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Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Celebration Focuses on Employment

​The Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (OCDD) held its annual Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Celebration on March 7 at the Capitol, which included a ceremony attended by more than 150 people for the DD Champion Advocacy Awards.

This year’s theme focused on employment and youth transition. OCDD Executive Director Jaime Daignault opened the event by addressing the importance of providing employment services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“In line with local and national Employment First efforts, we believe that with high expectations, opportunity, appropriate support and the right job match, people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities can get and keep regular jobs in the community,” she said.

Erinn Kelley-Siel, director of the Department of Human Services, and Sarah Drinkwater, assistant superintendent in the Department of Education’s Student Services Unit, spoke at the event, along with Rep. Sara Gelser, who read the Governor’s Proclamation declaring March 2014 as Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Kelley-Siel said the state is focused on growing capacity to support more individuals with I/DD to live and work in the most integrated community settings appropriate to their needs, abilities and choices.

“In the last year, I’ve had the privilege of spending time with individuals and their families, and if there was one message that I heard consistently, it was the message that expectations, and support that reinforces those expectations, change lives,” she said.

The DD Champion awards were presented to:

  • Molly Elliot, vice president of Eugene-based KindTree - Autism Rocks. Elliot spent 40 years developing inclusive recreation programs for people with disabilities. After retiring, she started volunteering at Kind Tree Autism where she has developed a new program focused on youth transitioning from school to adult life.

  • Ruth Morris, vice chair of the Oregon Self-Advocacy Coalition. Morris has been involved in People First since the 1960s. She has also been a member of the Community Advocacy Council at the University of Oregon’s Center on Human Development for more than a decade. She was recognized for her advocacy for herself and other people with developmental disabilities.

  • Marilee Bell, operations and policy analyst with the Office of Developmental Disability Services (ODDS). Bell was recognized for significant leadership, advocacy, and guidance to others in her work on behalf of individuals and families experiencing developmental disabilities. She began her career at age 22 helping children and families transition into Salem public schools with the passage of Public Law 94-142 (Education of All Handicapped Children Act), now known as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).

In addition, an award was presented to state Sen. Chip Shields, for his support of integrated employment for individuals with I/DD. Kaaren Londahl, who works in his office creating and sending out birthday cards to voters in northeast Portland, presented the plaque to Sen. Shields.

“Having Kaaren in our office has really upped the level of correspondence we have with our constituents,” he said. “She provides a great service so I am just humbled and honored to receive this honor.”