Using All the Tools in Your Toolbox: Maximizing Your Chapter's Impact Through Legal Advocacy

Tuesday, July 24
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: The Admiral's Quarters

"This presentation seeks to educate The Arc’s chapters on how they can use legal advocacy as a tool to achieve a more inclusive society for people with I/DD and their families.

Since 1950, The Arc has played a key role in establishing federal disability rights laws—such as the IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act, and the ADA—and has fought tooth and nail to establish, expand, and maintain critical federal programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, SSI, and the ACA. These laws and programs make community living possible for people with I/DD and litigation is a vital tool to ensure their promise is fully realized.

Through its Legal Advocacy Fund, The Arc participates in individual and systemic litigation and amicus briefs to advance the rights of our constituents in areas such as community integration, fair housing, employment, education, criminal justice, parenting, and self-determination.

The Arc’s Director of Legal Advocacy will begin the presentation with an overview of legal advocacy work The Arc is engaging in and explain why litigation is a critical tool to achieve our shared mission. Chapter executive directors will then share their experiences:

•Maureen Cronin, Executive Director of The Arc Pennsylvania, will discuss the seminal PARC v. Pennsylvania case in which her chapter served as an organizational plaintiff. The case, brought in 1971, was the first right-to-education lawsuit in the country and overturned Pennsylvania’s law allowing public schools to deny services to children who had not attained a “mental age of five” by first grade. The case resulted in a settlement agreement in which the State agreed to provide FAPE to all children with I/DD and ultimately led to the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (now the IDEA).

•Stacey Ramirez, State Director of The Arc Georgia, will discuss her office’s participation as an organizational plaintiff in GAO v. Georgia, a class action lawsuit against the State of Georgia challenging its statewide system of segregated and inferior schools for students with behavioral disabilities. After years of on-the-ground advocacy by the Georgia Coalition for Equity in Education and an investigation by DOJ resulting in a finding of discrimination, the State refused to change its practices. Because of this, the lawsuit was filed in October 2017, with The Arc US serving as counsel.

•Terry Olson, Executive Director of The Arc Delaware, will discuss his chapter’s participation in filing disability discrimination complaints with HUD against two private property owners’ associations in Delaware, both of which refused to approve the chapter’s acquisition of property intended to provide community-based housing for people with I/DD. The Arc US collaborated with a national fair housing law firm to represent the chapter, resulting in a finding of discrimination by the State of Delaware and a favorable settlement without having to go to court.

•Win Evarts, Executive Director of The Arc Connecticut, will discuss his chapter’s role in filing an amicus brief with the Connecticut Supreme Court to contest egregious language used by a lower court judge implying that students with profound disabilities were not educable and should be denied special education services. Working with The Arc US, the chapter was able to take a leadership role in filing its own brief, which resulted in positive media attention and a good outcome in the case.

Shira Wakschlag

Director, Legal Advocacy & Associate General Counsel
The Arc

Shira directs The Arc’s participation in disability rights litigation, performs general counsel work for the organization, and works closely with The Arc's state chapter network. Shira is the Chair of the Disability Rights Committee of the American Bar Association’s Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and on the board of the Disability Rights Bar Association. Shira received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and her B.A. from Brown University.


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Win Evarts

Executive Director
The Arc Connecticut

Win Evarts is the Executive Director of the Arc Connecticut and a parent of a 27 year-old young man with I/DD. Prior to coming to the Arc, Win had a 25- year career in finance centered on relationship building through creative, collaborative problem solving. Win's focus is on increasing access to individualized residential supports by expanding choice, and promoting meaningful employment and community participation opportunities by focusing on quality outcomes.


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Stacey Ramirez

State Director
The Arc Georgia

Stacey Ramirez is the State Director of The Arc Georgia, a state office of the The Arc of the United States. Prior to joining The Arc team, she was the Director of Individual and Family Supports at the Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD) at Georgia State University. Stacey brings more than 18 years of experience as an advocate and trainer in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities to her role in working with chapters of The Arc across Georgia. She has built a career focused on cultural competent family support and person-centered planning with a particular interest in furthering the human and civil rights. Stacey is privileged to partner with fellow public policy advocates to advance a shared goal to improve community access for people with I/DD. She is most proud of being the mother of three boys, one of whom has autism.


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Terry D. Olson

Executive Director
The Arc of Delaware

Terry Olson has been the Executive Director for The Arc Delaware since 2012. Terry began his work teaching and supporting people with I/DD in 1977. Most of his career has been spent administering residential services for persons with I/DD in Minnesota, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Terry founded successful Human Rights Committees in three states and remains committed to supporting persons with I/DD to have meaningful, productive and empowered lives of choice in our communities.


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Maureen Cronin

Executive Director
The Arc Pennsylvania

Maureen Cronin is the Executive Director for The Arc of Pennsylvania, the state’s largest civil rights advocacy organization for persons with I/DD, and their families. Prior to this position she served within Pennsylvania’s state government in a number of disability service related roles. Her experience includes being part of the closure of Pennhurst and being a parent of a child with disabilities.


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Using All the Tools in Your Toolbox: Maximizing Your Chapter's Impact Through Legal Advocacy

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