Tool 1: Messaging the Movement

This tool has been designed to help you become comfortable talking about the Included. Supported. Empowered. campaign and some of the issues that often come up in conversations about the campaign.

In This Section

  • Key messages for talking about Included. Supported. Empowered.
  • Key messages for talking about the issues
  • Related resources

The 30-second Elevator Pitch

Included. Supported. Empowered. is a bold, three-year storytelling initiative designed to celebrate the successes of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and to highlight the integral role providers play in bringing those successes to fruition. Join us at, because we all have a stake in building opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The Problem

Nearly 5 million people in our country have an intellectual or developmental disability—from Down syndrome to Autism and a range of others.

Too often, they are undervalued, their abilities overlooked. These are people who enrich the diversity of our communities, our workplaces and our neighborhoods. But the contributions they make go unnoticed, and too often, their potential is unrecognized.

Like all of us, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or I/DD, need the support of others to live life to the fullest. But too often, these support networks remain just as invisible as the people whose lives they impact day in and day out. The skill, commitment and hard work of supporting people with I/DD all too often remains in the shadows.

The Solution

The ANCOR Foundation launched an ambitious multimedia effort—known as Included. Supported. Empowered.—to spotlight the everyday work of professionals who make it possible for people of ALL abilities to thrive as individuals and as active, valued, contributing members of our communities.

Included. Supported. Empowered. showcases successes of people with I/DD, how policies and programs make success possible, how philanthropy enhances these efforts, and how employers and communities provide vital partnerships and opportunities. These are the untold stories of your neighbors, relatives and colleagues.

In conversations about Included. Supported. Empowered., you’ll inevitably encounter a range of related issues that the people you’re talking with won’t necessarily understand. The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert in any of these issues to help people understand how they relate to the campaign. Below are some of the most commonly encountered issues, along with a few bullet points on each to help you understand and talk about them as they relate to Included. Supported. Empowered.


When we talk about “providers”—sometimes referred to as “community providers,” “service providers” or “I/DD providers”—we’re referring to the agencies that provider supports and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Providers are often community-based, nonprofit organizations, but some are for-profit and others are public entities (i.e., they are operated and/or funded by state or local government agencies).

    • Providers are integral to the success of people with I/DD. They support the individuals with some of the most basic facets of everyday living, such as food and nutrition, health and hygiene, and more.
    • But they’re so much more than that—providers help people navigate their communities. They help people find jobs and build the skills needed to be successful in the workplace. They help people be civically engaged, by supporting everything from finding a church to join to getting folks to the polls on election day. They help people navigate public transit, negotiate the banking system, stay connected with friends and family, participate in cultural events and so much more.
    • Providers are constantly being forced to do more with fewer resources, both in terms of financial resources and human capital. A shortage of Direct Support Professionals and continual threats to Medicaid funding (see more on both issues below) make it nearly impossible for provider agencies to fully meet the needs of all of the people who rely on the supports and services these agencies provide. Therefore, providers deserve our investment.

Direct Support Professionals

    • Often referred to as “DSPs,” Direct Support Professionals are employed by providers and are the ones on the frontlines, carrying out all of the vital roles providers play in making success possible. If we were to liken a provider agency to a school, the DSPs would be the teachers; while a school employs a range of professionals who are critical to the education being delivered, it’s the teachers who are in the classroom with the students, day in and day out. When it comes to the supports and services on which people with I/DD rely, DSPs are the teachers.
    • Unfortunately, the DSP workforce is in crisis. The national turnover rate among these professionals is 45%, meaning that nearly half of all DSPs leave their positions within a year of starting. The result is a high level of instability in the lives of people with I/DD—a population that often relies on a high level of consistency.
    • In part, the DSP turnover rate is high because the job requires a high level of professionalization and long hours, but often offers low wages and few benefits. In most cases, this isn’t because provider agencies don’t want to offer better working conditions for DSPs; rather, providers are limited by state and federal Medicaid laws. Thus, it’s not only difficult to retain quality DSPs, but it’s challenging to attract qualified workers to the profession, too.


    • The vast majority of providers’ funding comes from Medicaid. Although most people understand at a general level that Medicaid provides vital health care services to low-income people and those with disabilities, many people do not realize that Medicaid also funds the range of supports and services beyond health care on which people with I/DD rely.
    • Many people also don’t realize that Medicaid is a partnership between state and federal governments—when states invest their own money in Medicaid funding, the federal government matches that investment with its funding. As a result, where a person lives can have a huge impact on their ability to access services. States that adequately invest in Medicaid tend to have fewer people on waiting lists to receive services, and the services provided tend to be higher in quality.
      • On the flip side, states that fail to invest in Medicaid tend to see lower DSP wages (and thus higher turnover), longer waiting lists and poorer outcomes for the individuals served. In some states, legislatures have erected barriers to providers’ ability to access Medicaid funding, such as by imposing requirements that Medicaid recipients work, despite the fact that the vast majority either already have a job or are prevented by their disability from having a job. Complicating this challenge is that in recent years, the federal government has threatened to reduce or eliminate federal Medicaid funding, and has erected barriers of its own.


    • Campaign One-Pager: This easy-to-use handout is perfect for sharing, either in hard copy or electronically, a high-level overview of the campaign with your audiences.
    • PowerPoint Slides: Incorporate these slides into the presentations you give to encourage your audiences to join the Included. Supported. Empowered. campaign. (Download in PowerPoint | Download as PDF)
    • White Paper on the DSP Workforce Crisis: Published by ANCOR in 2017, this publication is the go-to resource if you’re interested in data and policy recommendations for solving the DSP workforce crisis.

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