A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Advancing Equality: Point Arc of NKY embraces disability rights and race equity; become antiracist

By Jennifer Wells
Point Arc Zembrodt Education Center

Part of a series by NKY’s nonprofits who stand together against racism and any acts that dehumanize people.

The Point Arc of Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati was formed in 1972. Today, The Point is a full-service agency whose mission is to provide opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to help them reach their highest potential educationally, residentially, socially and vocationally. Our programs include support in the areas of education, independent living, social skills, and career goals. We also provide community-based residential housing, respite care, advocacy, person-centered planning, case management, and community outreach. In 2020, The Point opened the Dr. Anthony and Geraldine Zembrodt Education Center. An extension of the Point Arc, the center strives to increase growth and support for individuals and families in the region.

The Point’s beginnings centered on a group of parents who were advocating for the rights of their students with disabilities to receive an education. In 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created, requiring public schools to provide all eligible children with disabilities a free public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs (ADA, 2020). The Point continued to expand support and services as the country eventually made its way to The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was signed into law on July 26, 1990 and is one of our most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. It states:

The ADA prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life — to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in State and local government programs and services. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin – and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 — the ADA is an “equal opportunity” law for people with disabilities. (ADA, 2020)

The Point is a chapter of the The Arc, and we also follow the national mission, which is “to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.” In June of 2020, The Arc released a call to action to dismantle racism, end discrimination, and to honor, protect, and enforce the civil and human rights of all people. Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc wrote:

The ongoing violence and police brutality against Black and Brown people in our country is unacceptable. We stand in solidarity with every person and community that is appalled by the homicide of George Floyd, and so many others before him. We stand in solidarity too with those who are taking action against the systemic racism that underlies this behavior. Racist attitudes and behavior should have no place in America.

Tragically, the historical and everyday reality is that the lives and humanity of people of color, and members of other marginalized communities, are too often not valued and respected. The Arc renews its own commitment to social justice and the dismantling of the systems of oppression and discrimination that further this violence and neglect.

Within our field of work, we know that disability rights and racial equity are woven together. For example (Arc 2020):

• Labor force participation is lower for Black people with disabilities (17.7%) compared to those who are white (21%)
• Black students with disabilities lose more days of instruction from school suspension (121 days/100 students), compared to white students with disabilities (43 days/100 students)
• 25% of Black students with disabilities never graduate high school, compared to 16% of non-Hispanic white students
• The cumulative probability of arrest by age 28 is 55.17 for Black individuals with disabilities, compared to 39.7 for white individuals with disabilities

Click image to order from Amazon

Many racial disparities exist in the disability community, and defending the rights of people with disabilities against hate and discrimination in all of its forms is important. The death of George Floyd and others presented us with a choice about if and how we would respond personally and professionally. In our case, the line between personal and professional was removed. We recognized that in order to create real change we would have to learn, grow, and be willing to step into uncomfortable conversations about racism in all of our roles as human beings. As a team, we made a commitment to do this for our community, students, and those we know and don’t know who have to deal with racism on a daily basis.

Internally, we have chosen to learn more about the history of racism within our country. We began by choosing to read Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist. Early on, we knew we needed to stop saying we weren’t racist and instead, learn to talk about the way in which we all move between racism and antiracism on a daily basis. The more we read, the more we notice our own biases, racist thoughts, and racist actions from childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. We are also learning how to identify the racist policies that are at play and the antiracist actions that are needed. We recognize that we all swim in the waters of racism regardless of the color of our skin.

Dr. Kendi makes the case that being antiracist means standing against all forms of bigotry. As we continue to learn and talk about racism, we have become better at creating change through antiracist thoughts and actions. This effort is beneficial for our work with people with disabilities and has deepened conversations about discrimination in all areas. Specifically, we are making an effort to identify issues for students with disabilities who have been marginalized because of racist policies. We’ve noticed a lack of diversity when it comes to program participation and are working with schools, other local organizations, state agencies, and businesses to address barriers to employment, education, and social opportunities.

In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi writes, “One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist.” We understand it is not good enough to say we are not racist. Our hope for our community is that more and more people will begin to take steps needed to better understand the history of our country, systemic racism, the way in which racist policies cause harm, and how to respond to all of this as an antiracist. Finally, we hope that people will learn to view all humans as if they are a brother or sister, caring about each person enough to listen to their experiences of racism and making individual and collective changes needed to dismantle it.

Suggested Resources


How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown


Jennifer Wells

• Race: The Power of an Illusion (2003 documentary)
• 13th (2016 documentary)


1619 (Nikole Hannah-Jones)

Training and Education

Groundwater (Racial Equity Institute)

Jennifer Wells is vice president, The Point Arc’s Zembrodt Education Center.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment