#AdvocacyMatters: Ask An Advocate

August 5, 2022 / #AdvocacyMatters

In our work supporting disability justice, we vow to keep disabled voices at the center at all times. When the dust settles and there are no other voices shouting for us, or the online rage for an issue is over, advocates in our community will always remain.

With the recent 32nd Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we at DRO are reminded just how rich and powerful disability history is. From the 504 Sit-Ins in the 1970s, where disabled activists, with support from the local Black Panthers chapters, occupied a federal building in San Francisco to demand the enforcement of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which was the first legal documentation of disability discrimination. To the 1990 Capitol Crawl, where more than 1,000 disabled people ascended the Capitol steps, tossing aside mobility aids and crawling by any means necessary to the top, to push for the passing of the ADA.

Today, grassroots activists are still leading the fight for justice.

In an effort to tell the stories of the disability rights movement – both its past and present – we are excited to introduce our new series, “Ask an Advocate,” spearheaded by Community Engagement Coordinator Alexia Kemerling. “Ask an Advocate” was an idea that Alexia shared following in the footsteps of the profound oral history that enriches the disability community. Oftentimes, access to story-sharing takes a route not travelable by disabled advocates, leaving a space with stories left untold. With inspiration from recorded oral history like the stories of Clevelanders captured by John Leoni, and produced by Linking Employment Abilities and Potential (LEAP), Alexia set forward with a specific vision – to hear the stories of the disability rights movement throughout our state from disabled advocates who have been fighting for change. No marketing campaign – just recording and sharing history. The goal of this project will be to capture the shared links in our community, and inspire more disabled Ohioans to continue to write their own story.

This past Wednesday, DRO launched the first episode in the series with Maria Matzik. Maria serves as the Education and Advocacy Specialist with the Access Center for Independent Living in Dayton. She also hosts the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee, which started as a response to the pandemic, and aims to harness the collective power of disabled advocates. It would be hard for someone to be truly involved in Ohio’s disability community and not have met Maria, which makes her story even more vital. Maria has been engaged in the disability rights space for her entire life, and is part of a generation that remembers what is was like before the ADA passed. Her story, in its entirety, will be published on the DRO YouTube page along with all of our other advocates in this series in the following playlist.

We hope you enjoy #AskAnAdvocate, continue to join us in our fight for change, and be there next to us when #AdvocacyMatters most.



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