A family-based organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities


Like all people, individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities have inherent sexual feelings, need and identities which must be affirmed, defended and respected.  Sexuality should be acknowledged as part of the total context of human relationships.  Informed consent in sexual expression protects the rights and dignity of the individual.  The presence of intellectual and other developmental disabilities regardless of severity, must not in itself, deny a person his or her right to sexual expression, justify involuntary sterilization or cause denial of sterilization to those who choose it for themselves.

It is The Arc New York’s position that:

  • We understand and believe that disability has nothing to do with our ability to love and be loved.  We are all capable of loving relationships 
  • The presence of an intellectual or developmental disability, regardless of severity, does not, in itself, justify loss of rights related to sexuality. Every person has the right to exercise choices regarding sexual expression and social relationships. Informed consent in sexual expression protects the rights and dignity of the person. 
  • With respect to sexuality, individuals have a right to:
    • Sexual expression of his/her choosing.
    • Individualized education and information to encourage informed decision-making. Education may include issues such as reproduction, marriage and family life, abstinence, safe sexual practices, sexual orientation, sexual abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases. The education may be reflective of the person’s cultural, religious and moral values and of social responsibility.
    • Protection from sexual harassment and from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. 
  • All people have the right within interpersonal relationships to:
    • Develop friendships and emotional and sexual relationships where they can love and be loved, and begin and end a relationship as they choose.
    • Dignity and respect.
    • Privacy, confidentiality, and freedom of association. 
  • With respect to the potential for having and raising children, individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities have the right to:
    • Education and information about having and raising children that is individualized to reflect each person’s unique ability to understand.
    • Make their own decisions related to having and raising children with supports as necessary.
    • Make their own decisions related to using birth control methods within the context of their personal or religious beliefs.
    • Have control over their own bodies.
    • Be protected from sterilization solely because of their disability.
Adopted by The Arc of the United States, August 4, 2008.
Adopted October 23, 2009 at the NYSARC, Inc. Delegate Assembly.
Adopted with Amendments October 19, 2012 at NYSARC, Inc. Delegate Assembly
Adopted with Amendments October 22, 2016 at NYSARC, Inc. Delegate Assembly