Our History

The Arc Oregon has a rich history of working to improve the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families.

Since our incorporation on August 24, 1954, we have actively and successfully advocated for changes in public opinion and legislative action, collaborated with state agencies and other organizations, and led important litigation to further the rights of Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Our Name

Changing With The Times

As an organization we have been sensitive to the impact of terminology on our constituency and have adapted accordingly. As the words ‘retardation’ and ‘retarded’ became pejorative, derogatory and demeaning in usage, the national organization and its affiliates changed their name to ‘The Arc.’

‘The Arc’ Name

  • The Arc no longer uses any acronyms or all CAPS related to its name
  • The Arc is used as a whole phrase – rather than just “Arc” or “Arc Chapters”, we say “The Arc” or “Chapters of The Arc”

We strongly believe the only ‘r-word’ that should be used when referring to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is “Respect.”

The History of Our Name

  • 1954-1973: Oregon Association for Retarded Children
  • 1973-1979: Oregon Association for Retarded Citizens
  • 1979-1992: Association for Retarded Citizens of Oregon
  • 1992 to Present: The Arc of Oregon

Established in 1954 as The Oregon Association for Retarded Children.

Played a key role in advocating for implementation of the Governor’s Committee on Mental Retardation recommendations. 

Advocated for the expansion of teaching and research in the education of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the national level, resulting in most of the early childhood education programs in Oregon being started by local chapters of The Arc and held in church basements or other rented or borrowed spaces.



The Arc Oregon played a key role in the development of classes and public funding for “TMR” (Trainable Mentally Retarded) students. University Affiliated Centers were located at the University of Oregon and the Oregon Health Sciences Center.

The Arc began offering camping experiences at Camp Civitan on the Santiam River and several members of The Arc assisted in the development of the publication, The Rational and Proposal for Services to the Mentally Retarded in Oregon.

This decade was significant for big changes in legislation as a result of the efforts of The Arc. Some of this legislation had major impacts on:

  • Free public school education for ALL children in Oregon
  • State funding of community case management, preschools, activity centers, group homes, and other related services
  • Parent’s financial responsibility for children residing in an institution
  • Strengthening due process procedures for parents by defining responsibility and requiring Surrogate Parents when needed
  • Commitment statutes and assuring review of each individual’s program plan

In addition, The Arc Oregon:

  • Changed its name to The Oregon Association for Retarded Citizens;
  • Supported the founding of People First of Oregon;
  • Began to coordinate the Socio-Legal Task Force in partnership with the Epilepsy Association and the United Cerebral Palsy organization;
  • Established Oregon’s statewide Citizen’s Advocacy Program;
  • Used an award of the Governor’s Discretionary funds to start the EMR Project (Extending Methods of Rehabilitation);
  • Founded the Guardianship, Advocacy, and Protective Services (GAPS) program.



Our Bingo operation in Eugene was opened as a major source of funding for The Arc programs and services.

We co-sponsored the Parent Graduation Alliance to assist individuals and families in transitioning from school to work, entered into two lawsuits against the State of Oregon regarding the care, treatment and training of residents at Fairview Training Center, and continued in our advocacy efforts for more important legislation to address issues such as:

  • Mandatory early intervention and preschool services
  • Protective measures in sterilization statutes
  • Requirement of seat belts for all children under the age of five
  • Prohibiting restrictive and discriminatory zoning against residential programs serving five or fewer people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in any residential area
  • Setting statutory conditions for guardianship
  • Requiring the Mental Health and Developmental Disability Services Division to evaluate all of its programs for integration, productivity and independence in the lives of the people it serves
  • Planning for family support services 
  • The continued downsizing of state operated training centers and the development of community services for people coming out of state operated training centers and those on the Wait List
  • Giving students in Special Education in Oregon the right to stay in school throughout the year in which they turn 21
  • Clarifying the mandate for services on Wait Lists and establishing the mandate to provide high school transition services for those graduating from public schools.

As strong advocates for the closure of Fairview and its associated service centers, The Arc Oregon contracted with the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Services Division to develop and implement a citizen-monitoring program called Advocates Involved in Monitoring (Project AIM). Project AIM provided citizen monitoring of residential services for people coming out of Fairview and Eastern Oregon Training Centers into Oregon communities.

In recognition of the stigma felt by self-advocates regarding the term “retarded”, the organization (known at that time as The Association for Retarded Citizens), changed its name to The Arc, removing the term “retarded” from the name.

The Arc Oregon continued its collaborative partnership efforts, resulting in The Community Partnerships Project, the Autism Collaborative Training Project, and Partners in Policy Making classes.

We expanded our GAPS program in 1993 by contracting with the State of Oregon for services in the Portland Metro areas.

Through a grant from Meyer Memorial Trust, we launched the Oregon Special Needs Trust (OSNT) program in 1999.



The Arc Oregon became the lead organizational plaintiff in the landmark class action lawsuit, Staley vs. Kitzhaber, representing over 3000 Oregonians with developmental disabilities, and remained a key player in the implementation of the terms of the Staley Settlement and a key negotiator in maintaining the funding despite severe budget cuts.

Our collaborative efforts resulted in:

  • the closure of the Fairview Training Centers;
  • the establishment of an upscale resale store to raise funds for local chapters, and;
  • brokerage training for Self-Directed Support Services.

A grant from the Walmart Foundation helped us launch Project Employ and development of our Person Centered Planning program.

In partnership with the Oregon Developmental Disabilities Coalition (ODDC), the Grassroots Oregon (GO!) Project is launched to identify areas of concern, organize legislative advocacy efforts, and offer educational opportunities for people with disabilities, their families, and others. The Arc Oregon manages the GO! Project through 2013

Oregon chapters of The Arc held annual state conventions in Josephine, Lane, Benton, Hood River, and Umatilla counties.

In 2007, The Arc Oregon established and lead the steering committee for the Oregon Disability MegaConference, a collaborative cross-disability conference, held annually from 2008 to 2013.

The ABC Behavior Supports project is launched.

The Arc Oregon partners with Oregon Resource Association and GALT Foundation to create the Collaborative Outcomes Building as a shared resource for disability-related nonprofit organizations.

The Think College work group convenes to discuss and plan for changes in the Oregon education system(s) to encourage and increase opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to attend college.

Programs offered at The Arc Oregon hit major milestones:

The Arc Oregon and the Oregon Technical Assistance Corporation, aka Oregon Training and Consultation (OTAC) merge and OTAC becomes the third major program for The Arc Oregon. Through the OTAC program, The Arc Oregon provides all Oregon Individual Support Plan training and mentorship across the state, and begins offering Employer Resource Connection training and consultation services in Eastern Oregon through a contract with the Oregon Home Care Commission.

Through grants from The Arc US, we:
  • conduct a focus group of parents, siblings, professionals, and people who experience I/DD and co-occurring Mental Health diagnoses to identify challenges and express ideas for future improvements in the current system.
  • launch a Financial Literacy 101 educational series to help families who support children with disabilities effectively manage their finances and plan for a stable financial future.
Celebrated our 65th anniversary with the return of our State Convention.


2020 & Beyond

The strength of our organization is in our grassroots membership throughout Oregon. In partnership with our local chaptersThe Arc US, other disability organizations, and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, The Arc Oregon looks forward to many more years of advocating with and for Oregonians with I/DD.

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