Meet David, an engaged and energetic advocate and self-advocate. “I wear a lot of hats, for a lot of committees,” he said. “I am on the SARTAC (Self-Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center) advisory committee, I am on the Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC), and I am chair of a committee at the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion at the University of Vermont.”
David was invited to testify before the Vermont Legislature’s House Committee for Human Services in support of House Bill H.153. Representative Theresa Wood, one of the Bill’s sponsors, said the legislation would “have Medicaid rates for home and community-based service providers set on a reliable methodology and adjusted annually.”
David shared powerful stories with the legislators.
“I told my story about when I was young and not having services, and finding jobs on my own,” David said. “Also about getting fired for coming out as a gay man. And what it was like coming to Burlington and to finally have services, like support workers for job coaching and case management.”
David shared specific difficult memories of his youth. “My child life was tough I think,” he said. “I was in a day program growing up. It was like an institution just for people with disabilities, separated from a normal life as regular kids.”
He recounted incidents of degrading treatment of students in his school at the hands of some teachers. And he spoke of his own discomfort.
“I remember we had to go over to this other building for lunch every day, and seeing people with disabilities strapped into their chairs,” he said. “I went home every day crying to my parents that I just didn’t feel like I fit in that school. So my parents got together with other parents and closed that school down. So I remember the beginning of the movement. Then, when we were integrated with regular students, I felt the belonging of making a difference in my life.”
David’s still working to make a difference in the lives of others. “I am working on an international conference that I will be a part of in April, and am getting my presentation ready for that conference.”
As for the House Bill he testified to support? “Tell David it hasn’t become law yet,” Rep. Wood said, “but I’m working on it!”
CCS is working with Champlain Voices Self-Advocates to help raise awareness through a “Spread the Word” initiative. Thank you, David, for sharing this personal story as part of the project.