Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Disabled people are ...

Video project asks disabled people to call out their disability pride

You can contribute! Videos are due July 20

So many people – parents, doctors, teachers, therapists, strangers
define what disability means. Shouldn't disabled people define it? This is Disability Pride Month, advocate Tatum Tricarico is asking people to respond to the statement:  “Disabled people are…”.  

Some examples:

  • “Disabled people are… creative because we find unique ways to make the world accessible to us.”

  • “Disabled people are… worthy of inclusion and love in their communities.” 

  • “Disabled people are… fun because we love to dance.”

Anything that gives you pride in your disabled identity is fair game!

Tatum Tricarico, is a lead on the Ed Roberts Video Project.

She will combine submitted individual videos into one video that will be posted on ADA Day, July 26th

(ADA = Americans with Disabilities Act)

Here is how to participate:

  1. Record a video vertical (upright/tall on your phone or tablet) finishing the sentence “Disabled people are….” with whatever you’re proud about that we are!

  2. Make sure it is 10 seconds or less (short and sweet!)

  3. Send Tatum the video by July 20th (by email to or text to 858776654)

 Questions about this project can be sent to:

Thursday, June 2, 2022

CANDIDATE EDUCATION: On state institutions, Washington is an outlier

Data: University of Minnesota
Institute on Community Integration

It is campaign season. That means people are running for office to represent you and make choices on your behalf. We are running a series of articles on topics we think candidates should know about. We hope they are also useful to you. Please share!


Most states do not run large institutions for people with IDD. We still do, and it's not clear why


For many, it doesn’t make sense to provide services in institutions if the supports are intended to help people live the life they want in their community.

The logic: If the goals are participation and connection, then supports should be embedded and readily available in the community, as needed.

Most community supports are also much less expensive than institutional care.

But a review of national data shows Washington is one of just 13 states still operating large institutions for people with developmental disabilities .

  • This could affect Medicaid funding if intermediate care facilities, a type of institution, are used inappropriately for ongoing, long-term placement.
  • It also speaks to a legacy of segregating people with intellectual or other developmental disabilities (IDD) in Washington. Some civic leaders here mistakenly believe people with IDD are better served separately, or that institutions offer a type of IDD support only available in that setting. Neither is correct.

Lack of support is serious and can lead to crisis for individuals and their families. But operating large institutions doesn't solve the problem. Typically, crises track back to:

  • Workforce capacity
  • Failure to fund enough slots

Both require intentional work to align availability with demand. In spring of 2022, the state legislature passed a foundational bill to gather data to increase community supports and examine the need for respite and crisis support. But the work of actually building out a stable network remains.

The University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration, which did the national analysis, has recommendations for elected leaders, including:

  1. Address a severe workforce shortage so people can access providers and services.
  2. Use Medicaid rebalancing and other incentives to downsize and close all IDD facilities serving 16 or more people. Shift resources into individualized supports in home and community-based settings.

These align with asks from most state advocates, as well.

You can read the policy brief here:


Not that long ago – just a generation or soinstitutions were the only options people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) had for education or to learn workforce or life skills.

Prior to the mid-1970s, government programs could and did discriminate against people with disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its Section 504 was a turning point.

  • Section 504 established the right of disabled people to equal access and opportunity to benefit from federally funded programs and services.
  • While the federal government was hashing out implementation rules for Section 504, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) passed, offering schools grants to pay for special education services as long as they followed certain rules.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act passed about 20 years later, establishing civil rights for people with disabilities, regardless of whether federal funds are in play.

Section 504 and IDEA also mandated services be provided in integrated settings. That is, people with disabilities shouldn't be segregated in order to access support. While IDEA applies exclusively to schools, Section 504 applies to any program receiving federal funding: health care, social services, or education.

The laws made a huge difference, as did a U.S Supreme Court decision from the late 1990s called Olmstead. That one said people couldn't be forced to receive long-term support in institutions. They should be able to access it in home or community settings.

Data: University of Minnesota
Institute on Community Integration

Over the last 50 years, the number of people with IDD nationwide living in large, state-run institutions fell from about 200,000 to about 18,000, with support shifting to home- and community-based settings.

That is, today most supports come to the person, as opposed to requiring people to live in institutional settings that they otherwise wouldn't be in. 

Washington state also shifted and today most DDA clients are supported in the community. Yet we still shoulder the costs of large institutions while struggling to invest in home and community-based supports. 

In Washington, our large institutions for people with IDD are called Residential Habilitation Centers. Habilitation is similar to rehabilitiation. But where "rehab" is about helping people regain skills lost to illness or injury, habilitation is about helping people master skills that are not typically developing or that need ongoing support to maintain. A popular habilitative support for adults with IDD is job coaching. 

The state's RHCs, in turn, include a mix of nursing homes for people with IDD and intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities. Campuses have one or the other, or both. The RHC in King County, Fircrest, has both.

Intermediate care facilities are not intended for long-term placement or to provide homes. Intermediate care means people come for a regimen of active support, then return to the community. That's not how Washington was operating, though. Over the past few years DDA made changes to come into compliance, including significant investment in RHC staffing and facilities. A similar level of investment was NOT made to home and community-based supports. Last year, more than 14,000 sat on DDA's no paid services list.

During this same time, demand for crisis stabilization shot up. Three of the four RHCs don't provide that type of care,  though. Nor do they offer integrated mental health supports, a growing area of demand. People with IDD have high rates of co-occurring mental health conditions, but many mental health professionals do not work with people with intellectual disabilities, with people who are nonverbal, or with people more profoundly impacted by their developmental disabilities.

The upshot is, Washington's support system for people with IDD hasn't been providing the level of support needed, and hasn't been able to adapt to emerging need. 


In Washington, supports specific to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are overseen by the state Developmental Disabilities Administration, part of the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). These are long-term supports and are funded through Medicaid, a federal-state partnership. Support through RHCs and some smaller state residential settings are provided by state employees. Most community-based supports, though, including community residential services, are provided by private contractors, mostly nonprofits. 

State legislators:

  • Decide funding levels and things like how many slots to pay for, or which supports DDA should provide. 
  • The decision to not provide services to all DDA clients was made by legislators. 
  • The decision of how much to pay providers is also decided by legislators.

The governor:

  • As state executive, the governor is in charge of running DSHS and making sure it complies with state and federal law. The governor has staff to advise on policy and appoints people to run state agencies
  • The governor can veto bills or items from the state budget, but the governor cannot add funding. 
  • The governor can, however, make funding and policy recommendations to the legislature.

Governor appointees:

Agency leaders (appointees) and their staffs run state agencies and make day-to-day operating decisions. Agency leaders also create the rules for how agencies will comply with federal and state law. These rules affect who has access. For instance, if funds are low, DDA can narrow the criteria for who is eligible for support.

- By Ramona Hattendorf, Director of Advocacy at The Arc of King County 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Inclusion Academy now recruiting for summer 2022!

Classes start June 9, 2022, and end August 18, online via Zoom
Start time: 5 pm

Applications are due May 27


The Inclusion Academy. Course starts June 8.

Are you a parent or ally of young children ages 2 to 5 with disabilities or developmental delay?

Do you want to create positive experiences that help all children thrive?

Do you want to better understand disability rights and equity and learn how to be a strong advocate?

Join The Arc of King County as we launch our summer 2022 cohort of The Inclusion Academy. Dates and classes are below.

If you prefer to apply by phone or need language access or other support, please contact Ramona Hattendorf at, 206-829-7048.


About The Inclusion Academy

OUR GOAL: Belonging, membership, participation. For all children.

OUR FOCUS: Inclusive early learning and disability equity.

OUR PHILOSOPHY: Disability is a type of diversity, and whether children with disabilities or developmental delay thrive depends on how society responds to and nurtures them. So, we're helping people make the connection between inclusion and well being.

The Inclusion Academy is grounded in the science of early childhood development and the legal and research basis for inclusive learning. It is a Best Starts for Kids Innovation Fund pilot and a portfolio project of Frontiers of Innovation, the research and development arm of Harvard's Center on the Developing Child.


Class lineup

Classes are 90 minutes unless otherwise noted; they will be held Thursdays late afternoon/early evening, depending on which time works for most people

June 9 – Our Why and What Kids Need to Flourish (2 hours). 5-7 pm

June 16 – Brain Science 101 & Defining Inclusion. 5-6:30 pm

June 23 – Disability is Diversity. 5-6:30 pm

* No class June 30 *

July 7 – The Social Model, Inclusive Practices, and UDL. 5-6:30 pm

July 14 – Your Child’s Rights (the Legal Basis for Inclusion) (2 hours) 5-7 pm

July 21 – Research Says … & Preschool Options. 5-6:30 pm

* No class July 28 *

August 4 – About IEPs & Person-Centered Plans. 5-6:30 pm

August 11 – Defining Quality and Identifying Barriers. 5-6:30 pm

August 18  - How Change Happens (2 hours). 5-7 pm

Ongoing support is available for those who wish to pursue a community project to promote inclusive early learning or disability equity. 

Optional advocacy workshops will include:

  • Understanding School Districts (September 17); 
  • Messaging 101 (October 1); and 
  • Building Your Supports (October 15)

 We can add more if there is interest.

Why we created The Inclusion Academy

Washington is bottom six in the nation when it comes to helping preschoolers with and without disabilities learn and play together. This affects their development and, unfortunately, reflects community values and priorities.

Decades of research tells us inclusion helps kids learn, and neuroscience helps us understand why: Developing brains need relationship. Belonging, membership, and participation help brains build the foundation kids need for lifelong well-being.

There is also a strong legal basis for inclusive learning.

Yet in Washington, preschoolers with disabilities are segregated at about twice the national rate. More so than most states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the Bureau of Indian Education, we create separate spaces for children with disabilities, and that is not healthy.

Once Washington children get into K-12, the segregation gap grows for kids with intellectual disabilities (ID). Washington is bottom two for including kids with ID in general education for most of the day.

The Inclusion Academy aims to change that. We want to help people understand what is going on and what is at stake, while also helping them develop strategies and practice skills to build inclusive communities.


Who should apply

Washington parents (and allies!) of children ages 2 to 5 navigating childcare or preschool or transitioning into kindergarten.

Enrollment preference will be given to King County residents, but we will welcome people from outside the region if space allows.

We are often asked if parents of older children can apply. Absolutely. A lot of information translates to older years. Just know we will be focusing on preschool years.

ADVOCACY SKILLS COVERED: Listening; analysis; presenting to others; vision planning; policy development; data mining; collaboration; and community building. Classes also touch on concepts like behavior as communication, person-centered planning, and universal design for learning.

WHAT TO EXPECT: A group of about 15 people learning together and from each other. We use presentations, small and large group discussion, class activities, and reflection in our classes, and we offer additional resources online. Participants also often share resources with each other.

TIME COMMITMENT: Three to six months, depending on whether you continue with a community project. The class portion takes a little less than 3 months.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Early learning advocacy: Transitional kindergarten

 This is part of a series of legislative updates on the state's 2022 General Session. See also:

Youg boy in big glasses, smiling

At the state level, lots of people are talking about transitional kindergarten. This is a newer service offered by some local school districts. It opts in kids to 2 years of kindergarten.

THE THINKING: Some kids need more preparation to succeed and they would benefit from enrollment in two years of kindergarten, starting at age 4.

  • Schools identify which students would benefit and enroll them as kindergartners
  • Kindergarten curriculum and standards apply
  • Teachers are certificated, but not necessarily in early childhood education

YES, KINDERGARTEN, NOT PRESCHOOL: Preschool, or pre-K, is not part of basic education and is not included in state funding for school districts. For school districts to collect basic education funding for transitional kindergarten, these programs must use kindergarten, and not preschool, standards. This means they do not align with curriculum or standards used by Head Start or the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).

Historical note: In 2009 the legislature voted to make preschool part of the state’s program of basic education, but the governor at the time vetoed it. Since then, separate licensing and quality ratings have been built and implemented by the Department of Early Learning and its successor, the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF). Also, Head Start and ECEAP oversight is housed in DCYF and not in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

POSSIBLE BUDGET IMPACT: Four-year-olds with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) enrolled in kindergarten would count towards the “cap” in special education funding. This is important because the state cuts off a district's K-12 special education funding once students with IEPs hit 13.5% of full-time enrolled students. So, adding 4-year-olds with IEPs to kindergarten enrollment could mean funds overall are spread more thinly, depending on how close to the cap they are. Nationwide, rural areas have higher incidence rates of developmental disabilities and learning disorders, so this could impact rural areas more.

STAFF TRAINING: While teachers of transitional kindergarten must be certificated, they do not need to be certificated in early childhood education. They may or may not have the expertise in very young children that staff in ECEAP and Head Start must demonstrate.

Concerns raised

  • Is Washington’s take on transitional kindergarten developmentally appropriate? Wouldn’t preschool be a better placement for most 4-year-olds?
  • What curriculum is being used? Is it play-based, or is it aligned to academic kindergarten?
  • Do parents understand the differences between kindergarten and preschool? (Is there a difference?)
  • Do parents who also qualify for ECEAP or Head Start understand that they would lose access to the family support and child health aspects of ECEAP and Head Start?
  • Will special education funding caps be a disincentive for school districts to include students with IEPs in transitional kindergarten? 

DISABILITY TIE-IN: There aren’t many inclusive options in Washington for preschool-age children with disabilities. Most school districts do not take, or push in, special education services to where the preschoolers are, but instead enroll them in developmental preschools where they may have little or no access to peers without disabilities.

In the 2021 IDEA report to Congress, Washington is bottom 4 among states, DC, and territories when it comes to placing students with IEPs in regular early learning classes, alongside kids without disabilities, with support pushed in. We are top 4 for placing preschoolers with IEPS in separate classes or schools.

Some see promising options with transitional kindergarten.

But if IEP teams fail to review with parents the pro’s and con’s of early kindergarten, students with IEPs may be diverted into a program that might not be the best fit. Or if districts are concerned about funding, they could direct children with IEPs away from transitional kindergarten.

Advocacy for 2022:

Advocates are asking the state to gather information about transitional kindergarten before it expands further. As a state, we collect a lot about our preschool system, but very little from transitional kindergarten. The Early Learning Action Alliance (ELAA) is asking for funding in the state budget to collect the following information:

  • What early learning curriculum, assessment, teacher credentials and competencies are required?
  • How are children selected and prioritized for enrollment?
  • How are school districts cooperating and communicating with local early learning providers?
  • How are school districts using transitional kindergarten to improve inclusive services to children with disabilities?
  • What family supports, connections and language supports are provided in transitional kindergarten?

You can read the all of the ELAA's legislative agenda here.

If you want to engage on this issue, write or call to your legislators and let them know about the request for a budget proviso for transitional kindergarte.