The Colorado Developmental Disability Counsel came to Colorado Springs on Wednesday to consult with a panel of self-advocates. The panel included five vibrant young people with disabilities who are looking to change this community for the better: Edward Morales, Tim Thompson, Cynthia Leggroun, Alana Allor and Nolan Stovall.
Self-advocacy refers to people with disabilities who speak up for their rights and inclusion in the community. Participants shared that understanding their disabilities and learning how to share it with others has improved their work performance, relationships and self-esteem.
The panel covered issues like transportation, employment, education and ease of access. Thompson, Editor of the disability newsletter Starlight News, spoke against the outdated accessibility policies in Colorado Springs.
“There is a difference between following the law and making the law how it should be,” Thompson said. “(People with disabilities) need to be heard. We need to speak out when we believe in something and others need to work with us to make it happen.”
The panel was hosted by the Independence Center, including from self-advocacy classes as well as The Arc’s self-advocacy group, Include Unique Self-Advocates (Include USA). Morales is a leader in self-advocacy empowerment classes at the Independence Center.
“In our classes we learn the skills, we practice in a supported environment, and then we go out and use those skills with people in our lives,” Morales explained.
The Developmental Disability Counsel is collecting input from the community to create grants that will change the lives of thousands of people with and without disabilities.
“We are working on making systemic changes so that all people have an equal opportunity to succeed,” the council’s executive director Marcia Tewell shared.