Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Our mission to provide supports and advocate in every manner possible for people who have intellectual and other developmental disabilities is best fulfilled when we embrace diversity, equity and inclusion as a value and a practice throughout The Arc New York. The value of diversity, equity and inclusion extends beyond the people we support to their families, our employees, our leadership, our management and our governing bodies. The Arc New York will make it part of its mission to take appropriate measures and actions to move positively towards achieving diversity, equity and inclusion in all that we are and do.

It is The Arc New York’s position that:

  • We must foster a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment that is responsive to the interests, and needs of the diversity of people who reside in New York. This may include but is not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, language spoken or method of communication;
  • No person should be defined by a single attribute or characteristic, but rather by the sum or combination/ intersection of their unique qualities and life experiences;
  • Every effort will be made to incorporate culturally and linguistically competent policies, structures, and practices in all components of the organization (e.g. supports, programs, operational structure, leadership, staff, and governance);
  • Individualized supports require the capacity to respond to cultural diversity. This may include but is not limited to race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, language spoken or method of communication;
  • Culturally and linguistically competent (the ability to understand difference across cultures and languages) approaches, procedures, and assessments are used to determine supports and services;
  • We respect, value, and celebrate the unique attributes, characteristics, backgrounds and perspectives of all our members and recognize that historically marginalized viewpoints enrich the entire organization;
  • We are committed to expand the cultural competence of leadership and staff with regard to difference in cultures, languages, and other methods of communication.
Individuals With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Who Have Been Convicted of a Sexual Offense

The provision of services and supports for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who have been convicted of a sexual offense is a complex issue. Solutions must balance the rights and safety and security of the individual, other individuals receiving support and the community-at-large.

Every individual with I/DD is, first and foremost, a citizen who is entitled to all of the fundamental rights, both explicit and implied, that are guaranteed to and enjoyed by all individuals under federal and state constitutions, laws and regulations. This is true when a person with an intellectual and developmental disability is a convicted sexual offender as well.

One of the goals of working with an individual with I/DD who has been convicted of a sexual offense should be the provision of supervision, professional treatment and supports necessary to reduce the risk of future sexual offenses. Comprehensive evaluations must be conducted on an individual basis to ensure appropriate linkages to services with agencies that have the requisite capacity and experience.

It is the Position of TheArc New York that:

  • Individuals with I/DD should be free from discrimination and have the right to receive fair and equal treatment under state and federal laws and regulations in the criminal justice system. Fair treatment requires consideration of all aspects of the individual and his or her circumstances including the presence of intellectual and developmental disabilities. It is essential that defense lawyers, prosecutors, judges, court personnel, forensic evaluators, law enforcement personnel, victim assistance organizations and criminal justice policymakers be aware of the needs of an individual with I/DD and how that disability may affect the behavior of the individual in order to ensure fair treatment.
  • With available and appropriate supervision, supports, accommodations, treatment and education, individuals with I/DD, including those who have been convicted of committing sexual offenses, should be better able to lead lives as contributing members of their communities. In addition, supervision of these appropriate supports and services helps ensure the safety and wellbeing of other individuals, including those with I/DD.
  • Individuals with I/DD who have been convicted of committing sexual offenses require supervision and treatment that focuses on addressing mental health, developmental and behavioral issues.
  • Not every organization that provides supports and services to people with I/DD has the expertise and resources necessary to safely and effectively support individuals who have been convicted of committing a sexual offense. Similarly, not every organization is equipped to protect the safety of other individuals receiving support, as well as the general public, if asked to serve a person who may have been convicted of committing a sexual offense.
  • An organization must have the opportunity to assess the individual with I/DD who has been convicted of committing a sexual offense to determine whether this individual can be supported safely and effectively in an environment with other vulnerable individuals. No organizations should be pressured to support or penalized for refusing to support a person who has been convicted of committing a sexual offense when the organization feels it cannot reasonably and responsibly support such a person.
  • When an organization is able and willing to provide services to a person who has been convicted of committing a sexual offense, the following guidelines must apply:
    • Each individual with I/DD who has been convicted of a sexual offense must be assessed on an individual basis to develop a comprehensive individualized plan.
    • Individuals, including individuals who have been convicted of committing a sexual offense, should be provided with services and supports that relate to and, where possible, support an increase in their capacity and ability to express themselves sexually in a way that is respectful of self and others; receive appropriate sex education; provided with assistance in overcoming difficulties in processing the concepts of consent; support and assist with exercising healthy expressions of sexuality; and receive education and counseling to assist in understanding the nature and consequences of their actions.
    • A Risk Assessment Plan (RAP) must be created and regularly reviewed for each individual which provides a framework for all of the supports, services and expected duration of services provided by professional and para-professional staff.
    • The RAP must be designed to increase the individual’s responsibility and skill and behavioral acquisition while providing for the safety and well-being of the individual and others served.
    • Organizations which are capable and willing to serve individuals with I/DD who have been convicted of committing a sexual offense must ensure that all staff have the proper initial and ongoing training and competence to work effectively and implement the goals and objectives of the RAP.
    • Organizations must be provided with the appropriate financial resources to support the higher needs generally associated with providing services to individuals who have been convicted of committing a sexual offense.
Where People Live

All people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have the right to live in the communities of their choosing and be fully included with people who do not have intellectual or other developmental disabilities. The right to rent or own their home represents a basic foundational aspect of their independence and inclusion in the community.

It is the Position of TheArc New York that:

  • Adults should control where and with whom they will live, with increasing affordable opportunities to rent or buy their own homes.
  • Individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have the right to be integrated in their communities.
  • Necessary individualized supports, adaptations and choices regarding living arrangements should be of their choosing and under their control or the control of their surrogate.
  • Children belong with their families. When this is not possible, a family environment that provides love, safety and security must be provided.
  • The health and safety of individuals must be safeguarded wherever they live.
  • Fully funded and high-quality, individualized supports and services, including appropriate accommodations, must be available to meet the needs of the individual.
  • Funding for supports and services must follow people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and not be tied to a facility or a location.
  • The individual with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, and family members when necessary, must have the choice of working with a range of provider agencies to help find the appropriate residence for their family member.
  • People with intellectual and other developmental disabilities who choose to live at home with their families have the right to receive the necessary supports and services, including ready access to high quality medical and psychiatric are as needed.
Use of Medications

Prescription and non-prescription medications may be used to assist people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to experience a full and rewarding life. The prescribing of medications should be considered a serious matter and guided by principles that assure the safety of the individual and attainment of a desired state that will allow a full and valued life.

It is the Position of TheArc New York that:

  • Medications may be considered only after any other non-pharmaceutical measures have been exhausted in the control or remediation of the target behavior or medical situation.
  • Medication should not be assumed to be a permanent solution.
  • Medications must be prescribed only by licensed, qualified medical professionals who are familiar with the individual.
  • The person with intellectual and other developmental disabilities must be included in discussions and decisions regarding the use of pharmaceutical treatment for a manifest or an underlying psychiatric condition and/or medical situation.
  • Before medication is started, the individual, if capable, and/or parent or individual legally authorized to give consent, must be consulted and give consent, as appropriate, and be clearly informed about any prescribed pharmaceutical treatment, expected positive results and possible side effects.
  • Medication regimens and prescriptions must be reviewed on a regular basis. Continuation of such medication regimens and prescriptions is to be determined by the physician in consultation with the individual with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, and/or family, staff, and advocates.
  • The person with intellectual and other developmental disabilities must be given every opportunity to receive training to qualify for “self-medication” status.
  • In cases where the person with intellectual and other developmental disabilities does not qualify for “self-medication” status, every assurance must be made to provide proper oversight by a knowledgeable individual certified in medication use and distribution.
Substance Abuse

An increasing number of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities are becoming addicted to alcohol and other substances. Due to cognitive disabilities and other factors, some members of this population are not prepared to fully comprehend the harmful effects of such substances on their emotional and physical health, nor the addictive properties of these substances or the legal and social consequences of their use. Substance abuse often causes behavior that is disruptive to families and the community and may result in unwelcome confrontations with law enforcement personnel. When arrested and sentenced to jail or ordered to receive treatment in traditional substance abuse programs, persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities often receive either no treatment or treatment inappropriate to their level of functioning. As a result, a return to substance use with all of its devastating consequences is likely upon re-entry into the community.

It is the Position of TheArc New York that:

  • Education on the nature and effects of the use of alcohol and illegal drugs should be required to be presented to persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities in middle school or at a comparable grade and developmental level. Education should be tailored to the cognitive and other abilities of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and should be repeated annually as part of students’ IEP until their education is completed.
  • Education should include the targeted strategies to help individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities to recognize and manage risks associated with environments and individuals likely to involve them in substance abuse behaviors.
  • Professionals and direct service personnel working with people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities should be trained to recognize the behavior associated with substance abuse and to address the problem with evidence-based strategies specific to this population.
  • Treatment should be made available to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities commensurate to the general population who experience substance abuse.
  • If traditional programs are used, treatment should be in collaboration with providers who are experienced and skilled in working with persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. Treatment should also afford the individual with opportunities to engage in peer mentoring programs commensurate with their developmental capacity. Specialized substance abuse treatment programs may need to be developed to treat individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
  • Parents and significant others should be involved in the treatment process, including appropriate support programs such as Al-Anon (a support group for families of people with chemical dependencies.)
Spirituality

People with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have the right to choose their own expressions of spirituality, to practice those beliefs and expressions, and to participate in the religious community or other spiritual activities of their choice. The person also has a right to choose not to participate in religious or spiritual activity.

It is the Position of TheArc New York that:

  • Spirituality is an important part of human experience that may be expressed both through religious practice and through expressions of personal meaning and values. Thus, spirituality and religious preference should be part of all assessments of individual and family needs, interests, and strengths.
  • Spirituality, spiritual growth, and religious expression that respect a person’s history, tradition, and current preference or choice are rights that should be honored by service systems and religious communities, as should the choice not to participate.
  • The desires and interest of individuals and their families must be accommodated when assisting individuals to participate in spiritual activities of their choice including reading of religious material, playing religious music, and consideration for special dietary needs of individuals due to religious affiliations.
  • Protections must be provided to assure that individuals are free from undue influence, proselytizing, direction or coercion to participate in any spiritual activity, religious group or sect.
  • Faith communities should receive assistance from provider agencies and advocacy organizations to build their capacity to support and welcome people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their families.
  • Advocates must collaborate with local congregations to assure the availability of a wide variety of spiritual opportunities, including both integrated and specialized community services, social activities of congregations, at-home services and specialized on-site services.
  • Funerals and memorial services on behalf of the deceased in provider agencies are encouraged and should be in accordance with the individual’s religious preference, whether clearly expressed or assumed by their regular attendance at a particular faith community. Memorial Services are also encouraged for the spiritual health of the deceased’s friends, family and staff.
Specialized Treatment Units

The Arc New York recognizes that a number of people who have intellectual and other developmental disabilities have been identified as having criminal, high risk and unacceptable behaviors. These individuals are not able to remain at home with their families and may require a more secure, highly structured environment as an alternative to the prison system.

It is the Position of TheArc New York that:

  • OPWDD must address the ever-increasing needs of this growing population by providing proper financial and environmental supports.
  • OPWDD must ensure properly trained clinical personnel to provide intensive therapeutic treatment.
  • Proper planning with input from family and/or advocates must occur for all placements.
  • The civil and legal rights of all persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities must not be compromised because of the need for specialized environments.
  • Legal rights and the right to due process should not be abridged when placement or referrals to specialized treatment units are made.
  • OPWDD needs to develop a clear and consistent process for an emergency treatment/crisis intervention response.
  • Exclusion and segregation from the community must never be the norm; return to community living, where possible, must remain the goal.
  • The state shall remain the provider of last resort.
  • When an individual has been assessed and determined appropriate for movement to a less restrictive community setting, it is imperative that necessary supports and resources are in place prior to returning to a community setting.
Sexuality

People with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have inherent sexual feelings, needs and identities which must be affirmed, defended and respected. Sexuality must be acknowledged as part of the total context of human relationships. Informed consent in sexual expression protects the rights and dignity of the person. The presence of intellectual and other developmental disabilities regardless of severity, must not in itself, deny a person his or her right to sexual expression, justify involuntary sterilization, or cause denial of sterilization to those who choose it for themselves.

It is the Position of TheArc New York that:

  • Disability has nothing to do with a person’s ability to love and be loved. Every person must have the opportunity to be in a loving and consensual relationship if they so choose.
  • The presence of an intellectual or developmental disability, regardless of severity, does not, in itself, justify loss of rights related to sexuality. Every person has the right to exercise choices regarding sexual expression and social relationships. Informed consent in sexual expression protects the rights and dignity of the person.
  • With respect to sexuality, people have a right to:
    • Sexual expression of their choosing
    • Individualized education and information to encourage informed decision-making. Education may include issues such as reproduction, marriage and family life, abstinence, safer sexual practices, sexual orientation, sexual abuse, gender identity, and sexually transmitted diseases. The education must be reflective of the person’s cultural, religious and moral values and of social responsibility.
    • Education must be provided by persons who demonstrate a positive attitude towards the expression of sexuality in people who have I/DD, and who are trained to provide information in a non-judgmental manner. Such personnel must be willing and trained to offer accurate and unbiased information related to human sexuality.
    • Protection from sexual harassment and from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
  • All people have the right within interpersonal relationships to:
    • Develop friendships and emotional and sexual relationships where they can love and be loved, and begin and end a relationship as they choose
    • Dignity and respect
    • Privacy, confidentiality, and freedom of association
  • With respect to the potential for having and raising children, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities have the right to:
    • Education and information about having and raising children that is individualized to reflect each person’s unique ability to understand.
    • Make their own decisions related to having and raising children with supports as necessary.
    • Make their own decisions related to using birth control methods within the context of their personal or religious beliefs.
    • Have control over their own bodies
    • Be protected from sterilization solely because of their disability
Self-Determination

People with intellectual and other developmental disabilities can improve the quality of their lives by having control and responsibility for themselves. Inherent in this is the need to take prudent risks that result in personal growth. The nature and extent of that risk must be evaluated and shared with people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities when planning their activities and goals.

It is The Arc New York’s position that people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities must:

  • Have access to environments where they will be treated with dignity and respect and will also have opportunities to express preferences and have those preferences honored.
  • Have sincere and active acknowledgment of their dreams and desires and have opportunities to pursue those dreams and desires in their lives.
  • Have opportunities to acquire and develop meaningful skills and confidence that enable them to ensure the highest degree of control of their lives and environments.
  • Have a wide range of experiences to help them understand their community so that they may make informed and individualized decisions.
  • Have necessary supports, which will enable persons to develop, maintain, and further meaningful relationships, including personal friendships.
  • Have opportunities to make informed choices regarding their use of personal financial resources, their acquisition of desired services and their choice of supports.
  • Have access to assistive technology, personal assistance, and necessary supports to promote optimal communication and have unlimited opportunities for independence.
  • Have appropriate training, accommodation, and support so that they may become active members of groups, clubs and organizations, including The Arc New York.
Self-Advocacy Role in Leadership

People with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have the right to participate in decisions about their lives and advocate for public policy that provides the systems and supports they need to participate fully in society

It is The Arc New York’s position that this requires that people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have the following opportunities and rights:

  • To receive training and/or mentoring so they may participate fully and meaningfully on boards, committees, taskforces and other decision-making bodies that provide oversight and resource allocation in support of their lives.
  • To be selected and/or elected to boards, committees and task forces of local organizations that serve support their lives, including The Arc New York Chapter Boards, Committees and Task Forces.
  • To organize a chapter-level self-advocacy initiative, which informs the board and administration about quality of services and lives of their peers in the organization.
  • To provide input into The Arc New York management, planning and decision making, including representation on The Arc New York Board of Governors, Committees and Task Forces.
  • To receive financial and other supports from service providers and other advocacy organizations to participate in local chapter boards, local and statewide self-advocacy groups, governmental and statewide public policy organizations and national groups they choose and/or are elected to represent themselves and their peers.
  • To have a partnership among people who receive supports, and administrators and agency personnel to reduce barriers to independence and individualization for people with disabilities.
  • To have a partnership among people who receive supports, and administrators and agency personnel to educate the community and others regarding the importance of self-advocacy in our society.