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APRIL – Post-Kansas City Newsletter February, 2011

Conference Highlights from Billy…
You really can go home again -

1-Large-Group-SessionThe 16th annual APRIL conference held in Kansas proved you can go home again. The very first APRIL conference was held in Kansas back in 1995. It was great to see the transformation from a small gathering of disability advocates to a nationally recognized organization hosting a conference with over 400 participants. We’ve come a long way, but like any teenager, we are still experiencing growing pains. In looking back at this year’s conference there were things we could have done better and things that were out of our control, but overall this was a great conference.

 Read more

Rural Youth from Across the Nation
Gather for Pre-Conference in Kansas City

by Carrie Greenwood4-Rural-Youth-in-meeting

If you looked around the large room at the APRIL Conference this year, you’d see a slightly different sight. This view was proof that APRIL is headed in the right direction. The room was filled not only by adults with disabilities and those who work in the independent living field, but also by a record number of youth from across the nation.

Read More

APRIL Youth Experience

by Sierra Royster 

6-Youth-Experience

As a fairly new employee of a Center of Independent Living in North Carolina, I have tried to get the youth community involved in several activities through the Center. One of the major projects I have worked on was the Youth Leadership Forum. We were able to make contacts with several amazing youth in our state. Three of these young people accompanied me and other staff to our first APRIL conference. From my time being a part of the youth peer-to-peer mentoring conference calls, I understood that APRIL was very encouraging and supportive of involving youth from across the country in an environment that would connect them to the philosophy of the Independent Living Movement. We knew staff and consumers would benefit as well, and we were on our way to Kansas. 

Read More

APRIL Members Voice

National Advocacy Priorities

by Tim Sheehan, Advocacy Committee Chair 

7-Advocates-Expess-National-PrioritiesHundreds of diverse voices from across rural America came together this fall to participate in helping APRIL develop a national advocacy plan. 

From the impact on rural communities of the implementation of national health reform, to ensuring access to flexible, affordable transportation options, APRIL advocates spent an afternoon in dialogue on what issues should drive our efforts with policy makers over the next several years.

The APRIL Advocacy Committee has been charged with taking the member input and refining it into a national advocacy agenda. That process is well underway and will be proposed to the full APRIL Board for consideration.

Read More

Earl Walden Award for Outstanding

Achievement in Rural Advocacy 

When Linda Gonzales made plans to come to the 2010 APRIL Conference in Kansas City, she was mainly thinking about getting to see folks she hadn’t seen in 3-4 years and planning the presentation she’d make for the closing session. She might also have been pondering what to say when she made the presentation of an award that has been named in her honor to an upcoming young star in the IL galaxy. Little did she know she would be receiving an award herself…one that she so totally deserves and would so proudly accept. 

Read More

Linda Gonzales Award

for Outstanding Rural Youth 

Staff at Wyoming Services for Independent Living did a pretty good job of keeping the secret from Corey McGregor. They knew he’d be getting the Linda Gonzales Award at the APRIL Conference and almost let it slip a couple of times, but Corey never caught on. So when he saw his name in the conference program, he was totally surprised. 

“I’m truly honored to receive this award. I’ve seen others get it the last couple of years, but never dreamed it could be me. It was especially great to meet Linda herself and to receive the award from her. I’ve never spoken in front of so many people, so I had a pretty bad case of stage fright, but Linda really helped loosen me up with her humor and a smile.” 

Read More

Kate Carrol Wins the My Generation:

Youth, the ADA and Art Award  

Kathryn Carroll is currently pursuing a law degree at St. John’s University with the intention of becoming a civil rights or human rights lawyer. The ADA expanded Kate’s view of the world and as a result, was the inspiration for this poem. She says, “As a student and a young person, I believe that though we may not feel any connection between the ADA and the daily obstacles we face, it is in fact a statement of equal rights and privileges for all to enjoy.

Read More and see Kate's Award Winning Poem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

APRIL – Post-Kansas City Newsletter February, 2011
 
Conference Highlights from Billy…
You really can go home again -

1-Large-Group-SessionThe 16th annual APRIL conference held in Kansas proved you can go home again. The very first APRIL conference was held in Kansas back in 1995. It was great to see the transformation from a small gathering of disability advocates to a nationally recognized organization hosting a conference with over 400 participants. We’ve come a long way, but like any teenager, we are still experiencing growing pains. In looking back at this year’s conference there were things we could have done better and things that were out of our control, but overall this was a great conference.

2-Lady-Speaking-to-groupThis year we held three pre-conference workshops. We were able to partner with our friends at the University of Kansas to host the State of the Science – Community Participation by People with Disabilities workshop and poster session, revisit the possibility of an Independent Living Administration and have the largest youth pre-conference to date entitled, Embrace the Future - Lead On! with nearly 40 young people in attendance.

I could not be more proud of this group of budding advocates. All of us old-timers can rest a little easier knowing that these talented minds are ready, willing and able to lead us into the future. Their passion is contagious! For some, this was their first taste of IL; for others, a re-emersion. But for all, an addiction! These emerging leaders are the backbone of our movement and we look forward to providing them with the tools they need to continue their ascension to prominent roles of leadership.

3-Group-discussion-advocatesIn the truest spirit of being a membership driven organization, we held a general session workshop to elicit input from the membership to develop our national advocacy agenda.  Not only were we able to generate ideas, those in attendance wanted to serve on committees to ensure the success of our advocacy agenda. There were also 23 other workshops with topics ranging from transportation to Visitability; from funding formulas and asset building to sexual minorities and advocacy. We were also fortunate to have our friend Marcie Roth, Director of the FEMA Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, provide our opening luncheon keynote address. 

Continuing our tradition as advocates for rural transportation, we joined forces with the National Rural Assembly to develop a position paper on Rural Transportation Policy.  You can read the paper and sign on to be a supporter at www.ruralassembly.org

Congratulations again to our award winners:  Linda Gonzales, Earl Walden Award; Corey McGregor, Linda Gonzales Award; and Kathryn Carroll winner of the My Generation: Youth, the ADA and Art

Our sincerest thanks to all of our presenters (especially Linda Gonzales, see article below), participants, award winners, vendors, sponsors and our great friends in Kansas for making the 16th annual APRIL conference There’s No Place Like Home, feel like home!

 

Rural Youth from Across the Nation

Gather for Pre-Conference in Kansas City

by Carrie Greenwood4-Rural-Youth-in-meeting

If you looked around the large room at the APRIL Conference this year, you’d see a slightly different sight. This view was proof that APRIL is headed in the right direction. The room was filled not only by adults with disabilities and those who work in the independent living field, but also by a record number of youth from across the nation.

  For seven years, the APRIL Youth Steering Committee has coordinated a pre-conference specifically for youth, held prior to the national APRIL conference. This year’s youth pre-conference took place on Friday, October 29, 2010 at the Sheraton Overland Park, and was attended by nearly 40 young people, ranging in age from 14 to 30 years old. Youth traveled from all over the U.S. to attend this gathering, including those from Montana, New York, South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, California, Nevada, Missouri and, of course, Kansas.

5-Lady-in-mobilty-chair-at-exhibitsThe theme for this year’s pre-conference was “Embrace the Future - Lead On!” It focused on learning how to enhance the future through independence. Participants gained resources and new contacts to empower them to lead on! The pre-conference had a full schedule including lots of hands on activities, a goal setting session, two informational panels and a brainstorming session. The agenda also included an interactive, team-building session with Accessible Arts out of Kansas City. One of the most exciting additions to the pre-conference, this year, was the involvement of five veteran advocates who have been in the independent living field for years. They shared their wisdom, their experiences and hopes for the future, and served as “conference buddies” to first-time youth attendees. After a full day of networking and learning, most pre-conference participants came away with a sense of empowerment and a drive to really have their voices heard in the IL field.

Not only did a large group of youth attend the pre-conference, but most stuck around to attend the full APRIL conference. During meals and sessions, youth could be seen networking and brainstorming right alongside the veteran advocates. There were a variety of sessions focused on youth programs within CILs. During one session, a group of youth shared information on the new collaboration project with APRIL -- creating a youth component to the already existing CIL-to-CIL Peer Mentoring Program. This youth peer committee has been working on the project for the past year, have successfully mentored one CIL in Indiana and are looking forward to providing some “youth expertise” to more CILs in the coming year.

At the culmination of the 2010 APRIL Conference, in keeping with tradition, the youth had the final word. A youth panel of conference participants and steering committee members reported on the youth activities and plans for the coming year. Youth attendees had stated a variety of priorities during the pre-conference, including maintaining contact with conference attendees and the APRIL organization, social networking, getting more youth involved in CILs, ensuring that we hear from veteran advocates, advocacy, state to state collaboration, disability history taught in schools and more. These ideas were shared with the large group. All conference participants were left with a challenge to bring at least one youth to next year’s conference in Alaska. Many CILs stepped up to the challenge of pledging to bring youth or supporting the youth activities in other ways.

This year’s APRIL Conference was a true representation of the Independent Living Movement -- advocates of all ages coming together to share their passion. If this is any indication of the future of the IL community, then there’s a bright future ahead!

 

APRIL Youth Experience

by Sierra Royster 

6-Youth-Experience

As a fairly new employee of a Center for Independent Living in North Carolina, I have tried to get the youth community involved in several activities through the Center. One of the major projects I have worked on was the Youth Leadership Forum. We were able to make contacts with several amazing youth in our state. Three of these young people accompanied me and other staff to our first APRIL conference. From my time being a part of the youth peer-to-peer mentoring conference calls, I understood that APRIL was very encouraging and supportive of involving youth from across the country in an environment that would connect them to the philosophy of the Independent Living Movement. We knew staff and consumers would benefit as well, and we were on our way to Kansas. 

We arrived with anticipation for a new experience and excitement for meeting new people. I was excited to get a chance to meet the young people that I had talked to on the phone face to face. We had worked on such a great project for so long without really knowing each other. Once I met everyone the fun started. The youth and I ventured into the youth pre-conference not really knowing what to expect. Right away I was “encouraged” to help with an activity (It’s IL Baby!), and after going through the first day of making new contacts and reconnecting with old ones I started feeling right at home. The youth pre-conference allowed all the youth, center staff or consumers to open up and share opinions. Once the pre-conference came to an end we all began to “chill” and talk. As the conference continued I not only met other youth, but several of the “seasoned” or “experienced” (whatever is the preferred term) attendees. People who were not first timers would always introduce us to their group and would allow us to join in as if we had known each other for years. 

The conference was the best I have been to. I felt surrounded with other people who shared my passion. These were people from across the country who are trying to grow their centers and to educate their communities the same as we are here in North Carolina. I learned tons of new, fresh ideas and more diverse ways of thinking to make our youth programs even better. What I found most valuable for myself and the youth were the times outside of the conference meetings and the connections that were made. I have reconnected with numerous people since the conference that I met during the conference sessions, and I have been able to make those introductions into friendships. The youth that came to the conference grew past their expectations. They were able to show their independence and learn from different experiences. One of the most beneficial aspects to them had to have been the time they spent with other professionals with disabilities who are successful and passionate about people and communities with disabilities.  

The APRIL conference opened my eyes to a family of people that did not underestimate our contribution as youth, but took us in as part of the family and guided us to push farther than before. They were able to share their war and party stories and explain the great family they have made through this community and organization. I felt fortunate to not only feel like I have become part of this growing family, but that I am helping to enlighten other youth along the way!

 

APRIL Members Voice

National Advocacy Priorities

by Tim Sheehan, Advocacy Committee Chair 

7-Advocates-Expess-National-PrioritiesHundreds of diverse voices from across rural America came together this fall to participate in helping APRIL develop a national advocacy plan. 

From the impact on rural communities of the implementation of national health reform, to ensuring access to flexible, affordable transportation options, APRIL advocates spent an afternoon in dialogue on what issues should drive our efforts with policy makers over the next several years.

The APRIL Advocacy Committee has been charged with taking the member input and refining it into a national advocacy agenda. That process is well underway and will be proposed to the full APRIL Board for consideration.

Once adopted, the advocacy priorities and plan will be shared with membership, posted on the APRIL website, and will include a Call to Action from you. When the committee announced this process to the membership in advance of the 2010 national conference, it was with anticipation that passionate APRIL advocates from across the country would coalesce on work groups and subcommittees to carry this rural advocacy agenda forward.

The committee is working hard to refine the plan and outline the next steps, so the entire organization can get behind this process in this critical year of 2011. If we are to succeed in making sure every policy maker in the country knows how important the civil rights of rural individuals with disabilities are, we must do it together.

Stay tuned - exciting opportunities to make our joined voices heard loud and clear are coming soon!

Below is a brief list of the priorities (in no ranked order) you defined at the conference:

  • IL funding/equitable distribution in rural America
  • Implementation of the HealthCare bill to ensure meaningful choices for rural consumers
  • Reauthorization of the national Farm Bill and its myriad implications from housing to transportation to rural America
  • Flexible and affordable rural transit options in the new Highway Bill
  • Meaningful housing options for people with disabilities, including visitability
  • Eliminate the Medicaid institutional bias once and forever
  • Develop and implement effective consumer-controlled mental health service options
  • Reduce violence and abuse against people with disabilities, and increase access to community based protective services for rural women with disabilities.

This is an outline for an ambitious and aggressive national advocacy agenda. While none of us alone can change the world, joined together with all of our brothers and sisters - we can.

 

Earl Walden Award for Outstanding

Achievement in Rural Advocacy 

When Linda Gonzales made plans to come to the 2010 APRIL Conference in Kansas City, she was mainly thinking about getting to see folks she hadn’t seen in 3-4 years and planning the presentation she’d make for the closing session. She might also have been pondering what to say when she made the presentation of an award that has been named in her honor to an upcoming young star in the IL galaxy. Little did she know she would be receiving an award herself…one that she so totally deserves and would so proudly accept. 

8-Earl-Walden-AwardAs past Executive Director of APRIL, Linda had not been at an APRIL conference since her retirement in 2006. She and husband, Jerry, along with Lincoln their Golden Lab and Peavy the cat had planned to “see the country” from their RV, appropriately dubbed Grace. Jerry’s health and a number of other life changing experiences caused them to frequently renew their plans over the last 4 years, but now they have settled in San Diego, California and are happily planning to spend the next chapter of their lives where sea level air pressure will ease Jerry’s breathing issues. Linda’s closing presentation was a testament to Linda and Jerry’s attitude toward life – “Lessons Learned Living in Grace” embodied wholeheartedly the independent living philosophy.

Linda says she felt “proud to be at the APRIL conference and to hear about and see all that had transpired since I left.” She was especially heartened to see the number of young people who are now involved in APRIL and was very impressed at how some of the “youngsters” who were just starting to get the hang of things are now taking charge. “Just seeing kids with their peers really having a blast and including me in their conversations outside workshops and meeting rooms was wonderful. There was real and respectful listening in both directions…it was very rewarding.” 

While Linda felt incredibly honored to receive the Earl Walden Award for Outstanding Achievement in Rural Advocacy, she says she can’t wait to see some young person receive BOTH the Earl Walden and the Linda Gonzales Award for Outstanding Rural Youth. That would be “somethin’ else!” she says. 

Linda also wanted to extend her thanks and appreciation to Billy Altom for pulling APRIL together and moving forward in his own style…vibrant as ever. “It’s good to see people still so committed. I left APRIL in good hands.” 

Today, Linda is working with Sherry Watson at The Power of Grant Money. Together, they are helping people who want to start non-profit businesses find start-up money, understand the myriad paperwork involved to start a non-profit, connect with their communities and to direct Boards through the mission, vision and marketing stages of development.

 

Linda Gonzales Award

for Outstanding Rural Youth 

Staff at Wyoming Services for Independent Living did a pretty good job of keeping the secret from Corey McGregor. They knew he’d be getting the Linda Gonzales Award at the APRIL Conference and almost let it slip a couple of times, but Corey never caught on. So when he saw his name in the conference program, he was totally surprised. 

“I’m truly honored to receive this award. I’ve seen others get it the last couple of years, but never dreamed it could be me. It was especially great to meet Linda herself and to receive the award from her. I’ve never spoken in front of so many people, so I had a pretty bad case of stage fright, but Linda really helped loosen me up with her humor and a smile.” 

9-Linda-Gonzales-Award

Corey says his challenge and his joy have come from helping folks new to their disability “find their pathway.” He remembers not knowing “where to begin” himself and has worked with several people to find the resources and services they need to become independent. His work with AgrAbility has brought him to several farmers and ranchers with disabilities who don’t know what services are available. He says in Wyoming they have a saying that when an accident happens or someone is hurt they need to “Cowboy Up” so many people don’t seek help. Through WSIL’s AgrAbility grant, they can do assessments of someone’s whole operation, their home, ranch and family. From that they offer options to get people back on their tractors, back to work or they even offer livestock training that will get people riding again. 

Corey is one of the co-founders of Wyoming Disabled Hunters and is especially pleased about inviting a couple of young men to their hunting event this past year. Coming from a small town was very tough for one of them who says he “takes a lot of teasing” about his disability. There’s also not much to do, so he ends up “sitting around” a lot. The hunt club was just the ticket. The young man met new people, had a great time and even told Corey, “I’ve felt like family here and it just feels good to not feel different.” His parents said their usually “very reserved” son “just opened up. It was great to see him smiling and laughing along with everyone else.”

Congratulations again, Corey – we look forward to you “corralling” more folks into the IL Movement.

 

Kate Carrol Wins the My Generation:

Youth, the ADA and Art Award  

Kathryn Carroll is currently pursuing a law degree at St. John’s University with the intention of becoming a civil rights or human rights lawyer. The ADA expanded Kate’s view of the world and as a result, was the inspiration for this poem. She says, “As a student and a young person, I believe that though we may not feel any connection between the ADA and the daily obstacles we face, it is in fact a statement of equal rights and privileges for all to enjoy." Here is Kate’s poem:

 

I (Don’t) Care

- by Kathryn Carrol

 

I didn’t care about the ADA when my large-print textbooks arrived in elementary school. My friends and I giggled about the fact that just one took up an entire desk. 

I didn’t care about the ADA while I listened to my mom argue on the phone with the bus company, explaining that I did not need a special bus to get to school, but an accessible bus stop. I took the bus with the other kids. 

I didn’t care about the ADA when I heard my dad tell my teachers in elementary school that, given the right opportunity, I would make them proud. And I did.

I didn’t care about the ADA when my standardized tests arrived in high school and I couldn’t read them because they were not enlarged. I cried at home because I had studied so hard and it didn’t matter.

I started to care about the ADA when my guidance counselor told me to write a letter to the makers of the standardized tests, telling them that I needed better. 

I didn’t know much about the ADA so I didn’t write the letter.

I started thinking about the ADA when I went to college and had to be an advocate for myself to get the resources I needed.

I thought about the ADA a lot while I studied abroad, watching the foreign students with disabilities get by with a lot less institutionalized help.

I thought about the ADA on the train when my classmate, who was from South America, said, “In my country, people like you would stay at home.” In my country, they don’t.

I thought about the ADA when I met someone who would be studying abroad in the US, at my university. He worried about getting accommodations.

I care about the ADA because I once heard people rave about the fact that the DC metro has elevators – at every station. 

I care about the ADA because next week, I am going to the movies with two persons who are deaf, one who is blind, and three who are wheelchair users. We can all go to see the same movie, at the same time.

I didn’t care about the ADA when the people who wrote it and made it law cared about people like me.

I care about the ADA more than I can say. 

 

 

This newsletter is brought to you by APRIL. To see more pictures taken at the Conference, go to our website – 

 

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