Charity Spotlight: PACER Center

The PACER Center is a parent training and information center based in Minneapolis that works to enhance quality of life for children and young adults with disabilities.

PACER works with children with all types of disabilities (whether they be learning, physical, emotional, mental, or health) from birth to age 21. PACER Center staff has put together nearly 600 workshops, training sessions, presentations, and in-services for parents and professionals who work with children with disabilities, reaching more than 33,000 attendees.

The PACER Center offers a number of programs for students with disabilities, their families, and children around the world. The organization put together a COUNT ME IN puppet show about disability awareness and inclusion, which has been seen by more than 8,000 children. The KIDS AGAINST BULLYING show has reached nearly 4,000 kids, laying the groundwork for a future with less bullying.

The Simon Technology Center allows children and young adults with disabilities to communicate through technology using software, adaptive devices, and training. Seven million children with disabilities live in the U.S., and PACER’s Family-to-Family Health Information Center gives families the resources and support they need to care for their childrens’ health care needs.

Many PACER publications have been translated into Hmong, Somali, and Spanish, and the organization works with Native American, African American, Hispanic, Somali, and Southeast Asian communities.

PACER, which stands for Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights, is based on the idea of “parents helping parents.” Throughout its history, PACER has been primarily staffed by parents of children with disabilities, who work together to educate other parents and improve the lives of their children.

The PACER Coalition was formed back in 1976, with a storefront location opening up two years later. Since then, the group has grown by leaps and bounds, accomplishing several major victories for children with disabilities.

Some notable accomplishments include:

  • 1979: The COUNT ME IN puppet program that teaches elementary and preschool children about inclusion is developed.
  • 1982: The first PACER Benefit is held at the Children’s Theatre for 75 people.
  • 1985: PACER helps establish transition services within the Minnesota Department of Education. This program eases the transition between high school and postsecondary education or training, employment, and the community, and Minnesota is now a national leader in transition.
  • 1987: The Simon Technology Center assistive technology program kicks off, giving children with disabilities the chance to work with state-of-the-art equipment and nationally renowned staff.
  • 2006: The first National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week is held, as well as the first National Ted and Dr. Roberta Mann Foundation Symposium about CHildren & Young Adults with Mental Health and Learning Disabilities.
  • 2008: PACER collaborates with IBM to open the first technology center for children and adults with disabilities in Bangalore, India.
  • 2010: National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week becomes National Bullying Prevention Month.
  • 2011: The White House Conference on Bullying Prevention invites PACER’s Executive Director and advocates, and the Executive Director is invited to testify at the Office for Civil Rights on behalf of students with disabilities and bullying.
  • 2012: The FBI Director gives the “Director’s Community Leadership Award” to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, and PACER’s Simon Technology Center celebrates 25 years of service.