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International Advisory Council

Jo Ann Simons

Jo Ann Simons has over 35 years of experience in the intellectual and developmental disabilities field. Her progressive initiatives have included closing several sheltered workshops, innovative school to work programs, inclusive community living and currently a large movement from community residences to shared living models.

She was named the CEO of the Northeast Arc in January 2016. The Northeast Arc has an operating budget of $200 million and supports over 8000 individuals.

She was previously the President/CEO of the Cardinal Cushing Centers, Inc. since  2008 and she had brought with her 15 years of leading The Arc of East Middlesex as its Executive Director. In addition, she had been the Deputy Facility Director of the Fernald Developmental Center in Waltham; Director of Policy Initiatives and Acting Director of Family Support Services for the Massachusetts Department of Disability Services; Director of the Community Division of the North Shore Arc; and mother of Jon, an independent young man with Down syndrome.

Jo Ann is known as a champion of providing children and adults with intellectual disabilities with the supports they need to be as independent as possible in the community. Under her leadership at the Cardinal Cushing Centers, Jo Ann set a new strategic initiative to create a community where the majority of people who live there are not identified as having a disability but, where a small percentage of individuals with disabilities live in the same neighborhood. Under this innovative model, singles, couples and families with share retail and recreation spaces with people who may need supports to be as independent as possible.. At The Arc of East Middlesex, she led the way in shifting the organization’s vocational focus from sheltered employment to community job placement; creating a school to work initiative to prepare special education students for the transition from high school to the world of work; expanding residential services to include support for individuals living independently in the community; creating a family-driven Family Resource Center; opening an innovative, award winning Center for Emerging Artists; and crafting integrated Recreation Services with existing community programs.

Jo Ann also serves as the Disability Advisor to the Ruderman Family Foundation. Among other responsibilities, she advised on a disability portfolio that includes innovative employment initiatives in Boston, Miami and Los Angeles and a policy initiative in Washington, DC.

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