On a cold January morning in 1972, Asian Rehabilitation Services (ARS) opened their doors with just 12 clients from House of Happiness, a board and care facility run by Ray and Iris Chee. From our humble origins, literally beginning with borrowed chairs and tables from the Oriental Services Center (OSC) in an old church basement in Little Tokyo, ARS has today grown into an agency that uniquely and actively supports Asians with developmental challenges or disabilities, in the areas of personal adjustments, job development and work environment while keeping the parents of each individual involved and updated on their adult children’s progress.
After a few years in the OSC basement on 12th and Flower Street in Los Angeles, under the direction of Sachio Kano and Seigo Hayashi, in 1975 OSC officially became Asian Rehabilitation Service, Inc. (ARS) and established itself as a nonprofit organization with the State of California.
Sachio Kano, a Japanese speaking social service worker, had found that individuals of Asian descent who did not speak English were being neglected by the system of government rehabilitation services. Thus, ARS was established to address the needs of developmentally challenged individuals of Asian ethnicity. During those early years, Kano was the catalyst in finding work for ARS clients packaging bags of screws and nuts for auto accessories.
Seigo Hayashi joined Kano that same year and, armed with his Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling, began researching State laws and completed forms required to ensure their Sheltered Workshops were legal. Joe Abella was hired as OSC’s Director and Helen Young headed the adjunct Council of Oriental Organization.
The original OSC provided job services so individuals with special needs could enhance their lives with meaningful work and pride in becoming selfsufficient. Additionally, the organization addressed the stigma placed on individuals with disabilities within the Asian communities. OSC forcefully confronted the cultural and traditional attitudes displayed by both the disabled individual’s families and the greater Asian communities.
In 1975, OSC officially became Asian Rehabilitation Service, Inc. (ARS) and established itself as a nonprofit organization with the State of California.
In 1998, ARS initiated its very first Supported Employment Program (SEP) enclave with Jordana Cosmetics, Inc. The success of this enclave quickly led to another with Milani Cosmetics, an affiliate of Jordana.
ARS clients continue to receive high marks for their work performance and today we have Jordana, Milani and a few other enclaves, depending on the number of clients training at the U.S. Courthouse under the NISH program. ARS looks forward to expanding our SEP programs in the future.
The Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act (AB 846), also known as the Lanterman Act, is a California law, initially proposed by Assembly member Frank D. Lanterman in 1973 and passed in 1977, that gives people with developmental disabilities the right to services and supports that enable them to live a more independent and normal life. The legislation significantly expanded upon its landmark predecessor, the 1969 Lanterman Mental Retardation Services Act (AB 225) which extended the state’s existing regional center network of services for the developmentally disabled, while mandating provision of services and supports that met both the needs and the choices of each individual.
The 1977 Lanterman Act declared that persons with developmental disabilities have the same legal rights and responsibilities guaranteed all other persons by federal and state constitutions and laws, and charges the regional center with advocacy for, and protection of, these rights.
ARS works with several regional centers in Southern California. (There are 21 regional centers in the State of California.) These agencies provide assistance and services to clients who are developmentally challenged and their families. In addition to persons with mental retardation, the regional centers are now mandated to serve persons with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, conditions similar to mental retardation, or conditions that require treatment similar to the treatment required for individuals with mental retardation.
Although their medical diagnoses can range from moderate to severe, any individual accepted as a client must be diagnosed with a developmental disability before the age of 18 years. Each regional center operates under their own set of guidelines when they accept a client because of the type of neurological disorder(s) the individual may have. For example, not all regional centers will accept an individual with Asperger’s Autism or Cerebral Palsy.
Today ARS is associated with the following Regional Centers and may or may not currently have clients from these centers:
- Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center
- Eastern Los Angeles Regional Center
- Harbor Regional Center
- San Gabriel – Pomona Regional Center
- South Central Regional Center
- Westside Regional Center