A group from Venture have gone back to school to learn about disability rights and self-advocacy in a six-week course presented by the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS).
SANYS is run by – and for – people with developmental disabilities, working to promote public understanding of disability issues, and to encourage people with developmental disabilities to become advocates for themselves.
Eight Venture students met with SANYS Regional Coordinator Cynthia Gilchrist and Mikayla Hoskins, treasurer for the SANYS board of directors, for the first “SANYS U” class. They were introduced to the history of DD self-advocacy, from the Willowbrook exposé of 1972 to more recent protections granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Olmstead decision.
Students discussed how making decisions for themselves is a fundamental right, and were encouraged to share decisions they like to make, and how they feel when they can’t make their own choices.
The group also discussed how they are perceived by the community, and how they want to be treated by others. All agreed that they just want to be called “people”, rather than other words that have been used to describe them: client, patient, consumer.
About the use of the R-word and other derogatory terms for people with developmental disabilities, SANYS U attendee Michael said “I still hear people today using these words out in the street, and I just walk away. I don’t have time for that.”
The “final exam” of the SANYS U course will be a leadership project undertaken in groups or individually. The projects will illustrate the participants’ understanding and knowledge of self-advocacy and what it means to them. In the past, SANYS U graduates have created videos, board games and even rap songs as their final project.
We’ll be sure to follow up on Venture’s Self-Advocates soon!