Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is The Arc?

A: The Arc is the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through approximately 700 state and local chapters across the nation. The Arc is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Arc’s vision is that every individual and family affected by intellectual disability in the United States has access to the information, advocacy, and skills they need to participate as active citizens of our democracy and active members of their community. We work to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families have the supports they need to live an ordinary American life:

  • People with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families are valued, respected and included in all communities.
  • People with intellectual and developmental disabilities direct their own lives. People choose their services and supports from many available sources.
  • People are empowered through nonprofit advocacy. State and federal governments administer programs and set budgets that meet everyone’s needs.
  • The Arc is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization governed by a volunteer board of directors.

Q: What does The Arc stand for?

A: Throughout its history, The Arc’s name has seen many changes:

  • 1950: Founded as the National Association of Parents and Friends of Mentally Retarded Children
  • 1952: The name was changed to the National Association for Retarded Children (NARC).
  • 1974: The name was changed to the National Association for Retarded Citizens.
  • 1980: The name was changed to Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States.
  • 1991: The name was changed to “The Arc,” For the first time, the word ‘retarded’ was removed from the name.

Q: When and how was The Arc founded?

The first meeting of the organization was held September 28, 1950. The thoughts of the group were expressed in these words by Alan Sampson: “To me, this is a thrilling and auspicious occasion; another milestone carved from travail and tears, and indomitable purpose in the progress against intolerance, for understanding.”

The founders of the Association adopted these eight purposes:

  1. To promote the general welfare of mentally retarded individuals.
  2. To further the advancement of research and therapy.
  3. To develop a better understanding.
  4. To further education and training of professionals.
  5. To encourage membership, aid parents and coordinate activities.
  6. To encourage and implement legislation.
  7. To gather and disseminate information and to develop integrated programs for retarded people.
  8. To solicit funds.

Twenty local units ratified the constitution February 6, 1951 and the organization came into formal existence.

Q: How many members does The Arc have?

A: The Arc has over 140,000 members.

Q: How many chapters does The Arc have?

A: The Arc has approximately 700 local and state chapters.

Q: Where can I get services locally?

A: Find your state or local chapter here.

Q: What are my rights?

A: See the Department of Justice's A Guide to Disability Rights Laws.

Q: What's The Arc's position on...?

A: The Arc takes position of a various of issues that directly affect people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families:

Quality of Life

Rights:

Life in the Community:

Systems:

Q: How Do I join The Arc?

A: There are several ways you can become a part of The Arc. Become a member of The Arc of the United States; find your local chapter; or get involved in a variety of ways.

Q: How can I stay up-to-date with The Arc?

A: There are several ways you can receive information about The Arc's happenings:

Woman with books