New England Yachad Wins Arc Tank, Takes Home $80K

November 26, 2019 — New England Yachad, a Brookline nonprofit that addresses the needs of all individuals with disabilities, last week was named the winner in the third annual Arc Tank competition, in which competitors pitch a service to help individuals with disabilities, taking home $80,000.

The competition, based on the hit TV show, The Shark Tank, aims to spur innovation in the area of safety and wellbeing, employment, technology, housing, transportation, or socialization for individuals with disabilities, and is sponsored by Northeast Arc, a nonprofit based in Danvers that serves children and adults living with disabilities in 190 Massachusetts cities and towns.

New England Yachad proposed 4-Club: Autism, Aging, Alexa, Access, which will provide anyone with autism with access to social connection, home automation, and entertainment by linking Alexa technology with low-tech recordable push buttons or voice output smart device apps, such as voice recorder or voice memos.

The winning pitch was one of nearly 100 submissions considered by a panel of six judges during a public event held Nov. 19 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, a partner in the initiative.

Three other winners, from California, New York, and Colorado, took home $170,000 in cash prizes.

The winning proposals received awards from the Changing Lives Fund established through a $1 million donation from Steven P. Rosenthal. In addition, this year’s competition was held in partnership with the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation.

“The Arc Tank has now awarded $650,000 to proposals that promise to break down barriers for people with disabilities who are too often marginalized, not included as equal participants in everyday life, and prevented from taking advantage of opportunities,” said Jo Ann Simons, CEO of Northeast Arc.

“Our four new Arc Tank winners will be soon on their way to disrupting the status quo and making significant changes for the better for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. We cannot thank Steve Rosenthal enough for the generosity and creativity that have made these awards possible.”

This year's other winners pitched ideas to provide vocational readiness training to autistic individuals, a mobile app to help children ages 3-17 who have speech and developmental disability and are unresponsive to traditional therapy, and a program that allows people with disabilities to design their future through entrepreneurship training and skill development.

Over the past three years, about 300 proposals have been submitted from across the U.S. and internationally.

Since it launched, Arc Tank winners have enabled 64 children with autism have learned how to swim, trained first responders from six states on special needs response, supported 30 people with alternative forms of guardianship, and are developing virtual reality technology to help people with autism execute everyday activities including riding a public bus, traversing city streets, and navigating air travel.

“We are now seeing real results from the Arc Tank that are truly changing lives for the better for the disability community,” said Rosenthal. “The goal of the Changing Lives Fund is to encourage the kind of creative disruption and innovation that drives entrepreneurship to help persons with intellectual disabilities and autism. With these new winning proposals, we look forward to even more positive changes for years to come.”