Arc of the United States

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The Arc of the United States is an organization serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The organization was originally founded in the 1950s by parents of individuals with developmental disabilities.[1] Since that time, the organization has established state chapters in 39 states, with 730 local chapters in states across the country.[2] The Arc of the United States is based in Washington D.C.

The organization was originally called the National Association for Retarded Children from 1953 - 1973, the National Association for Retarded Citizens from 1973 - 1981, the Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States from 1981 - 1992, and then assumed its present name in 1992 as part of expanding its function and reacting to the euphemism treadmill.[3][4]


In 1947, in response to a letter in the Bergen Record from Laura Sparks Blossfeld, parent of a child with intellectual disability, a group of parents met to discuss what they might do to help their children with disabilities. That small group of parents joined together to form what was eventually called The Association for Retarded Children (later Citizens) and is now known simply as The Arc.

The Arc was founded in 1950 by a small group of parents and other concerned individuals.[5] At that time, the organization claims, there was a lack of awareness about and community programs for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their support families.

In the early days the association worked to create a more positive public perception of children with mental retardation and to assert to parents and others the potential of people with mental retardation. The Arc also worked to procure services for children and adults who were denied day care, preschool, education and work programs.


Arc provides services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 730 state and local chapters across the nation. Several states, including Alaska, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming, only have local chapters, with no state office. Specific information on these local chapters can be found at Arc's website

Local chapters include small voluntary groups and large and sophisticated multi-million dollar organizations. The Arc's network of chapters share common core values.[6] NYSARC, Inc. is an affiliated non-profit serving New York state.

List of State Chapters


The Arc of the United States is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which operates on a budget of approximately $2,000,000, according to[7] According to financial statements submitted to the IRS, the organization's major sources of income are charitable donations; dues for membership in local and state chapters; and government grants, contracts, and fees.[8]

Cultural criticism[edit]

Since its inception, The Arc of the United States - and its state and local chapters - have been involved with a number of controversial issues.[citation needed]

In the summer of 2008, The Arc was highly critical of the movie Tropic Thunder, in which Ben Stiller portrays "Simple Jack", a man with an intellectual disability. The Arc called the portrayal "offensive", and also objected to the use of the words "retard", "moron", and "imbecile" throughout the movie. The Arc was among a group of disability organizations, including the Special Olympics and the National Down Syndrome Congress which called for a boycott of the film.[9] Spokespeople for Tropic Thunder, along with Ben Stiller, argued that critics like The Arc did not understand that the movie was intended to make fun of actors and the movie industry, not individuals with disabilities, describing the movie as "an R-rated comedy that satirizes Hollywood and its excesses and makes it point by featuring inappropriate and over-the-top characters in ridiculous situations"[9] However, The Arc continued to criticize the film as containing hate speech, promoting offensive stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities, and being offensive to people with disabilities and their families. The Arc of the United States called for all of its chapters across the nation to picket and protest against the film, launched educational campaigns, and wrote open letters to Ben Stiller and the film's creators explaining their criticisms and calling for Stiller to meet with disability advocates to engage in "honest and open dialogue about the offense this film perpetrates."[10]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "History". The Arc of the United States. 2011. 
  2. ^ "Who We Are". The Arc of the United States. 2011. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "The Arc's Name Changes Throughout Its History". 2011. 
  5. ^ Historical Accounts
  6. ^ Core Values
  7. ^ "Nonprofit Report: The Arc of the U.S.". 
  8. ^ "IRS Form 990: Report of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". The Arc of the United States. 
  9. ^ a b Cieply, Michael (August 11, 2008). "Groups Call for Boycott of 'Tropic Thunder' Film". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ "Disability Rights Group Calls on Ben Stiller to Meet with People with Disabilities in DC, NY or LA about 'Tropic Thunder'". Fox Business News. August 15, 2008.