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Self advocates in Arc will raise their profile this year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 March 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Some of the Self Advocate All Stars at the Arc of Orleans County met on Tuesday at the Hoag Library for their monthly meeting. The front three include, from left: Amber Smith, Vice President Leslie Swanson, and President Robert Greer.

ALBION – Four years ago the Self Advocate All Stars were successful in swaying the Orleans County Legislature to officially oppose the “R-word.”

Legislators in May 2010 took a stand, telling local, state and federal governments to no longer use the word “retarded” in describing people with developmental disabilities. The R-word is a “vicious slang” that is insulting and hurtful to people with developmental disabilities and their families, legislators said in their resolution four years ago.

The issue was pushed then by the Self Advocate All Stars, who say they continue to be bullied by some in the community who use the R-word in name-calling.

“We don’t like being called the R-word,” said Gladys Hopper of Albion, one of the All Stars. “There is a community-wide problem with bullying,”

The All Stars are raising their profile this year with plans to be part of the parades at the Albion Strawberry Festival and Holley’s June Fest.

The group will have several fund-raisers, including car washes. They also want to reach out to others in the community with disabilities, welcoming them to become an All Star.

“We want more members,” said Jonathan Doherty, the group’s fund-raising chairman. He was one of the founding members in 2006.

The group has a pressing goal: restore funding for a recreation program in the Arc. That funding, for a few thousand dollars, was cut.

The program helped pay for outings for disabled residents to go to the bowling alley and the mall, and also to attend concerts and sporting events.

“It means a lot for me to get out and meet other people in the community,” Hopper said Tuesday during the All Stars’ monthly meeting at the Hoag Library.

All Stars include residents who live at home with their families, in apartments with supportive services or in Arc residential homes.

“We want to show the community we’re just like everybody else,” said Vickie Randall, the group’s advisor.