March is Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize the talents and contributions of the approximately 40,000 Oregonians who experience developmental disabilities and the families, professionals, and communities that support them. This year's Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month activities will culminate in a celebration of self advocacy hosted by The Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (OCDD) and The Arc Oregon. "Self Advocacy is embodied in the phrase, "nothing about us without us" explained Kathryn Weit, Executive Director of OCDD. "Self advocates have taught us that their place is at the table where the decisions are being made." Kristin Nichols, a self advocate from Lincoln City, describes self advocacy as "when you stand up for yourself and make your voice heard and when you know that if you have questions, you have the right to ask them."
Governor Kitzhaber will present DD Champion Awards to two individuals who exemplify the voice of self advocacy in Oregon. The event will take place at noon on March 28th in the first floor Galleria of the Capitol and is open to the public. The 2012 DD Awareness Poster, "I have a voice," which celebrates self advocacy, will be unveiled during the event.
The commitment to a more powerful role for self advocates is not new in the developmental disabilities community. The Office of Developmental Disabilities and the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities have supported training and participation in policy activities for self advocates for a number of years. Currently, OCDD is supporting a new coalition of self advocacy organizations from around the state. For information on the newly forming coalition, visit www.OCDD.org
Kristin Nichols lives in Lincoln City with her family and describes herself as, "born to be independent." Her parents are very supportive and raised Kristin to follow her passion. "My parents support me 102 percent." It is clear they instilled in her the knowledge that she has the right to make decisions about her own life, and that with the right supports, she has the ability to live a life that is fulfilling and meaningful to her. "To help me learn to read, my parents had me read traffic signs because I love to travel. Now I'm an international traveler. They know when I'm happy; it is a great life for me."
Kristin's advocacy started in her own life, but has grown as she has. In 2011, her compassion and sense of what is right led her to legislative advocacy. By the summer, Kristin had been invited by her Senator, Joanne Verger, to provide testimony and sit with her on the Senate Floor. "It was thrilling and incredible. It was a dream come true," says Kristin. Her advocacy continued both in Salem and in her community. She was recognized by the Oregon Developmental Disabilities Coalition Grassroots Oregon GO! Project with the 2011 Legislative Advocate of the Year award. Kristin has also been awarded the 2011 Sarolta Nagy Memorial Award by The Arc Oregon in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the quality of life for Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.