By Stephanie Kocer
On Friday, December 14 two ALLY People Solutions program participants presented their final Disability Integration Projects at the ACT Olmstead Academy meeting. Amanda Hanson and Richard Schultz, along with Midway Branch Program Director Jennifer Walton, presented their project on individuals with disabilities who are lacking a basic right and how to take concrete steps to get it.
The Olmstead Academy is a year-long program put on by Advocating Change Together (ACT), a grass-roots disability rights organization run by and for people with developmental disabilities. ACT’s mission is to help people across disabilities see themselves as part of larger disability rights movements and make connections to other civil and human rights struggles. The ACT Olmstead Academy is a program of the ACT Center. The 2018 class was funded with the support of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
The Olmstead Academy’s goal is to create a culture within Minnesota where self-advocacy is an unconditional piece in the state’s Olmstead Plan to increase community integration, and position self-advocates to play meaningful roles in its implementation.The Academy is a 12-month program featuring eight days of classroom sessions, and nine months of required field work on Disability Integration Projects. Each team chooses and leads a local project to advance integration for real people in their community.
During the “Report to the Community” session of the Olmstead Academy, six groups reported the findings of their projects to Judge Donovan Frank. For Amanda and Richard’s project they decided to help 6 to 8 people with Human Rights issues to overcome a specific barrier to get something they want in their life. After meeting with fellow program participants to see what they felt was keeping them down, six people identified one barrier they were experiencing and wanted to break through. Amanda and Richard then strategized and planned for how to help their fellow participants best break through their barriers. At the beginning of the project, the six participants felt they could just complain about what was wrong. But by the end of the project, they were all taking action to get what they wanted instead of just complaining.
Amanda and Richard say they learned a lot from their project. They learned that rights issues are not a project but a process. They quickly realized their peers did know what rights they had, and they had fears and misconceptions about making changes in their lives. They also learned that the small “quick win” changes in their lives made them feel proud, relived, and happy.
Moving forward, Amanda and Richard would like to continue to educate their fellow program participants at ALLY about their rights and get good information to them to help them overcome a small barrier to the life they want.