About ten years ago, people in the disability movement started brainstorming the beginnings of what became the Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or ABLE Act. Yet, it wasn’t until the final days of 2014 that Congress passed and President Obama signed the ABLE Act. State legislatures around the country quickly began drafting their own versions of the act so that accounts could be established. Concurrently, a number of federal agencies began issuing guidance on how the law will be implemented.

The Arc congratulates Nebraska on launching the Enable Savings Plan, among the first national ABLE plans to launch. Enable and other state ABLE programs provide a new and powerful tool for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families to create bright financial futures.

Building assets is an important part of planning for the future for all families. In 2014, The Arc of the United States launched the Center for Future PlanningTM to encourage and support adults with I/DD and their families to create comprehensive future plans.

There are an estimated 600,000 – 700,000 families in the United States where an adult with I/DD is living with aging family members and there is no plan for the individual’s future. Having a plan is important especially after the parent or caregiver can no longer provide support. The Arc recognized that too many people are facing the next chapter in their lives without a plan and is working to provide help to families and people with disabilities trying to create that roadmap.

The Center’s website provides reliable information and assistance to individuals with I/DD, their family members and friends, staff at chapters of The Arc, and other disability professionals on:
person-centered planning
supported decision-making and guardianship
housing options
financial planning (including public benefits, special needs trusts, and ABLE accounts)
employment and daily activities
making social connections
providing information if an urgent need arises

In addition, the Center’s website features stories of people and families who have created future plans or who are in the planning process. These stories are meant to provide support to people so they can get ideas about what to include in a plan or in some cases modify an existing plan. The Center also offers webinars to families, individuals with I/DD, staff at chapters of The Arc, and other professionals who support people with I/DD to help them learn about different aspects of the future planning process.

Finally, The Arc recently debuted two new tools to help families plan more effectively. The first new resource is Build Your PlanTM an online tool that enables families to create accounts and begin to build their plans within the Center for Future PlanningTM. Check out the demonstration webinar to learn more about how to navigate Build Your Plan and encourage families to begin creating plans. The second new resource is the Professional Services Directory, where families can find professionals in their communities to help them create and implement their future plans. If you’re a professional who wants to be listed in the directory, please visit https://futureplanning.thearc.org/pages/join-the-professional-services-directory. Planning ahead can be difficult, but it’s possible and necessary.

-Robin Shaffert, Senior Executive Officer, Individual & Family Support, The Arc and Liz Mahar, Program Manager, Individual & Family Support, The Arc