Self-advocacy and empowerment at Richcroft

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and a cause for celebration and reflection here at Richcroft. While we have made tremendous strides in advancing the rights of individuals with disabilities there is always progress to be made. One important area that we continually focus on is self-advocacy and helping those we support to feel empowered to make decisions regarding their own lives, needs, wants, and goals. At Richcroft, the happiness of our individuals is our greatest priority.

Richcroft would like to honor Hannah B., a participant in our Personal Supports Program as someone who has shown just how powerful self-advocacy can be. Hannah was born with multiple disabilities but has absolutely no intention of letting that stop her from following her dreams. Hannah completes in local beauty pageants where she utilizes her skills as a self-advocate to raise awareness and make the world a more inclusive place for people with disabilities. She says, “I use my pageants as a platform to advocate for a more diverse world for people with disabilities. I do that by challenging myself when it comes to my disability, by representing people with disabilities, as well as informing those without disabilities on what it entails and breaking down stereotypes and molds that society has put in place. I feel that even with a disability you’re still capable of great things.”

While self-advocacy does involve following your passions and dreams,  it can also involve speaking up about everyday routines, such as deciding what to eat/cook, what to wear, or in which activities to participate. Self-advocacy is about knowing yourself well enough to proclaim what you want. By helping individuals find their voice, we are empowering them to be an important part of the community. Each of Richcroft’s programs focuses on helping our supported individuals become better self-advocates. From our very first meeting and throughout the process of deciding what provider or program to participate in, to discovering one’s own likes and interests, to help people develop their decision-making skills, Richcroft is committed to empowering our participants in building their own individual self-determination and then helping to realize their dreams and goals.

On February 22, Richcroft and many of our self-advocates were proud to virtually participate in Developmental Disabilities Day at the Legislature. A statewide event, DD Day at the Legislature is something many of us look forward to all year long – a day where hundreds of people with developmental disabilities, their family members, advocates, and service providers come together to educate legislators about many important issues affecting people with disabilities. Among the topics discussed at this year’s event were staffing shortages and the impact on people with disabilities, the need for more funding to support the direct support professional (DSP) workforce, and reducing the long waitlists for waiver program funding, among many others. More information on this year’s event can be found at the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council website.

As we build our base of support and advocacy for people with disabilities, we invite you to become more involved with Richcroft. If you are interested in volunteering, serving on a volunteer committee, or helping in another special way, please reach out to our Director of Development, Lisa Knauff at LisaK@Richcroft.org. We would love to hear from you!