Our History

When The Arc of the Capital Area was founded in 1949 little was known about intellectual disability (then referred to as ‘mental retardation’) and developmental disability, or its causes. Parents of a child with an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD) were regularly told their best option was to place their child in an institution. There were virtually no programs and activities to assist in the development and care of people with I/DD or to support families.

Our founding parents of children with I/DD wanted more and knew that their children deserved the opportunity to remain in the community, attend public school, and access the resources and opportunities that were available to other children. Hence, The Arc of the Capital Area was born. Since then, our organization has worked in the community to provide Central Texans with I/DD necessary supports so they have the same opportunities as people without disabilities to pursue full, productive, and healthy lives.

The programs we offer have changed over the decades of service as the priority needs of the community of Central Texans with I/DD have shifted. Our current programs support youth from school age through adulthood, with several programs that emphasize the supports needed during major life transitions—such as transitioning from public school-based supports to the community-based supports required in adulthood and the transition into the competitive workplace.

Texas has the second largest number of individuals with disabilities of all the states yet ranks 49th in the nation for funding services, despite having the 12th largest economy in the world. As of June 2019, there were 280,242 people on wait lists for services in Texas with an average wait time of 15 years.

Despite the progress that has been made the state of Texas still prioritizes funding for state-supported institutions over community-based services for developmentally disabled citizens and currently has 13 active institutions. We are committed to creating a future in which people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have the same opportunities as other to pursue full and productive lives.



Changing With the Times

Words matter. Over time, as the words ‘retardation’ and ‘retarded’ became pejorative, derogatory, and demeaning in usage, the organization evolved its terminology to reflect the desires of people with disabilities, and changed its name to ‘The Arc’. While the term still appears occasionally, it has largely been replaced and usage of ‘intellectual disability’ and ‘developmental disability’ continues to spread.

We are doing everything in our power to make sure they’re adopted more broadly and strongly believe the only ‘r-word’ that should be used when referring to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is respect.

Name History
1953 – 1973: The Association for Retarded Children of Austin (ARC)
1973 – 1981: The Association for Retarded Citizens of Austin (ARC)
1981 – 1992: Association for Retarded Citizens of Austin (ARC)
1992 – Present: The Arc of the Capital Area (The Arc)