Wednesday, April 8, 2015

YES! I Feel Empowered

Upon opening a fortune cookie I read, "A different world cannot be made by indifferent people." I know one person that embodies this phrase more than any other individual I have ever met--Donna Fox.

I met her through the YES! Group Young Empowered Self Advocates, sponsored through Louisville Metro Arc and the Center for Accessible Living. She came on as my Co-leader. And it is through her that the group has most flourished and grown bigger than I could ever have dreamed. Her work with YES! is just one of her jobs, but it is wrong to call it a job--for Donna, YES! is a calling. She embraces our mission of educating and empowering young people with physical and developmental disabilities to see beyond any barriers, whether they are imposed by society or ourselves, and she sees no limit for YES!  I don't think the word "limit" exists in Donna's vocabulary. And she works tirelessly to see that world come to light with every waking moment.

This past Thursday, the YES! Group had its 2015 "YES! We Have Talent!" Talent show. For those reading the CAL Blog, if you were unable to attend, you missed an extraordinary show, which was mainly the production of my extraordinary Co-leader, Donna Fox. To see so many new members participating and to see young people who barely spoke when I first joined the group as a Mentor years ago perform (and with mountains of confidence) in front of a large crowd of family, friends, and YES! supporters, filled me with more emotion than I can express in words. And I will say again that the credit I can take for it is small in comparison to what Donna has done.

I suppose I could list Donna's jobs, likes and hobbies (She loves her dogs, her family, and is now a proud grandmother.), but I think it is more important to again emphasize how she does make the world different by being a person who refuses to be indifferent. Even as her Co-leader, she has helped me to see myself in a better light and approach the world with more optimism. I could write pages and pages of adjectives to describe Donna: buoyant, energetic, strong, fearless, passionate, but it has been and is seeing her through YES! that best describes her commitment to a world without barriers, a world in which we all see ourselves as the strong, capable, and exceptional human beings she has pushed us all to be.

I want to thank you, Donna Fox, on behalf of the YES! Group and on a personal note. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. They are written concretely in the heart of every YES! member and YES! parent. And they are most certainly etched in my heart. I know I've thanked you before, but I wanted to put it words, how incredible I think you are and how blessed we all are to have you in our lives.

- By Stephanie Hickey

Friday, January 23, 2015

Statement Regarding Senator Paul and Disabilities

Senator Paul’s comments regarding people with disabilities and the assistance they receive that keep them a part of their community shows that Mr. Paul desperately needs to be educated on the facts.  Most people do not wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “Gee, I hope I get a disability today so that I can ‘game the system’.”  A large number of individuals who receive disability payments paid into that system themselves for a number of years, just like Social Security Retirement.  We in the disability community were dismayed to learn that our Senator made such insensitive remarks regarding the 874,000 individuals in Kentucky who have a disability. 

Fraud in disability programs is estimated to amount to less than 1 percent and is extremely rare, as the agency’s watchdog has found. Its inaccurate payments rate is also less than 1 percent. SSDI payments are far from comfortable, averaging $1,130 a month, just over the federal poverty line and usually replacing less than half of a beneficiary’s previous earnings. Very few beneficiaries are able to work and supplement that income: less than 17 percent worked at some point during the year in 2007, but less than 3 percent of those people made more than $10,000 annually.   People with disabilities do want to work but lack of affordable and accessible transportation, unfounded biases by employers, inaccessible work places, and continued stigma and negative stereotypes by the general public and elected officials are huge barriers to individuals with disabilities obtaining meaningful, gainful employment.

The Center for Accessible Living is an innovative leader in empowering all people to achieve their goal of independent living.  We work on a daily basis with people with disabilities helping them to achieve independence and be integrated into the community.  We invite Senator Paul to meet with us so that we may share our concerns and educate him on the day-to-day reality of people with disabilities and the discrimination they face every day. 

Keith Hosey
Associate Director, Center for Accessible Living