History of the ARC Movement


A brief history of disability services in the United States

1950: The ARC Champions Abilities of Individuals with Intellectual and other Developmental Disabilities

Parents of youth diagnosed with developmental disabilities found the ARC. The association worked to change the public's ideas about developmental disabilities. Its members educate parents and others, demonstrating that individuals with mental retardation have the ability to succeed in life. The ARC works to ensure that the estimated 7.2 million Americans with intellectual and related developmental disabilities have the services and supports they need to grow, develop, and live in communities across the nation.

1952: Schenectady County parents of children with disabilities establish the Schenectady County Chapter of the Association for the Help of Children with Disabilites. The group established a school and support services for children and families in Schenectady County.

1975: Staten Island's Willowbrook State School Finally Shuttered

After a five year battle with parents and advocates, New York Governor Hugh Carey signs the Willowbrook consent order, closing down a state institution notorious for its horrible conditions—broken plumbing, not enough doctors or medical supplies, patients living in filthy residences with no clean clothing, to name a few. Governor Carey pledges to relocate patients in community-based settings. Willowbrook remains open until 1978, but forever changes ideas about community-based care for people with developmental disabilities.

1990: Americans with Disabilities Act Becomes Law

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is signed into law by President George H. W. Bush (R) alongside its "founding father," Justin Dart. The ADA is considered the most important civil rights law since Title 504 and has cross-disability support, bringing disability-specific organizations, advocates, and supporters all together for the same cause.

2000: Schenectady ARC officially removes the "R" word from the agency name. Choosing Advocacy, Resources and Choices as the description of the acronym ARC. The change was spearheaded by the Schenectady ARC Self-Advocacy Group.

Today: We continue to advocate for equal recognition of individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. We also continue our fight to protect and preserve the services and supports that individuals currently receive. It has been a quick 60 years of progress, but there is still much work to be done. We are looking forward to continuing our mission to serve individuals and their families when and where they need us most.