Now is the time to start planning for the upcoming legislative session. As a community member, it is very, very difficult to be aware of these planning meetings in which paid advocates come up with their annual agenda. Typically, the issues are not shared or discussed with the community and public until it’s a done deal.
This year, I contacted the King County Developmental Disabilities Administration regarding the legislative committee and planning sessions. For some reason, the meeting dates and participants were not being shared on the website. After my inquiry, I have received the information that I requested and an invite to the upcoming meetings.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to participate in these planning meetings. With that being said, I am also disturbed by the gas-lighting that occurred at the meeting.
The issues that I raised at the meeting was the fact that in Washington State (an Employment First state) which means that a person age 21 or older with intellectual/developmental disabilities MUST try employment services first for 9 months before accessing community inclusion services under “Employment and Day Programs” within DDA.
In addition, a person utilizing the employment supports (regardless if they are actually working at all or have minimal hours (5 or less a week) they are restricted from accessing community inclusion. These two supports are mutually exclusive.
Many times these people have no community engagement or opportunities for meaningful interactions during this first 9 months or afterwards. When these people are left without active supports, they lose skills and become more isolated and we believe that these supports should be able to be accessed concurrently (as many other states offer them.)
There were several representatives from The Arc of King County (paid advocates) at the meeting in addition to representatives from the state DDA, King County DD Admin, and representatives from other agencies which serve people with IDD.
The Arc of King County Director of Advocacy and the Arc of King County Family Engagement Coordinator both spoke up and stated that I was wrong in my statement that people receiving employment supports were not able to also access community inclusion. I questioned when that change had been made and I was told that it was made several years ago and was in the waivers.
Being “corrected” by these paid advocates and “experts” at this public meeting was really a slap in the face. They provided false information with their attempts to discredit what I was advocating for.
I followed up with emails to both of these people and to the King County Administrator who was running the meeting. When questioned and asked for resources to back up their comments, both of these people wrote back to me that I was CORRECT in what I had said at the meeting.
What was the purpose of them speaking out against my comment? What was the reason that they provided false information to those in the legislative planning meeting?