Let’s be very clear from the start, The Arc is a non-partisan 501(c)3 organization that does not espouse any particular political ideology or take partisan-based political positions. Our constituency is made up of Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals. Our role is to advocate on their behalf, all of them, without regard to politics. That advocacy means supporting rules, policies, and budgets that are good for our audience and opposing those rules, policies, and budgets that are bad for the audience.
However, those rules, policies, and budgets are determined primarily by politicians and government bureaucrats. This means that there are times when we take a position for or against something that may be misconstrued as being a partisan position.
As an example, our national organization has, for the first time in more than 30 years, taken a position opposing Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court. This is not because he’s a Republican or a conservative. It is based on his record of decisions and writings on issues that are of critical importance to the disability community. Issues such as health care, self-determination, employment, and education. His positions on many cases that have come before him showed a very poor understanding of the issues facing persons with disabilities, and a lack of consideration for what should be the rights of such individuals. Our commitment to advocacy requires that we take a stand against such positions.
Another example is a recent proposal announced by the Alabama Department of Mental Health to change the criteria by which children qualify for early intervention services. The proposal aims to raise the bar, making it more difficult for some children who currently qualify for services to be provided such services.
The rationale is that the current standard results in an overwhelming of the caseworkers, requiring them to handle many more cases than they should reasonably be expected to take on. While we recognize the case loads are overwhelming and empathize with the professionals in those roles, the children in need of early intervention services should not be penalized because our legislature has failed to provide adequate revenues to allow staffing at appropriate levels.
Just like cancer diagnosis and treatment, much better results for developmental delays are obtained with early diagnosis and treatment. If we fail to speak out against such changes in criteria, we would not be meeting our obligation as an advocate organization. It has nothing to do with the political party in charge of the government.
We don’t take positions based on politics. But we also can’t shy away from positions of advocacy simply because we might be misperceived as being political. The rights and needs of those individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are too important for us to shy away from doing what we’re obligated to do: advocate.