What Makes a Disability Advocate?

Some say that you have to have a disability to understand what people with disabilities endure on a daily basis. […]

Some say that you have to have a disability to understand what people with disabilities endure on a daily basis. This can be said to be true of Mark Hughes, the co-producer of “Disability Viewpoints” which airs on CTV-15 every Monday at 7:30 p.m. CTV-15 serves the Twin Cities northern suburbs of Arden Hills, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, Little Canada, Mounds view, New Brighton, North Oaks, Roseville, Shoreview, and St. Anthony.

“Disability Viewpoints” is Hughes’ way of informing the community about different disability issues that affect people with disabilities. Including information about the transportation and employment issues that are at the top of the list of barriers to self-sufficiency within the disability community. It also gives the viewer an opportunity to get information about different non-profit organizations that advocate and support people with disabilities. United Cerebral Palsy of Minnesota (UCPM) is the co-producer of this endeavor and they provide content and guests for the show. Guests have included elected officials, entertainers, athletes, and advocates for the disabled. Recently, Congressman Jim Ramstad shared his viewpoint with Hughes on stem cell research, Metro Mobility funding, and other disability related topics.

Future topics for the show will include recreation for people with physical disabilities, the “b-ball” baseball team for people with vision impairments, building an accessible home, the services at Shrine Hospital and more. UCPM is currently accepting requests to appear on the show in 2006. Contact Jo Ann Erbes at ucpmn@cpinternet.com or 651-646-7588 if you are interested in appearing on the show.

Non-profit disability related services providers are encouraged to contact UCPM to put information about their events and activities on the bulletin board. Disability Viewpoints and UCPM reserve the right to edit the bulletin board events as appropriate.

As a person with cerebral palsy, Hughes knows first hand what non-profit organizations, such as UCPM and the Shriner’s Hospital for Children, can do to encourage and support a person with a disability. Hughes’ has had over 35 procedures in his lifetime and most of them have been supported by the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Minneapolis.

In May 2005, Hughes was awarded the Rainbow of Hope award from the Minneapolis Shriner’s Hospital for Children for being an outstanding role model within the disability community. What defines a role model? As the Rainbow of Hope Nominations stated, “Someone who has overcome physical limitations in life while maintaining a positive attitude; a mentor; a good example to their peers; or a person who provides a service to their community.” Hughes certainly fits that definition. He mentors students at the Carlson School of Management, serves on numerous non-profit boards and works full-time at KSTP-TV, Channel 5, where he has worked for 26 years.

To fulfill his service to the community, Hughes began “Disability Viewpoints” as a place to educate and communicate information to the community that often does not get into the mainstream newspaper or television news programs. For his commitment to getting the information out to the general public, Hughes was awarded his second national “Access-Able Award” from the Alliance for Community Media.

Congratulations to Mark on his accomplishments! He certainly has worked hard to achieve independence and recognition for his remarkable skills of bringing the disability community together. At the same time we should be looking at celebrating all the momentum that is being showcased in 2005 with the 15th Anniversary of the signing of ADA.

Do all disability advocates have disabilities? No! Some advocates are family members, some are friends or relatives, and some are just concerned and impassioned individuals that care for the best treatment of all individuals, regardless of their race, age, religion, eye color, or disability. Most advances in social change have been brought forth not only by the minority group that wants the change, but also by the allies or advocates that can help advance the issue within the majority group.

Who are your advocates? Are you an advocate for others? Let Access Press know. We would like to hear your story. Send an email to access@testing.accesspress.org  or by mail to 1821 University Avenue W, Suite 104S, St. Paul, MN 55104. You can also contact us by phone 651-644-2133.

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