A long time ago, I was a member of ANCOR as the CEO of Maryland’s state association and I was a non-voting member of the ANCOR board representing state associations prior to my stint with state government. I cannot tell you how delighted I was when 10 years ago Renee Pietrangelo carved out a part time position for me as the liaison to the state associations of ANCOR.
This position fit like a glove and I’ve loved every minute in this role. I’ve loved working closely with our members, meeting them across the country and working collaboratively to unify our work for the greater good. Yet time is telling me it’s time for me to slow down a little.
When I think of where our field was in the 1970s and where it is today, I must reflect on the progress made on multiple fronts. People with disabilities are more engaged than ever in advocacy, policy work, and mentoring. Community programs are morphing into more self-directed, family-oriented, and inclusive opportunities; but we must ask if it is enough.
Wages for DSPs continue to lag far behind counterpart human service sectors. Progress made under the community rule seems paused a bit; the ADA is under attack; and the ACA’s foundation seems ever so fragile. I used to think of our progress as linear, but I’ve come to realize our path is more circular. Issues we once thought resolved continue to challenge us years later – nothing is stable, nothing is forever. Our disability movement must always be vigilant in its oversight and advocacy.
I’m privileged to have worked among an amazing cadre of people with disabilities and advocates over the last 45 years. Our work has challenged and nourished us, prompting us to be ever mindful of the civil rights of people with disabilities. As administrations come and go and memories run short, we tend to forget there is a fragility to this work. We see this every time one of our hard fought legislative wins is challenged, such as the most recent effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Going forward we must all commit to nurturing the next generation of leaders, with and without disabilities. We must commit to continued vigilance. We must commit to an expanded and fluid vision incorporating what people with disabilities tell us is important TO THEM.
ANCOR is doing this and more for its members more than any other national organization. ANCOR is committed to strengthening providers of community supports and services so the future is sound for people with disabilities. So it is with sadness I bid farewell to colleagues and friends across the ANCOR family; yet, I know this great work will continue long into the future.
To all of you, be well, and as Justin Dart once said, “Lead on!”
Diane McComb is ANCOR’s liaison to the State Association Executives Forum through December 2017 and can be reached at [email protected] until that time. Beginning in 2018, she can be reached at [email protected]