People First Advocacy: Using Their Unique Voice
(March 29, 2018) People First of California is among a worldwide network of self-advocacy groups for individuals with learning difficulties, intellectual disabilities, and developmental disabilities. Among the most active groups is the People First chapter in San Luis Obispo. Their goal is to support peers in speaking up for themselves, knowing their rights and responsibilities, and solving problems.
Liz, a PathPoint participant, and current Vice-President of the People First chapter, has worked with the group since 1982. The chapter’s three major activities are: community outreach, giving back to the community, and advocacy. They have been very busy with these goals.
Last month, Liz, along with Ray and Jody, of People First, presented to students at Ocean View Elementary School’s annual “Unique Week”, designed to raise disability awareness. The presentations were a hit and made a positive impression on the students, even inspiring one student to organize a personal fundraiser which raised $500 for the group. Other schools have asked about inviting People First to their campuses.
People First also organizes karaoke nights and an annual Christmas dance to give back to the community. This year’s recipient of the dance fundraiser was the American Red Cross.
It’s in the area of advocacy that the group has made the greatest impact. Liz described the process of getting a key piece of state legislation passed in 2007, the Warren Mattingly Signature Stamp Act. “Before, people who couldn’t write their name on the voter registers could not vote. People First and Warren, a disabled advocate, lobbied for the opportunity for people who could not physically sign their name to use an ink signature stamp. We sent a group to Sacramento, presented to senators, and got the bill passed,” said Liz.
Throughout the year, People First’s advocacy efforts include having the League of Women Voters present a non-partisan summary of the propositions on upcoming ballots, as well as working directly with the City Clerk’s office assisting the community to register. People First encourages being an active voter and the PathPoint office in San Luis Obispo has helped many people over the years with registration and the actual voting process. People First members also write letters to their local senators and representatives in regards to rights and funding.
The most recent advocacy win for People First was successfully lobbying the city of San Luis Obispo to improve a pedestrian crosswalk signal light near the PathPoint building, increasing from 20 seconds to 30 seconds, allowing individuals who need more time to safely cross the street. The win for People First is also a win for everyone who uses the crosswalk! Thank you to People First and for their efforts in strengthening our communities for all individuals.
(Photo from left to right: People First's Ray-President, Liz-Vice-President, Jody-Former President, and PathPoint staff in the back Stephanie and Mike.)