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adult ARC client with parent

The Arc of Larimer County

Helping people with disabilities live the life they choose

by Kate Braniff

Did you know that one in six children in the U.S. has some form of intellectual or developmental disability? 

Disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, and intellectual disability can affect vision, hearing, mental health, social relationships, movement, and the ability to learn. Even if two people have the same disability, they can be affected very differently.

The Arc of Larimer County, a grassroots initiative founded in 2007, offers free one-on-one advocacy and workshops for adults and children with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD).

“Our advocates help navigate complex systems of support,” says Interim Executive Director Marilee Boylan. “They ensure people’s wishes are heard and their rights are protected.”

Many of the organization’s clients seek information on a variety of topics such as understanding their rights, Individual Education Planning (IEP), and options and support for independent living and employment.

“Eighty-five percent of people with I/DD aren’t working due to lack of opportunity, not lack of skill,” says Boylan. “As we all know, having a job impacts financial security, work skills, self-confidence, social networks, and may even lead to finding romantic partnerships.”

The Arc of Larimer County offers parents of children with I/DD free advocacy and opportunities for education, support, and interaction with other parents via a virtual Parent Café. Parents can be themselves and enjoy a nonjudgmental and welcoming community.

Boylan says that one of the biggest barriers for people with I/DD are the expectations and misperceptions of others.

To dispel these stereotypes and spread awareness, the organization hosts an annual film festival featuring movies created by or about individuals with I/DD. The 2021 event offered eight films, some serious and some humorous. This summer will be the festival’s 10th anniversary.

The Arc of Larimer County also sponsors People First of Larimer County, a self-directed group of community members with I/DD who actively advocate for community services, allowing people to have choice and control over their lives.

photo of Chrissy KrummPeople First member Chrissy Krumm had the opportunity to testify during a legislative hearing about phasing out subminimum wage employment, which directly impacts members of the I/DD community. In many states, including Colorado, some employers have been allowed to pay less than minimum wage to employees living with physical or mental disabilities, if those employers hold a special certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The new law prohibits employers from paying less than minimum wage. Employers holding a special certificate must phase out subminimum wages by July 1, 2025.

“It was essential that our representatives hear directly from people who experienced subminimum wage employment, and why they feel it should be eliminated,” says Boylan. 

One of the organization’s biggest achievements of 2021 was partnering with the Loveland Police Department and Larimer County Sheriff’s Office to provide additional tools to support peace officers when interacting with those with I/DD. A recent bill passed in Colorado creating a 12-person commission to conduct a detailed study about the current training of peace officers when addressing people with disabilities. Atalanta Cozad, an Arc advocacy specialist, was selected to serve on the commission.

In the coming years, The Arc of Larimer County will continue to advocate for those with I/DD, helping them become stronger self-advocates who can live the life they choose.

film festival info box

For more information:
The Arc of Larimer County
Virtual Parent Café
Virtual Walk-in Advocacy Hours
Wednesdays from 9—10 a.m.
People First
Meets on the last Friday of the month, 4:30 p.m.-5:45 p.m.