Four Chosen out of 100 Submissions from around the USA and the Globe
Northeast Arc announced the winners of the third year of “The Arc Tank” competition, “The Arc Tank 3.0,” which was created to positively disrupt conventional methods of providing services to persons with disabilities. The winners were selected by a panel of judges who heard their pitches at an event held Nov. 19 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, a partner in the initiative.
Chosen from nearly 100 submissions, the winning proposals received awards from the Changing Lives Fund established through a $1 million donation from Steven P. Rosenthal, founder of West Shore, LLC. In addition, this year’s competition was in partnership with the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation.
“The Arc Tank has now awarded $650,000 to proposals that promise to break down barriers for people with disabilities who are too often marginalized, not included as equal participants in everyday life, and prevented from taking advantage of opportunities,” said Jo Ann Simons, CEO of Northeast Arc. “Our four new Arc Tank winners will be soon on their way to disrupting the status quo and making significant changes for the better for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. We cannot thank Steve Rosenthal enough for the generosity and creativity that have made these awards possible.”
The winners are:
- AutismWorks ($45,000) – Developing Talent of the Future, Technical Certification and Computer Programming Training – Submitted by Interactive Media Institute of San Diego, CA
- BEAT Rockers App ($50,000)– Speech Practice Mobile App for Children with Speech and Development Disability – Submitted by Bridging Education and Art Together of Long Island, NY
- Creating Opportunities Through Entrepreneurial Ecosystems ($75,000) – Submitted by Celebrate EDU of Boulder, CO
- 4- A Club: Autism, Aging, Alexa, Access ($80,000) – Submitted by New England Yachad of Brookline MA
- Fan Favorite chosen by the Arc Tank audience: L.A. Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities – Submitted by RespectAbility of LA and Rockville, MD
Each of the 2019 Arc Tank 3.0 winners addresses a crucial challenge currently facing the disability community.
AutismWorks: 90% of adults with ASD are unemployed or underemployed. 53% of autistic young adults never work during their early 20s and only 36% participate in postsecondary education or training between high school and their early 20s. Interactive Media Institute (IMI) and the National Foundation for Autism Research (NFAR) are partnering to deliver innovative vocational readiness training to autistic individuals. Autism Works (AW), combines technical certification in virtual reality (VR) development and computer programming with soft skills training to help autistic young adults find gainful employment. AW also offers informal STEM engagement workshops. The goal of this project is to help autistic young adults enter the workforce and certify the AW program for widescale dissemination.
BEAT Global: BEAT Global will develop a mobile app that can make speech practice more fun for almost 6 million children ages 3-17 (1 in 12), who have speech and developmental disability and are unresponsive to traditional therapy. After10 years of teaching Beatboxing to almost 900 students with disabilities, BEAT Global has unlocked how to make speech therapy fun through Beatboxing. They have noticed improvements in vocalization, articulation, expressiveness, and many other speech-related delays.
Creating Opportunities Through Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: In the US, 85% of adults with developmental disabilities are unemployed and employment options are limited and antiquated. The long-standing philosophy is to secure any low-level job rather than finding opportunities best-suited for the person. The proposal rejects the notion that a person with a disability is only capable of an entry-level, minimum wage job. The proposal states that every person has unique skills and talents and that they should be provided the opportunity to turn them into a meaningful life. Through this project, they will empower communities to implement programming that allows those with disabilities to design their own future through entrepreneurship training and skill development. Ultimately, creating forward-thinking communities that are empowered by possibilities of entrepreneurship.
4-A Club: Autism, Aging, Alexa, Access: Technology can bridge the gap between isolation and feeling connected for older adults with autism. However, they are being left behind from technological advancements because of a lack of education, accessibility, and ongoing assistance. The 4-A Club: Autism, Aging, Alexa, Access breaks this cycle by providing access to social connection, home automation, and entertainment. Without adaptation, the device can be used by highly and moderately verbal participants, but potentially excludes users who have low or no vocal audio output. The 4-A Club will partner the Alexa technology with low-tech recordable push buttons, or voice output smart device apps, such as Voice Recorder or Voice Memos, to provide access for everyone.
Over the past three years, approximately 300 proposals were submitted from across the globe and throughout the U.S. by an array of inventors, engineers, human service providers, parents, college students, and persons with disabilities. Northeast Arc is a human services organization that annually serves 20,000 children and adults from 190 Massachusetts cities and towns who have a broad range of disabilities including intellectual disabilities and autism.
The Arc Tank’s previous winners have already achieved significant results. Since 2017, 64 children with autism have learned how to swim, first responders from six states have been trained on special needs response, 30 people have been supported with alternative forms of guardianship, and virtual reality technology is being developed to help people with autism execute everyday activities including riding a public bus, traversing city streets and navigating air travel.
“We are now seeing real results from the Arc Tank that are truly changing lives for the better for the disability community,” said Steven P. Rosenthal. “The goal of the Changing Lives Fund is to encourage the kind of creative disruption and innovation that drives entrepreneurship to help persons with intellectual disabilities and autism. With these new winning proposals, we look forward to even more positive changes for years to come.”
Other proposals that did not make it to the final round but have worthy ideas went into “The Holding Tank,” where they will have the opportunity to be reviewed by other funders.
- Matthew Kennedy, Founder, Kennedy Merchant Partners
- Ralph James, Entrepreneur, higher education administrator and philanthropist
- Shirley Leung, Business columnist, Boston Globe
- Quincy Miller, President, Eastern Bank
- Matthew Millett, Security Officer II, MA Dept. of Youth Services
- Marylou Sudders, MA Secretary of Health and Human Services
Judges received support from David Chang, an entrepreneur, active angel investor and CEO of Gradifi, and from Margaret Ake, moderator of Harvard Business Publishing. Master of Ceremonies for the event was Phil Lipof, NBC10 Boston news anchor.