Self-Advocacy Brunch and Discussion Forum

Individuals with disabilities can achieve their goals if they put their minds to it – that was the message that more than 40 people heard when they attended The Arc Mid-South’s Self-Advocacy Brunch and Discussion Forum at the Central Library.

“Don’t say ‘dis’ to me,” panelist Lou Conley said. “I have an ability…You have to change people’s minds about the way they see you….Your disability is a possibility.”

Conley, who is hearing impaired, is a rehabilitation consultant who holds three college degrees and is working on her doctorate. Learning was difficult for her; even with note takers, it took Conley 14 years to earn her bachelor’s degree from University of Memphis. “My limitation was one class at a time,” she said.

Laurie Hobson, who has Down syndrome, said people with disabilities are more alike than different. She is a prime example, having been a cheerleader, school band and dance troupe member, Kroger employee and board members of the National Down Syndrome Congress. Yet she knows “what it feels like to have people say things that don’t always make me feel good about myself,” Hobson said.

Selina Rucker, who has cerebral palsy, has been bullied and teased, too. “It’s not their fault,” she said of her tormenters. “It’s their parents’ fault. They should have told them that people are different, that there are all kinds of people in the world.”

Like the other panelists, the Southwest Tennessee Community College student has a positive attitude. “If you tell me I can’t do something, that will motivate me even more to do it,“ Rucker said. “ I can do whatever I put my mind to. I cook, I clean. I do everything on my own. I even go places on my own, thanks to MATA Plus.”

Claudia Espinoza de Posada was happy when her family was transferred to Memphis for her husband’s job because no social supports existed for her autistic son in Mexico. She was less than thrilled, however, with the foot-dragging she encountered when she tried to enroll Omar in local schools.

Friends and neighbors pointed her to Support and Training for Exceptional Parents (STEP), which provided guidance. Espinoza also attended the Volunteer Advocacy Project, a 12-week teleconferenced class that The Arc Mid-South offers in association with Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville. Today, she is a member of The Arc Mid-South’s Board of Directors.


Advocates meet with Rep.Steve Cohen

Pictured from left to right: Allison Donald, Christine Deener, Rep.Steve Cohen, Vanesha Howard,
Leslie Jones, Sandra Hawkins and Brittany Carter

The Arc Mid-South’s advocacy staff and a group of self-advocates met on August 24 with U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen to discuss a few issues that are important to the disability community. Several self-advocates shared stories about their experiences with education, employment, and transportation. 

They also discussed how some current legislation would affect people with disabilities.  The Disability Integration Act, introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), would ensure that any individual with disabilities who is found eligible for institutional care would also be given the option to receive the same necessary services and supports at home. The Disability Community Act,  pending in a U.S. House committee, would temporarily increase the Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage so that providers comply with a Labor Department rule to extend overtime pay to workers who provide home-based services to people with disabilities.  The Arc supports both positions. 





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