The article below was written by Carole Gothelf, Director and Jennifer Teich, Project Coordinator of AHRC NYC’s Individualized Supports.
Matthew Estep is AHRC New York City’s “Freedom Fighter.” Matthew works in the department of Individualized Supports and reaches all self-advocates across AHRC NYC. He changes the future for people by empowering people with disabilities to lead a life of their choosing. He gathers people together around the intersectional issues of social justice and works with them to find their place in the movement.
His work as Self-Advocacy Advisor links departments together as all people share passions and interests. People want to affect change and Matthew inspires this. He helps people organize around their passions so that they can be seen, heard, and have an impact.
Matthew takes a leadership position to organize the annual Disability Pride Parade across departments within AHRC. In June 2018, Matthew was one of the organizers of AHRC staff and self-advocates marching in the Gay Pride Parade under an AHRC banner. With a self-advocate, he co-teaches a class entitled “From Advocacy to Activism” through the Department of Continuing Education at Hostos Community College, Kingsborough Community College and The College of Staten Island; the class appears in the schools’ catalogs and is open for all to register.
Matthew works with self-advocates and AHRC NYC Leadership to train self-advocates to be effective lobbyists. He supports self-advocates to lead groups that are bound not by their programs but by their neighborhoods. He links self-advocates to New York State Self-Advocacy Association (SANYS) and he is currently accompanying 28 self-advocates and support staff to the SANYS Annual Conference in Albany.
These examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Matthew does. Matthew’s unique ability to create a movement around issues has made him an invaluable resource for AHRC. Lives have been changed and the future has been changed for people with I/DD as a direct result of the work he has done.