FAIRMONT – Nathan Scott, a Fairmont man, has been elected co-chair of the board of directors of The Arc Minnesota. L’Arc is a non-profit organization that works to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, actively supporting them and their families in a life of full inclusion and participation in their communities. .
LeeAnn Erickson, regional director of The Arc Minnesota Southwest, explained that the organization was formed in the 1950s when a family in Minneapolis ran an ad in the newspaper asking parents with a disabled child to meet and chat future options for the child.
“Back then, children or adults couldn’t go to school. There was no work for them. Either you keep them at home or you place them in a public institution. So many people have been told that they have to put their babies in a public institution ”, said Erickson.
Of course, now it is known that people with disabilities can lead fulfilling lives, but Erickson said it wasn’t always like that. She has two adult sons, Ted and Jim, who are disabled. They were diagnosed as toddlers.
After the formation of The Arc, the group took action. The Arc went to the legislature and found funds for education, then received funds for labor services.
“Then they realized that their sons and daughters would need a place to live, so they got funding for shelters.” said Erickson.
She said the Arc has continued and is now working for all the self-advocates they need.
Erickson said they had a pretty good connection to the legislation and while the past two years have been virtual, in the past they have gone to meet with senators and representatives.
“Nathan was always very comfortable talking to them about the issues we are working on”, said Erickson.
She said there is a big personnel crisis right now that needs to be resolved. Many people rely on staff to drive them to work, appointments and activities and when there is no one to do so they have to miss these important events.
“There is also a housing problem at the moment. There is simply not enough housing ”, said Erickson.
One exciting thing that we are currently working on is an inclusive higher education program so that people can go to college after high school.
Erickson said there are a few colleges in Minnesota that offer classes for people with disabilities, and Mankato State University plans to introduce inclusive college education in 2023.
If it is launched, and Erickson is confident it will be, she has said it will be the first fully inclusive program.
Another novelty in recent years is the addition of Scott’s position to the board of directors.
“He is the first disabled person to have had a leading position on the board of directors” Erickson explained.
She said that two years ago a self-advocate said that if the board was to serve people with disabilities, it should have a person with a disability in a leadership role.
Scott is in his second year as co-chair of the board, along with Stan Alleyne.
The board meets once a month in the Twin Cities, although most meetings are virtual at the moment.
“Right now, we are talking about justice and equity and Arc for all” Scott said.
The council recently completed a series of training sessions on diversity, equity, inclusion and justice for people with disabilities.
Part of Scott’s job as co-chair is opening and closing meetings.
“One of the things is to really involve, not to speak up, but to listen. We haven’t always been good at it, but we’re improving a lot ”, said Erickson.
Scott also works through STEP, Inc. at the Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center in Fairmont. He does the laundry and the housework there, earning a competitive salary.