The Power of the Parent (and Family)
This month I want to talk to you all about the impact of parents and family members, a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.
My older brother and I are deaf and while growing up, we watched our parents challenge our school district to provide high quality services in the classroom. It was a long battle, but one that changed my life for the better, and one that I want to share with all of you.
Growing up in Erie, PA, like any other child in the 90s, I was involved in a lot of school activities, loved to ice skate, teased my hair up high, and rocked turtlenecks. The only difference was that I required some extra support in school for my hearing loss.
When I was transitioning to 5th grade, I was re-evaluated for my IEP, but there were several flaws in this process. Flaws that were unacceptable to my parents. After unsuccessfully reaching a consensus with the school administrators about what was needed for me to be successful in the classroom, my parents made the difficult decision to bring a lawsuit against the district. This lawsuit lasted several years, and wasn’t concluded until after I had graduated high school.
In my experience, people who don’t understand accessibility or rights granted to people with disabilities under the Americans with Disability Act, come from a place of ignorance. Fortunately, I’ve also found that once you begin the conversation of how to make an environment inclusive and accessible, most people are willing to learn and work with you. Being a witness to my parent’s advocacy for my brother and I taught me the lesson that a persistent and assertive message of accessibility is the pathway to systemic change.
Reflecting on the power of my parents' involvement is the inspiration behind the creation of the Imagine! Parent Advisory Committee (IMPAC). The purpose of IMPAC is to leverage the stakeholder input of family members of individuals receiving services from Imagine!. My goal is to keep a close pulse reading on the concerns and interests of this important group so that I am well positioned to represent their loved ones in my role. There will also be opportunities for this group to be involved in shaping policy discussions. These are the early days of IMPAC and it may evolve with time but if you know of a family member who would appreciate being a part of this effort, please click on the link below for more information.
If you are interested in joining IMPAC, please click here for more information and to sign up!