The true power of self-advocacy and self-determination for individuals with disabilities and their families was a message that inspired everyone who attended the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living annual dinner Oct. 27 in St. Paul. Sue Swenson, whom MCIL claims as one of their own, was the keynote speaker. She is currently deputy assistant director for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and acting director of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR. She was once an active member of MCIL’s Board of Directors.
Although Swenson has held many prestigious positions including commissioner of the Administration on Developmental Disabilities under President Bill Clinton, she has the utmost appreciation of what she learned living right here in Minnesota. As a parent of an adult son with disabilities, she can speak from first-hand experience.
Critical issues discussed at the celebration were the need for accessible and affordable housing and transportation, especially in rural areas of the county. Swenson acknowledged that those with disabilities are often forced to move to larger cities rather than having the option to live independently where they choose to live. Also addressed was the need to overhaul a service delivery system that allows 80-year old parents to still care for their 60-year old adult children with no other viable options.
Swenson captivated the audience with her experiences of serving on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. She explained that this convention is just the filter on a universal declaration which gives people with disabilities the right to a revolution; not a military or political revolution but rather a social revolution. She believes that this type of revolution would make the world a better place by including people with disabilities.
The event also included several honors. Persons honored for years of service included Betty Culver (15 years); and Chris Persons and Ann Roscoe (five years).
The 2010 Community Partner of the Year is Hennepin County Veteran Court. The 2010 Transition Student of the Year awards were given to Blake Tuckner, Mike Lowe, Buki (June) Alderete, Juan Garcia and Josh Vennerstrom
The 2010 Self-Advocate of the Year is Cynthia Lothenbach. The 2010 Consumer-Nominated Direct Support Provider (DSP) of the Year is Jill Becker. The 2010 DSP of the Year is Kelly Erickson.