The Arc of Delaware County leads the way with Vantage Point

Walton — In the wake of renewed efforts to improve the treatment of individuals with severe developmental disabilities in New York, The Arc of Delaware County (Delarc) is experiencing a surge of interest in its training initiatives from both government officials and industry professionals.
The focus is primarily on Delarc’s Vantage Point training program, a unique exercise that puts able-bodied individuals into situations where they experience first-hand what it’s like to go through life with a disability.

By the end of the third quarter, more than 70 individuals will have gone through the Vantage Point program, a 44 percent increase over 2011, with the organization on track to reach close to 100 participants for this year alone.

“The increased interest in Vantage Point is testament to the commitment of those in our field who constantly seek ways to improve care for those with developmental disabilities,” said Halcottsville resident George Suess, CEO of Delarc.

“After more than 30 years implementing a philosophy of positive reinforcement without physical intervention, we are eager to have others experience our approach in action and gain insights into how those with disabilities should be served.”

Simulated disabilities
As part of the Vantage Point program, participants are put through a series of exercises that simulate real-life disabilities. Participants are required to negotiate the physical obstacles encountered from a wheelchair; identify individuals and locations while blindfolded to replicate visual impairments; and engage in a variety of mental exercises that challenge memory and other cognitive functions. At the same time, participants interact with Delarc staff who demonstrate their hands-on approach to care and service, which blends proactive support, constant encouragement and positive reinforcement to achieve desired behaviors, without ever resorting to physical intervention or restraints.

Among those participating most recently in Vantage Point is a group of senior staff from the New York State’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

Leading the way was Commissioner Courtney Burke who went through Vantage Point in early August as part of her ongoing commitment to learning about different ways to improve and enhance the quality of service provided to disabled citizens in the state.

“During my experience I observed both constant positive reinforcement and constant check-ins to see how people were doing,” said Commissioner Burke. “I was particularly impressed by the respect and genuine affection shown by Delarc staff to everyone.”

“As the only organization in New York State with a board of director’s policy prohibiting any physical intervention, mechanical or pharmacologist restraints, we are very proud of the successes we’ve witnessed among those in our care as a result of our positive approach,” said Suess.

“We are delighted to have an opportunity to work with state officials and other professionals in our field to share our philosophy and training programs with the ultimate goal of eliminating all instances of abuse among those caring for people with developmental disabilities and improving their quality of service.

For more information about The Arc of Delaware County and its Vantage Point program, please visit