Freedom Valley Disability Enablement, Inc.

Empowering People with Disabilities to Empower Themselves

I had already become involved in the Disability Movement years earlier; first, speaking out at a SEPTA hearing regarding transportation for persons with disabilities, then as the Consumer Representative from Delaware County at the First Governor’s Conference on the Handicapped.  I’d also participated in several marches in Philadelphia regarding Section 504 (community access) regulations.

But my life had moved on…  I’d graduated from college, had a full-time job, came and went as I pleased, made my own decisions, had a boyfriend and social life – what more does anyone expect at that point in life?  I felt like I already was independent!  My life exemplified what the IL movement was all about; I was living the independent living dream!

So, getting involved in the CIL seemed like a step backward to me.  Why should I want to?  But when I expressed this to Bill, he said something I’ve never forgotten….  He told me I had no idea how lucky I was to have the strong support system I’d had.  Many other people with disabilities have never had the kind of support and encouragement I had received – and taken for granted – throughout my life.

At first I was shocked by his words.  I’d never thought about it before; I just assumed that everyone had parents, teachers, friends and opportunities like mine.  The more I thought about it, I realized Bill was right and how thankful I was.  It was then that I realized it was time to “pay it forward.”  Not to sound cliched, but for me, getting involved in the CIL was my chance to give back to those who had given me so much by giving a little of myself to someone else who needs it.

So, I joined the advocacy group, became an outreach consultant for the ‘parent’ CIL, and was hired a year later to develop the suburban CIL, taking it from a satellite to an independent CIL in its own right: the birth of Freedom Valley!  Twelve years later, Freedom Valley “gave birth” to another new CIL to serve Bucks County.

All the while, I remembered Bill’s words and have made it my personal mission to seek out the abilities in Freedom Valley’s consumers, volunteers and staff.  I look for ways to nurture those qualities so that each person can develop a skill set that can be used to create a rewarding, successful life.  It’s especially rewarding to me when a person with a disability I’ve hired is successful – and even more so, if it is someone who had been deemed by society or the system as “unemployable.”

I hope in some small way, I’ve been successful, too – in “paying it forward!”

Freedom Valley Disability Enablement, Inc.

Empowering People with Disabilities to Empower Themselves