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What are Easter Seals?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 June 2014
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The Easter Seals is an organization which helps people of all ages with disabilities such as autism. The organization uses specially designed seals for stationery as part of its fundraising efforts, and these seals are also known as “Easter Seals.” Despite the very Christian symbolism of the lily used in the organization's logo, the Easter Seals are not affiliated with any religious practice, and they offer services to all individuals with disabilities regardless as to gender, race, class, or creed.

The work of the Easter Seals is focused primarily on client services, rather than medical research. The organization offers medical treatment, job training, childcare, and recreational opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Medical treatment includes speech therapy, physical therapy, and other treatments which will increase the quality of life for Easter Seals clients; over one million people are served by the organization in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Puerto Rico every year.

The organization was founded as the National Association for Crippled Children in 1919, when Edgar Allen realized that his community was severely lacking in services for the disabled, and that people with disabilities were often withdrawn and hidden from the public. In 1934, the organization rolled out the first run of Seals, to make itself more visible and to promote fundraising. These special seals were sent out to people who donated to the Association so that these people could show their support every time they sent out correspondence.

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In 1952, the Association changed its name to the Easter Seals, in part because the disabled community was moving away from “crippled” as a socially acceptable term. The new name was also adopted in response to the organization's new logo, a simple Easter lily which symbolizes spring, rebirth, and renewal in many cultures. Since the organization promotes independence and new lives for its clients, the logo and the new name were entirely appropriate. The Easter Seals branding is familiar enough in the United States that several other charities have added Seal programs of their own.

In addition to directly helping clients, the Easter Seals also advocates for disability rights. It was very active in the implementation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, and it continues to speak out on behalf of the disabled to promote equal, fair, and kind treatment. People can donate to the Easter Seals with confidence; the organization uses 90% of its donations on direct client services, and it is approved by the Wise Giving Alliance.

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