GREETINGS FROM DISABILITY RIGHTS & RESOURCES!
As the holiday season approaches, we are incredibly grateful for our wonderful staff and all they’ve accomplished this year! In the November issue, we bid a fond farewell to our beloved Mike Norris, celebrate Gwen Brown’s “Advocate of the Year” nomination, recap the 2013 White Cane Day, and recognize some recent achievements of our consumers. Also, be sure to check out our calendar for upcoming events and meetings!
It is with great fondness that we bid farewell to a longtime staff member at Disability Rights & Resources: the inimitable Mike Norris. Mike has been a vital part of our organization since 1982. November 27–over 30 years later–will be his last day at Disability Rights & Resources, after which he will enjoy the wonderful world of retirement! During his tenure, Mike has served as Regional ILRU Coordinator, Network Administrator of the Disability Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC), coordinated the Peer Mentoring Program, and provided technical assistance and training to Independent Living Centers and State Independent Living Councils. Mike is currently an Independent Living Specialist, developing community resources for homeless consumers and providing computer instruction to low-vision and blind individuals. In preparation for his retirement, Mike has penned some thoughts he’d like to share with all of you:
“As I write down a few reflections about my time here as a staff member at Disability Rights & Resources, I am immediately reminded of how times and techniques have changed since I began working here over 30 years ago. The method I would have used to compose this draft for our existing newsletter back then would have been to put my thoughts onto a audio cassette tape, and ask some very helpful staff person to assist me in getting it all down in print. There has always been a very helpful group of staff members. But now I just use the computer with speech technology to process my own thoughts.
I thank you all for honoring me by letting me serve you for all these years. God has blessed me and shown me total enrichment by putting me in this place in my life. I have seen many successes and positive outcomes for people with disabilities because of the efforts of the caring people within this agency. I believe the best is yet to come.”
A reception will be held in Mike’s honor at Disability Rights & Resources next Friday, November 22, from 2-4pm. Food and refreshments will be provided and all are welcome to attend! Please RSVP to 205-251-2223. See you there!
GWEN BROWN OF ALABASTER OFFICE NOMINATED FOR “ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR”
Please join is in congratulating Gwen Brown on her recent “Advocate of the Year”nomination at the 34th National Disability Employment Awareness Month Awards Luncheon, which is presented every year by the Birmingham Area Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. The award recognizes “an educator who has demonstrated exceptional devotion to duty toward promoting self-advocacy, employment, and improving the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.” Gwen was nominated by ADRS staff member Nick Votava: “It has been her experiences with her own children that has inspired Gwen to go the extra mile: organizing parent education seminars, assisting parents at IEP meetings, and advocating on their behalf…Gwen adamantly defends and promotes the best interests of her clients.”
Gwen maintains that being an effective Peer Advocate requires collaboration, communication, and respect: “In order to help empower others, it is important to remain humble and never stop learning.” She also stresses the importance of focusing on consumers first and educating parents very early on about vocational rehab services and the transition process. Independent Living philosophy is also at the core of Gwen’s approach–“promoting self-advocacy and equipping people with the tools they need to step out of their comfort zones” are essential. Congratulations on all your hard work and accomplishments, Gwen!
CONSUMERS MAKING HEADLINES:
Tyelyn Maddox of Montevallo Middle School Inducted into National Junior Honor Society
Tyelyn Maddox has been working with Disability Rights & Resources Peer Advocate Gwen Brown for some time now, seeking to transition out of one of her resource classes and enter the 8th grade general curriculum. Going against the grain, Tyelyn called her own IEP meeting and continuously advocated for herself and for her education. Recently, Tyelyn’s hard work paid off. On Friday, November 8, she was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, an organization that recognizes outstanding middle school students and “honors those who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, Character, and Citizenship.” At her last IEP meeting in October, Tyelyn got the go-ahead to transition out of her resource class, and since then she has even been asked to help lead a class following a teacher’s absence. Gwen speaks very highly of Tyelyn’s determination and ability to self-advocate, saying, “This is what our youth in school need to see the outcome of advocacy. Tyelyn has truly stepped up. I am just so proud of her hard work.” Congratulations on all your great achievements, Tyelyn!
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS KITS STILL AVAILABLE!
Disability Rights & Resources has distributed over 250 disaster preparedness kits since launching the initiative in July–and we still have plenty more to give away! The duffle bags contain first aid kits, pocket radios, potable water and vacuum-sealed foods, life rafts, flashlights, batteries, ponchos, a handbook on planning for emergencies, and other helpful items. If you or your agency are interested in picking up kits, please contact Judy Roy at (205) 815-6142.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
November 19: Peer Support Group Meeting, 10-11am, Disability Rights & Resources — (205) 251-2223 for more info!
November 20: Montgomery Center for Independent Living “Chat and Chew” 11am-1pm, Montgomery
November 22: Retirement Party for Mike Norris, 2-4pm, Disability Rights & Resources–(205) 251-2223 RSVP
November 28-29: CLOSED for Thanksgiving Holiday
*Disability Rights & Resources Technology Lab Open Mon-Fri 8:30-4:00