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Our Moment is Now

by: 
Barbara Merrill, Esq.

You know better than anyone what it means to include, support and empower people with I/DD. You’ve seen firsthand what it can be like when a person your agency supports is included in their community, when they’re supported in their quest to thrive, when they’re empowered to be who they are. When people with I/DD can thrive in the places they live, work and play, we all win.

But you also know what it’s like when the opposite is true. And honestly, despite all our efforts, there are times when people with I/DD remain excluded. You’ve seen what happens when someone doesn’t have the support they need. When—no matter how big their dreams—the pathway to empowerment remains all but a pipe dream.

You’ve heard me say it before, but there’s a reason why we put Supported smack in the middle of the Included. Supported. Empowered. campaign. It’s because at the heart of it all, it’s the support you provide to people with I/DD and their families every day that makes the difference. Because you know best of all that the successes of people with I/DD rarely happen by chance.

Rather, a range of dedicated professionals come together, often working behind the scenes, to ensure that people with disabilities have the support they need to be fully included within their communities. From the DSP who ensures their supported individual has a ride to work each morning, to the CFO who navigates a series of federal regulations (that seem to be intentionally confusing) to ensure people with I/DD can access the medical care they need, what most of us see when we interact with people with I/DD in the community is so often just the tip of the iceberg.

That’s why the ANCOR Foundation launched Included. Supported. Empowered., an ambitious, multiyear campaign designed to celebrate the successes of people with I/DD, but also the service providers and DSPs whose work is integral to those successes. The untold stories of those working behind the scenes inspired the Foundation to bring those successes—and the people who make them possible—out of the shadows.

We recognize that redefining the narrative about people with I/DD and those who support them is a massive undertaking—and one that we can’t accomplish alone. But we also realize something even more important: This is our moment. Our time is now.

If you joined us in New Orleans, you were among the first 600 or so people to watch the video of Peter’s Story. Since then, 16,000 people have watched that same video—including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who called Peter and his DSP, Lan, and invited them out for coffee! As folks across the country began to take notice, so too did members of Peter & Lan’s community, and just this past Friday, the Pembroke Mariner & Express shared this powerful story.

But it’s not just about Peter or Lan or Senator Warren or Massachusetts. People are taking note of DSPs like Jesse Farren-James and Elizabeth Lobb. They’re hearing about how people with I/DD are being empowered through art and supported to pursue a career they love. And it’s all happening in places like Wisconsin and Oklahoma and New York.

This is what I mean when I say this is our moment. Momentum is building, attention is heightening and the work you do is inspiring a changing narrative. This is our moment to show the world what we’re about. This is our time to shine.

But that also means that this is our time to double down. Our work is just beginning. Now that Included. Supported. Empowered. has entered its sophomore year, there are three ways you can leverage the campaign today to help us redirect the national narrative about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the powerful workforce that makes success possible each and every day.

Share Our Stories.

The campaign website is chock full of stories that attract attention and raise awareness about the stake we all have when it comes to including, supporting and empowering people with I/DD. These are the stories of people like Peter, and Gloria, and Ian. But these are also the stories of Lan, and Rosa, and Erin—the DSPs, art teachers, friends and confidants who play such a vital role in the lives of the people they support. But we can’t just disseminate and hope; we have to ensure these stories see the light of day. So help us: share these stories on Facebook and Twitter (tag @WeHaveAStake and use #WeHaveAStake) or wherever you use social media.

Share Your Stories.

You have a front row seat to the impact service providers have in enriching the lives of people with I/DD, and your stories deserve to be told! Regardless of whether you have a beautifully written article, a professionally produced video or simply an idea you jotted down on a cocktail napkin, we want to hear from you! Get in touch by sending an email to info@wehaveastake.org; we’re happy to share stories that are fully developed or to work with you to co-create a story that anyone can share to help spread the word.

Shout it from the Rooftops!

We know that for every story we tell, there are 100 more out there will never see the light of day. Included. Supported. Empowered. was created to ensure more of these powerful stories don’t remain untold, but we can’t do it without an engaged constituency of supporters ready to amplify our collective message. To do so, we invite you to like us on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up to receive campaign updates via email. Then, use the shareable images on the campaign website or craft an email of your own to invite your friends, family and colleagues to join our movement.

Important work remains before us as we seek to define and elevate a narrative about service providers, DSPs and the people with I/DD who they include, support and empower every day. The ANCOR Foundation is grateful for your support, and we look forward to partnering with you in taking the next steps, together, to celebrate and showcase the vital work you do in your community.

Barbara Merrill is CEO of ANCOR. She can be reached at bmerrill@ancor.org.