Tag: advisory boards

Advisory Committee and Board Resources for People with Developmental Disabilities

CAB member Douglas Russell, Jr. of Worcester with DDS Commissioner Elin Howe and Regional Director, Terry O’Hare.
CAB member Douglas Russell, Jr. of Worcester with DDS Commissioner Elin Howe and Regional Director, Terry O’Hare.

Here are some great opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to have a voice and share their perspective on advisory and policy making boards.

Citizen Advisory Boards (CABs)

Individuals with intellectual disabilities are encouraged to join the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Citizen Advisory Board (CAB) .  The advisory board meets monthly at the local DDS area office.  Citizen Advisory Board members give input on services,  share concerns that  individuals face and provide suggestions for improving services.  Board members also participate in evaluating programs through Family Citizen Monitoring.

As part of the legislative advocacy effort, CAB members also meet with legislators to inform and educate them on important issues. Most importantly, members host recognition events to acknowledge outstanding services.

For additional information about DDS CABs go to Frequently Asked Questions.

Individuals interested in joining a Citizen Advisory Board can obtain a CAB Application or contact Ralph Edwards, the DDS Director of Office of Citizen Leadership, at ralph.edwards@state.ma.us or call (617) 624-7755.

Additional Resources

Boardsmanship Inclusive and Accessible
This workbook from People First of California Inc. clearly explains the role of board members and preparation for serving on a board.

Get on Board and Make Difference
Effective practices for including people with developmental disabilities as new members on boards and committees is presented in this document.

Facilitation Tips
The Board Resource Center provides this “plain language” check-off list for advocates to ensure they have a voice in public policy.

Facilitation Guide
This Guide is for facilitators offering support to people with developmental disabilities on advisory boards.

The Guide – NASDDDS Handbook on Inclusive Meetings and Presentations
The guide includes resources for conducting accessible meetings, presentations and a checklist for involving people with developmental disabilities.

Not Another Board Meeting, Guide to Building Inclusive Decision-Making Groups
This publication is helpful for support personnel working with people with developmental disabilities interested in being involved in decision making groups.  To order copies call Becky Thrash at (508) 945-9941 or email ocdd@ocdd.org . You will only be charged for shipping cost.


Being a Board Member is an Honor

Picture of Mary sitting on a couch

This week I introduce Mary Blauvelt as a guest blogger

My name is Mary Blauvelt and I have a developmental disability. But because I have a disability, it doesn’t mean I can’t do the things I want to do.

I go to the Minute Man Arc Day Hab and live at Carter house in West Concord. In my spare time I go to ceramics and chorus. In the last musical I was Tiger Lilly, the Indian princess in Peter Pan. I am also a member of a book club and President of the Minuteman Self Advocacy group. I was also in a walking club until it got too cold.

Becoming a Board Advisor

About a year and a half ago I joined the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Advisory Committee. I have a supporter who brings me to the meetings and helps me when I need help. I like the meetings; I like them a lot. I learn about the things they are doing at Shriver.

At one of the meetings I met John, who came to Minute Man to meet my friends and talk about using computers. It was called a focus group and he wanted to know how easy or hard it was for us to use computers and get on websites. I learned a lot. Now I go into the computer lab at Day Hab and am saving to buy my own in the future.

And a Board Director

I am also very proud to be a member of the Minute Man Arc Board of Directors because everyone can’t be on it. I have a mentor, Liz who talks to me about the agenda before the meeting and helps me at the meetings if I need her. It is an honor. We learn about the programs, and talk about how to make things better

Contributing to the community

I think the other board members like hearing what I have to say. I also get to vote which feels good because everyone doesn’t get a chance to vote on certain things. It is a good way to let your voice be heard.

Even if you are a person with a disability, you can still be on a board. No one can turn you down because you have a disability, but you should be prepared. You can go to a training like I did or maybe just try it out and go to a meeting first to see if you like it. Whatever you do, you should know about the different issues facing people with disabilities today.

People with Disabilities Have Major Impact as Board Directors

Ever been on a board of directors for a nonprofit? If so, you know it’s a pretty big responsibility.

You have meetings to go to, some more exciting than others. You have to pay attention to the budget and be sure money is spent in a responsible way. You attend fundraisers, bring your friends, and share your passion for whatever the organizations stands for.

And hopefully, the board you join represents a diverse community inclusive of those that the organization serves. For nonprofits serving people with disabilities, that simply means that the board should include people with disabilities.

Yet, for many this appears to be a challenge.

Challenges or excuses?

There are lots of reasons given for not having people with disabilities on boards.

One common excuse is boards shouldn’t include people that are actually being served by the agency. Yet it seems to be fine if it is a nonprofit with an educational mission and the board includes parents of children served.

Of course there is always the problem with comprehension. A person with an intellectual disability may not understand the discussion and may not even be able to read. But I have to ask, have you ever been on a board and sat through the financial report? Look around and tell me how many board directors are really grasping the details of the profit and loss being shared. Trust me; not many.

My personal favorite is the transportation challenge. How will they get there if they don’t drive? The fact that most board members are not only capable but very willing to pick up another person is never even considered.

Making it happen

This month we will speak to Board members at several organizations that addressed these challenges and made a conscious decision to recruit, train and support people with disabilities as board directors and advisors. We will also speak with a board member who is a respected member of the board and also happens to be a person with an intellectual disability.

As they share their experiences, the challenges don’t appear to be so challenging anymore. In fact, people with disabilities are not only capable of being board members; their valuable contributions clearly have a lasting impact on all.