011). "Although we have made some progress as a nation over the last 50 years, our nation has an obligation to do much more.
"Yet we are on the brink of taking giant steps backward, and the future is uncertain for these individuals and their families. The vast majority of individuals with I/DD live with their parents. So, when their parents can no longer emotionally or financially support them, who will? Without any concrete measures to protect these individuals, and proposals to end Medicaid as we know it on the table in Washington, we have a train wreck waiting to happen."
FINDS found more than 75 percent of families report problems accessing non-institutional community care, trained reliable home-care providers, services and resources. Families are shouldering tremendous financial strain as they've had to assume the financial and day-to-day support of their loved ones; many have even had to quit their jobs to stay home and provide care.
FINDS also revealed:
1 out of 5 families (20 percent) report that someone in the family had to quit a job to stay at home and support the needs of a family member.
More than 80 percent of families reported not having enough retirement savings for their future as a result of using personal funds to compensate for the lack of services available to their loved ones.
62 percent of parents and caregivers don't have a plan for where the person they support will live when the parent/caregiver gets older.
As a result of the report, The Arc is calling for more activism by people with I/DD and their families, launching a new effort to organize 1 million people to come out of the shadows and make their needs and concerns an issue in the 2012 elections.
To raise awareness surrounding the barriers those with I/DD face and how the organization can help individuals and families fully participate in society, The Arc has partnered with Lauren Potter, star of the hit FOX show "Glee." As a successful actress with Down syndrome who is achieving her dreams, Lauren represents the spirit of The Arc's work. Today, The Arc and Potter will kick off a public service announcement television campaign.
"I became involved with The Arc when I got the Image and Inclusion award last year. I am happy to be able to help portray a positive image of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I'm glad The Arc works to protect human rights of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities," says Potter.
The Arc "Achieve with Us" Contest - To encourage people with I/DD to share their stories of achievement, The Arc is conducting a national contest via their Facebook fan page. Starting today until July 14, entrants can share a story and a photo highlighting the accomplishments of an individual with I/DD for the chance to receive a trip for two to Washington, D.C. For more information about the "Achieve with Us" contest, please visit www.facebook.com/thearcus.
For more information, or to see additional survey results, please visit thearc.org.
About the FINDS Survey - The web-based FINDS survey was conducted from July 22, 2010, through October 31, 2010. The survey was completed by 4,962 caregivers of people with disabilities. Families from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. completed the survey.
About The Arc - The Arc is the largest and oldest human rights organization serving more than 1 million people with I/DD and their families through a network of more than 700 state and local chapters across the country. The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase. In addition, for purposes of brevity, after the initial phrasing: intellectual and developmental disabilities you will note the abbreviation I/DD.
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