Advocacy in Action At KenCrest

Kristen, Stephanie, David, and Tiffany attending the RCPA rally in Harrisburg // Photos courtesy of Stephanie and Kristen

By Sydney Kerelo

For most of her life, Wendy lived in a group home supported by KenCrest. She spent every day with her roommates and staff, and while she loved it, she wanted more. She dreamed of living on her own, in an apartment she could decorate to her liking, where she could have peace and quiet. However, as an adult woman with an intellectual disability, her choices were limited.

So, she took a stand and became her own advocate.

Now, she is working on securing an apartment in the area she wants through KenCrest’s Supported Independent Living program. She is working with her Supports Coordinator and Champion to increase her independence and has learned how to navigate public transportation. She’s even taken a Lyft ride on her own and memorized the bus schedule to get to and from places by herself.

Wendy is an example of a self-advocate. Someone who uses their voice to communicate their wants and needs when it comes to decision-making in all areas of daily life.

According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, “People with IDD have been isolated and segregated from their communities, and presumed incompetent, resulting in loss and denial of basic human rights and discrimination in almost all areas of personal and community life. But, through self-advocacy, people with IDD will have more impact on their own situations and on the public policies that affect them. Self-advocates provide important knowledge, experience, and skills that individuals, organizations, and government agencies need in order to effectively support the needs of and enhance the lives of people with IDD.”

Being a self-advocate is incredibly important for anyone, but especially those with an intellectual or developmental disability. According to Chip Riddleberger, KenCrest’s Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, being an advocate, as a family member, friend, community member, and especially for one’s self, is important because it helps make a positive difference in the world. Advocacy supports and strengthens access to funding across Federal and State programs, and increases opportunities for independence and inclusion for IDD individuals in the community.

A few KenCrest staff and individuals at the RCPA rally supported human services funding and legislative reform. // Photo courtesy of Stephanie and Kristen.

One can be a self-advocate in many ways, including using your voice to speak up powerfully about what is best for you, whether towards staff members or during an election period. Self-advocacy requires everyone to understand themselves, what their values are, what their needs are, and what their rights are in order to communicate effectively.

At KenCrest, our Advocacy department not only advocates for the people we support but also helps them become self-advocates and fight for themselves.

“KenCrest advocates for the IDD community we support by monitoring legislation and regulations of potential impact at both the Federal and State levels within the three states we support—Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut,” says Riddleberger. “We build targeted relationships with key legislators and leaders to stay engaged with the IDD provider community and associations by building relationships regionally and nationally to benefit the population we serve.”

Since Wendy has become a self-advocate, she has increased her independence. She’s participated in an adult craft program at her local public library, went shopping with a friend, and joined a wellness center within her community where she learned how to administer her eye drops.

“We take tremendous pride and enthusiasm in advocating for the IDD individuals we serve across KenCrest’s programs,” says Riddleberger. “To that end, we make an effort to build the most strategic, persuasive argument we can within the facts to make an appreciable difference for the folks we serve. That said, the advocacy message will always be more powerful coming from a self-advocate who can personally speak to the challenges and opportunities for IDD individuals.”

Do you want to learn more about Advocacy at KenCrest and ways to become a self-advocate? Click the link below!