The Arc Announces 2017 Recipients of the Prestigious Catalyst Awards

Apple, Speechless, 20th Century Fox Television, ABC, and Others to be Honored for Work to Promote Rights of People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Washington, DC, Nov. 02, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On November 3, The Arc will present the prestigious Catalyst Awards to five honorees, all of whom have made extraordinary contributions in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). This year’s winners hail from a wide swath of our society, including one of the most admired companies in the world, the cast of a hit television show, the self-advocate behind Olmstead v. LC and EW, legislators from the states of Indiana and New York, as well as one of our nation’s most prestigious law firms, all breaking ground in how society perceives people with disabilities.

“The Catalyst Awards allow us to honor those who are not traditionally recognized within the disability community for their unique and meaningful contributions to our movement. Our award winners are change agents in their respective fields, yet unified by their extraordinary work to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“The diversity of the work being recognized is a shining example of how inclusion knows no bounds. Our hope is by honoring these catalysts for change, we inspire others,” said Peter Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc.   

During the third year of this signature event, awards will be presented in five categories. A full list of the accomplishments being honored can be found on The Arc’s Catalyst Awards website.

  • Corporate Advocate of the YearApple was the first technology company to build accessibility features into all its products, including introducing the world’s first touchscreen accessible for the blind and the first accessible consumer wearable with Apple Watch. This commitment continues today as iOS devices such as iPhone and iPad have become the world’s most powerful assistive tools, designed to empower the lives of people who are nonverbal as well as people of all backgrounds – including blind or low-vision users, the deaf and hard of hearing, and those with physical and motor challenges.
  • Self-Advocate of the Year - Recognized nationally as the face of Olmstead v. LC and EW, Lois Curtis is the powerful advocate behind the 1999 landmark Supreme Court decision securing the rights of people with disabilities to live in their community rather than in institutions.
  • Television Show of the Year – Honorees: Speechless, Scott Silveri, 20th Century Fox Television, ABC, and the lead cast of the show. Since its debut in September 2016, ABC’s hit television series Speechless has been hailed by television critics and disability rights advocates alike as being one of the most important shows on television.  The primetime hit brings the lives and experiences of individuals with I/DD and their families to a whole new audience with honesty and humor.  
  • Legal Advocate of the Year – In recognition of its ongoing commitment to representing capital defendants with intellectual disability, The Arc is honoring the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom, LLP.
  • Public Policy Victory of the Year –  Honorees: Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (NY), Senator Robert G. Ortt (NY), Representative Tim Brown (IN), and Senator Luke Kenley (IN). Nationally, the shortage of direct support professionals is a priority initiative of The Arc.  In 2016, The Arc of Indiana and The Arc of New York collaborated with their state legislatures and successfully advocated for increased salaries for direct support professionals in their states. Victories like these are not possible without the tireless support of elected officials like those being honored.


Comcast NBCUniversal is The Arc’s National Media Sponsor and lead sponsor of the Catalyst Awards.

“Comcast NBCUniversal joins The Arc in recognizing the Catalyst honorees for giving a voice to, and advocating for, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We share their commitment in promoting inclusiveness for people of all abilities,” said Fred Maahs, Senior Director of National Partnerships for Comcast NBCUniversal.

All nominations were reviewed by a formal selection committee comprised of members of The Arc’s National Staff, members of The Arc’s Board of Directors, prior Catalyst Award Winners, National Conference of Executives of The Arc members, representatives from “Catalyst Level Sponsors” of this national event, and Peter Berns, Chief Executive Officer of The Arc, serves as the Chair of the Catalyst Awards Selection Committee. Criteria for selection can be found on The Catalyst Awards Website.   

The Arc advocates for and serves people with I/DD, including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of more than 650 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.


A photo accompanying this announcement is available at


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