July 26th marks the 33rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)! This is an annual celebration of an important civil rights law that works to ensure all people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else. We caught up with Sharon Levine, Senior Director of Governmental Affairs & Communications at The Arc of New Jersey to discuss the importance of protecting and advocating for the civil and legal rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
What does The Arc of New Jersey work to achieve, and what support/programs do you provide for individuals with disabilities?
The Arc of New Jersey promotes and protects the human rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes. We are committed to enhancing the quality of life of those individuals and their families through advocacy, empowerment, education, and prevention. We offer a wide variety of programs that help individuals and their families navigate the service delivery systems, while at the same time advocating for policy changes and critical funding to ensure appropriate supports and services in the community.
In addition, we help individuals with IDD learn how to advocate for themselves, we assist individuals find and maintain competitive employment and we assist families with health care issues and experiences involving the criminal justice system.
How is The Arc providing an inclusive experience for all New Jerseyans?
One of the core values of our organization is community participation and inclusion. That means that all people have the fundamental moral, civil, and constitutional rights to live, learn, work, play, and worship in safe and healthy communities of their choosing. Through the 20 local county Chapters of The Arc who deliver hands-on support and services to people with IDD, we work to create person-centered plans and subsequent services that meet each individual’s unique needs and which help each person carry out their own life path.
What does the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mean for The Arc of New Jersey?
33 years ago, the ADA broke new, unprecedented ground for people with disabilities. It truly opened doors that had previously been sealed shut and reimagined a future for people with disabilities that revolved around equity and inclusivity. We strive every day to model our work around those principles. We believe the tenants of the ADA should serve as a jumping-off point as we continue to fight for increased accessibility for people regardless of their disability or challenge.
How does Recite Me play a role in your mission?
Recite Me ensures that our outward communication on the internet reflects the values we fight for every day. By making our website accessible to visitors, we make sure no one is left out or left behind. Recite Me helps us get our resources, updates, and information to those we serve as well as the community at large. We appreciate the added value Recite Me brings and the value it offers to site visitors.
What does the future look like for The Arc of New Jersey?
The Arc of New Jersey will continue to push for legislative initiatives that will improve the lives of people with IDD and their families. We intend to look at new ways to help disseminate information and resources and advocate for service delivery systems that are both robust and flexible to meet the unique challenges of everyone we represent!