Aggie Advocates for Disability are ready to make a difference

September 18, 2012 by cpehrson

If you want to be involved in something worthwhile during your college years, Aggie Advocates for Disability is the club for you.  Aggie Advocates was created to give students a way to help improve the lives of people with disabilities through advocating for them  by educating the general public and professionals, raising funds for schools, families, and organizations, and by providing services.

Club members have many activities planned throughout the year to help out in some of the programs on campus that provide services to children and adults with disabilities.

Here are just a few of their upcoming events:

  • Tuesday Sept. 18th at 7:00pm – OPENING SOCIAL! On the quad (near Old Main) we will be having pizza & drinks, playing games, and providing information about the club. Come meet some friends, eat some delicious food, and enjoy yourself! Please come!
  • Monday Sept. 24th from 6:00-8:00pm – Street Painting for Homecoming week! It will be on Aggie Bull-evard and we will let you know exactly where we’ll meet when we are assigned a spot. We’ll be painting something on the road to notify students about our club as they stroll along the street. So, wake up your creative juices and bring some fun ideas for our club to paint. It’ll be a grand time to be with friends and to build up your Aggie spirit!
  • In October we will be helping the Up to 3 program with the Pumpkin Walk.  They want to have a booth or section, so they will need some help painting the pumpkins, setting up the scene and tearing it down. This would qualify for one of the activities you need to do for the CPD. The pumpkin walk is October 18th to the 23rd so set up and tear down will be the 17th and 24th. We’ll get more information later on and make sure to send it your way.
As the semester continues on, there will be more service opportunities and events.  You can follow them on
facebook to find out about each event.

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Cache Valley native seeks Ms. Wheelchair America title

July 18, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Brittany at the USU Homecoming Parage

Brittany appeared on the Utah Assistive Technology Program's float at Utah State University's 2011 Homecoming Parade.

Brittany Cox, a Cache Valley native, has accomplished a lot already, but next month she will try to add yet another achievement to the list: gaining the title of Ms. Wheelchair America.

The winner of the pageant receives more than a crown. She also gets a long to-do list, since she hasn’t won a beauty contest so much as a competition to find the best spokeswoman for people with disabilities.

You can find information on how to support her by joining the Brittany for Ms. Wheelchair America! Facebook group.

Cox  is ready for a national role, now that she’s over the shock of winning the Ms. Wheelchair Utah title. “I was blown away that I won,” she said. She was just in the contest for a chance to meet people and make friends, but since then she has realized that along with the title, she has gained a chance to influence others for good.

Her platform throughout the pageant: You can. And by that, she means not only that you can do what you truly desire, but also that you can be happy doing it.

Cox has earned her mantra. Fourteen years ago a car crash took the life of her best friend and should have killed her, too. She wasn’t expected to live, but if she did survive, doctors warned her lifespan would go on for about five more years.

She went from 13 months in a hospital to five years in a nursing home. It was a depressing time. From there, she took the scary move toward independence, out of the facility and into her own place. A friend who worked at the nursing home told her some fellow employees were taking bets on how quickly she’d be back.

“That just made me more determined to prove them wrong,” she said. And she did. Along the way she discovered she could be really, truly happy.

And what was the big epiphany that helped her find joy?

There wasn’t one.

Instead happiness came in small moments, Cox said. She’s seen other people experience big challenges and become bitter. She wonders if it’s because they are waiting for one of those astounding experiences that makes everything clear. They get angry when it doesn’t come.

She has learned to appreciate the smaller things. “There’s so much happiness and joy,” she said. “You just have to look for it.”

In the years since she gained her independence she has sung in a choir, climbed in Arches National Park, even sung from the top of a potato cellar—all with the help of some friends. She managed life on her own and then moved onto new adventures as a married woman.

Since winning Miss Wheelchair Utah, she has since appeared in parades (including some where she has represented the CPD’s Utah Assistive Technology Program), spoken to groups (the title requires her to do it for free) and realized that people look up to her. Every time she shows up for an event, it seems everybody knows her.

“It has shocked me a little bit,” She said. “I can’t believe that I actually have that influence… I can actually change people’s lives for good.”

Now she will try to extend that impact to the national level.

We’re thinking it couldn’t happen to a nicer woman.

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Want to influence global policy on disability? Call your senator.

July 17, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

Urge Senator Lee to support The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and pass it out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to move it forward for a Senate floor vote. Utahans have a unique opportunity to make an impact at this stage in the legislative process as constituents of Senator Lee who is one of 19 Senators on this committee.


Contact Senator Lee by Thursday July 19th with the following message (or something similar):

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)

(202) 224-5444

Foreign LA: Miriam Harmer ( OR


MESSAGE:  Identify yourself and your connection to disability (person with a disability, parent of a child with a disability, family member, etc.) then tell your Senator that, “I support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and as your constituent I request that you support the CRPD at the Committee meeting on July 19, vote in favor of the treaty in Committee, and move it forward to a floor vote in the Senate!”



The following information about the CRPD is provided by the United States International Council on Disabilities.

What is the CRPD

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a treaty that describes the obligations of ratifying countries to promote, protect, fulfill, and ensure the rights of persons with disabilities. The treaty embodies the American ideals that form the basis of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): empowering persons with disabilities to be independent and productive citizens.

What is the history of the CRPD

The United Nations adopted the CRPD in 2006.  It was officially open for countries to sign on March 30, 2007.  The CRPD “entered into force,” meaning that that the treaty became law for countries that have ratified it, on May 3, 2008. The US signed the CRPD on July 30, 2009, joining the 141 other signing nations. As of June 2012, the Convention has 114 ratifications and 153 signatures. On May 17, 2012, following almost three years of thorough inter-agency review, the Obama Administration submitted its treaty package to the Senate for its advice and consent for ratification.

Why should the US ratify the CRPD when we have the ADA?

Similar to the ADA, the principles of the CRPD are equal treatment and non-discrimination in access to justice, health, education, employment, and rehabilitation. Through the ADA, the US has made progress toward the goals of inclusion, equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for Americans with disabilities. Ratification of the CRPD would present the opportunity for a reaffirmation of these values and provide the forum to advance them worldwide.


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From awareness to respect…

May 8, 2012 by cpehrson

Mathew McCollough, Executive Director, District of Columbia Developmental Disabilities Council, recently posted a very articulate and well-thought out blog entitled “From Awareness to Respect…And Paving the Way.

Mathew’s thoughts were based on his personal experiences about being employed as a person with a disability, what that means, and what responsibility those in similar situations have to advocate to “eliminate discrimination and remove barriers to full inclusion and acceptance” in the work place.  His message was to all employers, urging them “to stand up and embrace the challenge that is before you, and provide leadership within your programs to recruit and retain the most qualified applicants and employees from diverse backgrounds.”

Photo of Gordon Richins

Gordon Richins, CPD Consumer Liaison

His words evoked a heart-felt response in Gordon Richins, the CPD’s Consumer Liason, that we think is worth sharing on our CPD blog.

Gordon’s response:

Mathew this is a very powerful and well written blog. I say this not because we are friends and colleagues but because it tells it like it is. To the point and “straight forward”.  Quoting your last response of…

We (people with disabilities) must take control of our own circumstances;
challenging the ones around us by pushing and strategically
situating ourselves in more leadership, management and other respectful roles
within our communities and places of employment –
We have no more excuses.

As an advocate and an individual with a significant disability I have experienced an enjoyable  life, of 32 years pre-injury  and 24 good years (post-injury) of a humbling life  benefitting from the hard work and sacrifice my peers have done. They gave me the opportunity to have the quality of life I and my friends enjoy, and some of my friends within the disability community sometimes take for granted.

Tonight, May 8, OPTIONS for Independence, Northern Utah’s Center for Independent Living “CIL” will show the film Lives Worth Living, a documentary that chronicles the history of America’s disability rights movement, produced by the PBS Series Independent Lens. The screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion on “The Disability Rights Movement: Past, Present, and Future.”

I’m proud of my presence and involvement within the disability community. I also owe a great deal of love and gratitude to my wonderful wife, Faustine, for 36 years of love, companionship and support thru the rough times and the many good times. This gratitude extends to Justin Dart who I’ve met twice, Ed Roberts, Helen Roth, Kelly Buckland, Dr. Marvin Fifield and numerous other disability advocates who helped pave the way for me and many others within the community.

There is still a great deal of work to be done by disability advocates. Mathew, your powerful words and example will certainly be part of the hard work ahead of us.  Thank you for the greater message your Blog brings to light for the disability community as well as the greater community we are all a part off.

Gordon Richins, Consumer Liaison, Center for Persons with Disabilities

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CAC Corner: The future of the disability advocacy movement

March 16, 2012 by cpehrson

 This CAC Corner blog is written by Gordon Richins,  CPD Consumer Liaison and staff advisor for the Consumer Advisory Council.

Colored photo of Gordon Richins






The following article, written by Alison Lozano, a friend of mine and the Executive Director of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities,  addresses an issue I have also noticed as I advocate within the state of Utah and on a national level. Read her article below and decide if you agree or disagree when she states, “There is definitely a graying of the disability advocacy community”. 

The future of the “disability advocacy movement.”

By Executive Director NJDD Council, Alison Lozano, Ph.D., MPA

Those of us who are parents, self-advocates, and professionals in the disability advocacy community attend many conferences and meetings per year.  If you sit at the back of the room it is interesting to note how many bald and grey heads there are between you and the dais.  Your conclusion would have to be that there is definitely a graying of the disability advocacy community. 

Many of us became involved with the disability community in the 1970’s and 1980’s when we had to work hard to bring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities out of the shadows and into the mainstream of society.  In many respects we have been very successful, we have downsized many large institutions and visibility for disability issues has become fairly common.   However, we still have a long way to go for individuals with developmental disabilities to truly be part of their communities and society in general.  And, this is the very reason we have to increase our efforts to support and train those who come behind us to be strong and effective advocates.I would suggest the best people for this job are the self advocates themselves.  It is of great importance that we invest in the training and strengthening of self advocates to carry the mantel of the disability advocacy movement   Even those of us who are parents do not understand the issues that affect the lives of those who live with developmental disabilities.  Parents and professionals are so often occupied with caring, protecting and nurturing and we loose sight of the civil rights and quality of life issues that are also important in everyone’s lives.

Therefore, we have to support the development of skills in younger self advocates so they can advocate for themselves and their peers.  We need to make sure there are training opportunities in place so they can learn and nurture their leadership skills.  And, those of us who have been advocates for a while, those of us who are graying, need to step back and let them take the lead.  For many of us it is hard, because, of course, we know best.  But, the only way they will learn is by doing.  If they stumble along the way, or do things differently from how we would do it, then we must endeavor to let them do it their own way.

At the DD Council we have a Youth Leadership program that focuses on teaching youth to advocate for themselves.  These young people are the future of the movement and we need to support them to be the new disability advocacy leaders when those of us with the balding and graying heads take to our rocking chairs.”

Alison Lozano, Ph.D., MBA

We, as advocates within the disability community, pride ourselves in our ability to get involved and help bring about a change in the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

I would like to hear back from others as to whether you agree or disagree with Alison’s letter. You can make comments on this blog, or  just send me thoughts or suggestions that you have on addressing the issue of the graying of the disability advocacy community.  Feel free to call me at 435-797-2832 or e-mail me


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