by Kristen McKiernan of The Arc

O for Organizing  - The Arc US

The Arc is the largest organization in the country advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome. We have a rich 60 year history of advocacy and grassroots organizing that continues today through our nearly 700 state and local chapters nationwide. Our mission has always been to promote and protect the human rights of people with I/DD and actively support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

At the national headquarters in Washington, DC, we currently maintain 9 national programs that are actively changing lives in our community. We also host annual events that bring together families, self-advocates, and professionals to share ideas, inspiration and resources, and we work to support our chapters to advocate at the federal and state level and provide services to their communities at the local level.


People with disabilities, their families, friends, teachers, colleagues, and loved ones have always been a powerful force when it comes to advocacy. Today, your efforts are needed more than ever.  That’s why The Arc chose to use the O to talk to you about organizing.

With all the progress we have made as a movement in the last few decades, much is at risk today. Social Security is under threat―the new House of Representatives changed the rules on day one of the 114th Congress to try to force a crisis around Social Security funding. Some in positions of power in Washington have signaled intent to dismantle Social Security through privatization and benefit cuts. And as the federal spending priorities are set in the coming months in Congress, we must ensure that Medicaid, a lifeline for people with I/DD, is also protected.

These are big, important programs for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities, and it may seem daunting to imagine how you as a single person can make a difference in their fate.  But you aren’t alone―the entire disability movement must organize, unite and be proactive, and make sure elected officials know our issues and protect the lifeline.

So how can you help? Stay informed by signing up for The Arc’s Action E-list, and take action when we sent out alerts. Your phone calls and emails matter―Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents when they are making up their minds on the tough votes. And get involved with your local or state chapter of The Arc – every state has its own budget that impacts people with I/DD, and The Arc is on the front lines in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

For those readers who did not know about The Arc before reading this blog, you aren’t alone―members of our network tell us The Arc is the largest and best kept secret in our community. So, we are working to change that. With the generous support of Comcast/NBCUniversal, we are airing a brand new public service announcement  (PSA) that captures how The Arc is a part of the lives of people with I/DD across the arc of a lifetime

As a matter of fact, all the people featured in our PSA are real people with real stories that have been impacted by The Arc’s work. Through the organization, hard work, and passion of our nationwide chapter network, The Arc continues to raise awareness and work to better the lives of people with I/DD. The fight is far from over, and we are stronger with your help! Find out how you can join our movement and be a part of community organizing with The Arc.