Our special blogger this month is Stacy Gillett, Executive Director of The Arc of King County. Upon reflecting on the many victories that people with I/DD have enjoyed in the past 80 years, Stacy also recognizes the fight that continues today.
The Fight for Disability Rights Continues
The Arc of King County has the privilege of partnering every day with people who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families – supporting them to live full, meaningful lives; to give voice to their needs; and to champion their perspective.
We respect and respond to individual choice as the guiding force in supporting the lives of the people we work with, believing that all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are entitled to advocate for themselves with the assurance that their desires, interests, and preferences will be respected and honored. In short, what we want for ourselves, we want for everyone.
As human citizens, all individuals should be given the opportunity to have an education, a job, access to healthcare, the right to enjoy and access their community, and to experience friendships and relationships. Imagine not being able to communicate with your friends and family, not being able to choose when and where you want to go, or being isolated every day from enjoying your own neighborhood or a job that you love – because you need help to access every part of your environment. For so many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, this continues to be a reality. While most are no longer institutionalized, a number of adults with I/DD still live in isolation from relationships, are not meaningfully employed, and lack access to any real interaction outside their homes.
While we have come a long way in the last eight decades, there’s a remarkable amount of opportunity ahead in both the next year and the next decade. As we enter this new era, there are several distinct areas of advocacy and change that we are focused on driving forward. These focus areas include:
- Facilitating natural relationships that connect people with I/DD to people and places in their communities, reducing the amount of isolation experienced by persons with I/DD and their families.
- Continually working to be innovative and break new ground in improving how we operate our own organization to bring about change for the future.
- Organizationally and individually, dedicating ourselves to those individuals and families who have placed their trust in us to provide quality, individualized self-directed supports.
- Encouraging and facilitating family education and engagement as fundamental to achieving positive outcomes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Working with self-advocates to build and unleash incredible new experiences and opportunities to live, learn, work and play in the community, which benefits us all.
- Delivering new ideas and services with life-changing improvements in how people with I/DD better access their environments, become more self-sufficient, and have a voice and choice in every aspect of their lives
We are uniquely positioned to lead in these areas given the breadth of our staff expertise and services portfolio, as well as our growing partnerships with businesses, neighborhoods, and communities. It truly is a new era at The Arc of King County — an era of incredible opportunity for us, and for the nearly 21,000 children and adults in King County who are estimated to experience a severe developmental disability, including intellectual disabilities, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and autism.
When I pause to reflect on how far we’ve come over the past few years and how much further we’ll go in the next one, I couldn’t be more excited and optimistic. We see an unprecedented amount of opportunity for the long term. We hope you will join us as we continue to move the disability rights movement forward.