VSA Texas

Opening Minds, Opening Doors

  • Impact
    • Facilitated a total of 16 classes that served 60 adults with developmental disabilities (DD)
    • 27 successful conference presentations were completed
    • One speaker/mentor is now an active member of the VSA Texas Board of Directors.
    • Some speakers have begun to facilitate conference presentations independently, and others made significant advancements in their ability to transform story ideas into compelling presentations.
    • Speakers improved in their abilities to write, speak and express themselves creatively.
    • Speakers improved communication and engagement at home and in the community, as well as gaining greater confidence, independence and advocacy skills.

Statewide Need
People who have self-advocacy skills can take greater control over their lives and be more active in their community. These skills are developed by learning from other advocates. Self-advocates with DD can provide insight into advocacy barriers and opportunities, be role models, and teach parents and professionals about self-advocacy and self-determination. They can share knowledge, influence thinking and inspire others by presenting and serving as conference facilitators. Many organizations don’t have funds to pay speakers or reimburse expenses, which limits their available pool of participants. People with DD may not have financial resources to attend events.

Project Goal
Support and promote a diverse pool of self-advocates who can serve as presenters, facilitators or mentors at conferences and training events. Train at least 50 self-advocates to make presentations and serve as facilitators at conferences and training events in Texas so they may increase awareness about disabilities and help improve public policy.

Project Summary
Through six-week courses, self-advocates were trained to write and present personal stories that could be delivered at events, conferences and seminars. After the initial class, ongoing support and technical assistance were provided through monthly meetings, webinars and contact via phone, Skype and email. Throughout the project, self-advocates gave 27 successful conference presentations.

Several speakers were nurtured to become mentors. These mentors held additional sessions for speakers who wanted to develop stories and receive feedback in between the six-week classes. VSA also provided additional support to emerging speakers, confidence boosts to mentors, and assistance to the project coordinator to meet the goals and objectives of the project.

A training curriculum was developed throughout the project, with input from instructors, assistants, project staff and self-advocates, to enable facilitators of all levels to launch their training programs. A series of guides were developed on how to submit conference presentation proposals, support and prepare speakers with disabilities for conferences, and recruit participants, volunteers and instructors for an OMOD class.

  • Resources
    • The Right to Make Choices (PDF, 139 pages, 1,939 KB) – Designed to enable facilitators of all experience levels to successfully launch their training programs
    • 9 Training Videos – To support new training programs in other parts of Texas
    • Guides – How to submit conference presentation proposals, support and prepare speakers with disabilities for conferences, and how to recruit participants, volunteers, and instructors for an OMOD class
    • OMOD Website – Includes helpful resources that would enable organizations in other locations to facilitate their training

Project Period
May 2013 – Apr 2017

3710 Cedar St. # 7
Austin, TX. 78705

Geographic Reach
Bexar, El Paso, Harris, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties

shape of state of Texas in blue with Bexar, El Paso, Harris, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties colored orange