Disability Policy Consortium Weekly Update
I hope you had a wonderful long weekend. Perhaps you spent time thinking about someone who served our country. I always think of my father, who served on submarines during the Cold War years. When I was young, I remember him talking about being given Last Rites as he was about to sail under the polar ice cap. It took me years to figure out in meant they were spying on the Russians in the Northern Fleet.
Today, we have a very jam-packed newsletter. First, a big announcement from us at the DPC. Also we want to invite you of our upcoming DPC Annual Meeting.
We then have three upcoming advocacy opportunities for you and we finish with three advocacy stories from around the web, including one from Quincy.
Until next week, happy reading.
Disability Policy Consortium
DPC Update: The Time Has Come
In 1987, I was hired as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (MCCD). It was the only cross-disability advocacy organization in the Commonwealth at that time. At the ripe old age of twenty-five I was full of energy, opinions and (I now know) very short on experience. Looking back, it was remarkable that many older, more experienced leaders, gracefully stepped aside and made room for the new kid on the block. Not only did they make room for me, but they mentored, shared their wisdom, and protected my backside more times than I care to count.
Now, thirty-two years later, I am passing on the enormous gift I was given so many years ago. June 30th will be my last day as the Executive Director of the Disability Policy Consortium (DPC). I am thrilled to tell you that the DPC Board of Directors has asked Colin Killick to replace me and he has accepted. I will not be leaving entirely just yet, Colin has asked me to serve as his Deputy Director for the next year and I have agreed.
The last five years have been a wonderful, thrilling ride. I first want to thank the DPC Board for the faith they put in me in April 2014. When I accepted the position, I had two goals. First was to set the DPC on firm financial footing, with a sustainable future. The second was to recruit some talented younger people with disabilities to work for us, and to grow the next generation of leaders for our movement.
Amy Kalogeropolous and I started on the same day, April 9th. We were the fourth and fifth employee in the office. The DPC has just seen its finances grow from less than $150,000 annually, in 2013, to about $400,000 with the addition of the new One Care Ombudsman program, and a new research grant with the Mongan Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Now, as I step aside, the DPC has 21 people working for us. Seventeen of them self-identify as members of our community. Our annual budget in 2019 will exceed $1.7 million. With the contract to provide Ombudsman services for all people with disabilities on MassHealth managed care programs for the next three years, and a five-year grant partnership with Brandeis University I know the DPC has reached sustainability. The DPC was also recently honored to be one of eight non-profits (out of 160 applicants) to be invited into the 2019 Social Innovation cohort. I have accomplished my goals. Now it is time for the next generation of young leaders to take the helm of the DPC and steer us into the future.
In all honesty I am going to have a lot of fun watching the post-ADA generation steer our movement forward. They have taken full advantage of the opening we made in the wall of exclusion. They have attained educational degrees that would have been near impossible a generation ago. More importantly, their vision is so much clearer than ours. We saw cross-disability as the north star. This new generation sees our movement as one small part of a greater push for social justice. They understand what Dr. King meant when he said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
To say I am proud of Colin and all the employees at the DPC is an understatement. When I started at the DPC, I thought there was a large pool of talented people with disabilities, looking for work and leadership opportunities. But what I found blew me away. Our community is the greatest untapped resource in the United States. There are far too many people looking for work, or underemployed. At the DPC I believe we have a collection of talented individuals who are brilliant, passionate and aching to lead. And I assure you we barely have begun to scratch the surface of the talent pool available.
So, this is not a good bye, but it is an official hand-off. Thirty-two years after being given a gift, I am passing this gift on. Colin will do an amazing job. He has more skills and talent than I ever dreamed of possessing.
Take it away my friend.
+ + +
In early 2015, about six months into my first stint at DPC, John called me into his office. Working at DPC had been an incredible opportunity: a chance to do work I deeply believed in, to learn how to be a community organizer through our friends at JOIN for Justice, and most of all, to re-learn my identity as a disabled person, to discover for the first time that I had a community with a proud history that I now had a chance to build upon. However, it had also been a challenge-I was working mostly on my own, with few guidelines, battling my own organizational issues and learning little by little how to be someone my colleagues could depend on. At that point, I had thought I had finally stopped struggling and gotten more on top of things, but I was worried I was being called in because I had made some kind of mistake. His advice, however, was the exact opposite: "I want you to fail more." He explained that in this kind of work, we had to take risks to make things better for our community, to try new things and chase unlikely chances-which meant that sometimes, we were going to fall flat on our faces. When we did, he said, we would pick ourselves up, and learn from what went wrong, and put that knowledge to use to do better, and win next time.
Today, the risks DPC has taken have clearly paid off. We took the risk of becoming the ombudsman for the OneCare program-the only organization in the country run by people with disabilities to do this kind of work-and that project was so successful that we are now, through the MyOmbudsman program, serving a population of approximately 200,000 people with disabilities across all of MassHealth's ACO plans and receiving more than $1.4 million per year in state and federal funding. We took the risk of taking on groundbreaking research projects with major national partners like PCORI, the Mongan Institute and Brandeis University, and the results of that research are having a national impact on health care policy. And, not long after that conversation in 2015, I teamed up with Allegra Stout, then at Boston Center for Independent Living, to cofound the Housing Advocacy Leadership Team that would fight to expand the state's housing voucher program for low-income people with disabilities. Both organizations took the risk of making that work our number one legislative priority. Today, five years later, we stand on the verge of more than doubling the size of that program and helping more than 400 people with disabilities in Massachusetts find housing they can afford.
In 2016, I took a different kind of risk-I left my job as an organizer at DPC, the best job I had ever had, to enroll at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. I didn't do this to leave the disability rights movement, but rather because I wanted to gain skills I could use to help our movement succeed. I studied negotiation, leadership, political communication, and Disability Law and Policy. I also put my experience at DPC to work changing Harvard; in response to a university bureaucracy that too often fell short on accommodations, and failed to see disability as a vital part of diversity, my disabled peers and I started a university-wide disability rights group, organized our fellow students, and won significant changes that are continuing to make Harvard a more accessible and inclusive place. And, as graduation approached, John reached out to me, and asked me to come home to DPC. He told me he wanted to step back, and that he wanted me to build on the work he had done to take our organization so far.
As I prepare to take on this work, I know that trusting me to lead the organization is another risk DPC is taking. Sometimes, I will fail, and have to pick myself up and learn from those mistakes. But I am confident, looking at the remarkable staff we have assembled, and the progress we are making every day, that the mission of DPC will never fail. Under the leadership of Dr. Jenn Morazes, our MyOmbudsman team has gone from strength to strength and has drawn praise from both state and federal policymakers. Dennis Heaphy's research work is leading to policy change not only in Massachusetts but in states across the country. Our advocacy team will be led by our lead organizer Lenny Somervell, who came to us as a JOIN fellow in 2016 with no prior organizing experience and rapidly became the most effective organizer DPC has ever had. Our staff is filled with remarkable people who have enormous potential to be leaders in our movement. My job is to give them the same opportunity that John gave me: to trust them, to encourage them to take chances, to celebrate them when they succeed and support them and help them learn when they fail. It is also to tell the world-to tell policymakers, foundations, and all of you in our community-about the wonderful work that our staff is doing, and to ask for support to help us do even more. For the last five years, John has led DPC to remarkable heights. I cannot wait to see where we can go from here.
DPC News: Join Us for the DPC Annual Meeting
When: Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 5:30 P.M. - 7:30 P.M.
Where: Non-Profit Center, 89 South Street, Boston, MA 02111.
6:30 Keynote Speaker
If you wish to attend or need reasonable accommodations please contact Jeff Gentry at
or 617 542-3822, before June 12, 2019.
If you wish to be considered for the Board of the DPC, please contact
Advocacy Opportunity: Help the Disability Law Center Set Priorities
The Disability Law Center (DLC) is looking for your expertise on the issues you face as a person or a family member of a person with a disability. We will be using the information you provide us for our annual priority setting process.
Tuesday, May 28
10 am - 3 pm
Stavros Center for Independent Living
227 Berkshire Avenue
Springfield, MA 01109
Thursday, May 30
10 am - 2 pm
Independence Associates, Inc.
100 Laurel Street, Suite 122
East Bridgewater, MA 02333
Thursday, June 6
11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Edgartown Public Library
26 West Tisbury Road
Edgartown, MA 02539
Tuesday, June 11
11:30 am - 3:30 pm
Worcester City Hall
455 Main Street
Worcester, MA 01608
Thursday, June 27
10 am - 3 pm
Suffolk University - Sargent Hall
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108
A light lunch will be provided **
Please submit any accommodation requests to Amanda at 617-315-4440 or
RSVPs are encouraged
in order for us to have an accurate number for materials and food. You can RSVP by calling Amanda at 617-315-4440 or emailing her at
Visit our 2019 Priorities Page
Take our 2020 Priorities Survey
Disability Law Center
Advocacy Opportunity: Join an R-TAG Committee
Hello R-TAG members,
Following up on our May 20 public meeting, the R-TAG Executive Board is excited to encourage members to partake in an R-TAG committee! These committees, formed based on your feedback and survey participation on priorities, include the following:
- Major Initiatives
- Training and Public Awareness
- Infrastructure and Testing
- Blind and Low Vision
- The RIDE
If you are interested in joining a committee or learning more, please
indicate your interest in this form
Thanks for your help in improving accessibility on the T!
The R-TAG Executive Board
Advocacy Opportunity: Boston City Council Hearing on Disability Issues
When: Wednesday, May 29, 2019, 2:00 P.M.
Where: Iannella Chamber, fifth floor, Boston City Hall
The Boston City Council's Committee on City, Neighborhood Services, Veteran and Military Affairs will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at 2:00 PM in the Iannella Chamber, fifth floor, Boston City Hall.
The subject of the hearing is:
Docket #0517 - Order for a hearing to discuss services for persons with disabilities.
This matter is sponsored by Councilors Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty and Lydia Edwards and was referred to the Committee on City, Neighborhood Services, Veteran and Military Affairs on 3/13/2019.
Members of the public are cordially invited to attend and testify. If you have not testified at a Council hearing before, please arrive five (5) minutes before the call of the hearing to sign up and become familiar with the hearing format, testimony locations, and sound system. Please bring fifteen (15) copies of any written documentation you wish to present at the hearing. If you know of others who may be interested in this hearing, kindly notify them. Written comments may be made part of the record and available to all Councilors by sending them by email, fax or mail to arrive before the hearing. Please use the address below.
NOTICE: The Boston City Council may have a quorum in attendance due to standing committees of the City Council consisting of both voting and non-voting members. However, members attending this duly posted meeting are participating and deliberating only in conjunction with the business of the standing committee.
Committee Liaison: Juan Lopez Telephone: (617) 635-3041 Fax Number: (617) 635-4203
Mail Address: Boston City Council, Boston, MA 02201 * E-mail:
Broadcast: Live on Comcast Channel 8 / RCN 82 / Verizon 1964 and streamed on:
Net News: For Disabled Quincy Can Still Be Dangerous Obstacle Course
The Patriot Ledger had a very good article about the dangers of living in Quincy as a person with a disability. It is sad that 29 years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that residents of Quincy, or any other municipality in our state, must still be treated as second class citizens. Most disturbing of all was the fact that only 111 cities and towns (out of 351) have a ADA plan on file with the Commonwealth. One also has to wonder why the Massachusetts Office on Disability had no comment. Could it be because the Governor still has not appointed anyone (since August) to serve as the Director? You
can read the story here
Net News: As Suicide Rates Rise, Insurers Find Ways to Deny Mental Health Coverage
Recently, Bloomberg Businessweek had a fantastic article demonstrating that we have a mental health crisis in the United States. As suicide and addiction rates rise in this country, health insurers are doing their best to deny coverage, and services. You
can read the article here
Net News: Why I Will Include Accessibility Information in My Restaurant Reviews
This week ,
Tom Sietsema, food critic for the Washington Post, announced that he will now include a brief accessibility posting in his restaurant reviews. While the Post is certainly not the publication to include accessibility information in their restaurant reviews, (indeed they are late to the game) it is a good sign. The Post is one of the major daily publications in the U.S.a and should help encourage other critics to follow suit. Maybe with the greying of America, other publications will take note. You
can read his article here
Opportunity: Coding Camp July 15-19
Our Space Our Place invites students who are blind or low vision to participate in an exciting week-long computer learning experience.
Participants: students ages 11 - 21 years old
- At Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT) in Cambridge.
- Time: 9:30 AM - 3:00 PM
- Location: 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139
- Eligible for MCB pre-ETS support
What you will do:
- Build your own website
- Meet coders, video game makers and other professionals in the tech sector and explore career options in high-tech!
As technology becomes part of all aspects of our life, it is important that as individuals who are blind or low vision we know how to both use and create technology.
Learn Today - Prepare for Your Future
To participate you must be a proficie
nt user of a screen reader and/or magnification tool.
There are 2 spaces for students who live outside of Boston or outside of Massachusetts, who would like to attend the Coding Camp.
To register click here.
For more information, to request accommodations and to ask about transportation options:
| DPC Needs your Help!!!
The DPC uses the PayPal PayFast system for your tax deductible charitable donations. You do not need to have a PayPal account to use this system because credit card payments are also accepted.
The DPC also uses the Causes program for recurring donations (as well as one time donations). This is a great way to make a smaller monthly donation.
Donate by Mail
Make check or money order payable to:
Disability Policy Consortium
11 Dartmouth Street
Malden, MA 02148