While people receiving services from AHRC New York City have been attending the SANYS annual statewide conference in Albany for many years, this year represented a unique success. Attendees were thrilled to hear from Vanessa Mills who receives supports through AHRC NYC’s Kings Highway Adult Day Center, who was one of the event’s keynote speakers. Vanessa’s speech on the subject of SANYS University and organizing was moving to the entire conference and received a standing ovation. Evan YankeyRegional Coordinator, Self-Advocacy Association of NYS received positive comments from statewide coordinators, as well as board members that Vanessa would make a fantastic future board member. We are glad that she was able to make connections with legislators, statewide officials, and other self-advocate leaders.

The conference also represented an opportunity for many of the AHRC NYC staff who have been working on more innovative and exciting program solutions to talk to staff from across the state who were able to share their ideas.  We hope this collaboration will lead to the future development of innovative solutions.

Many of the AHRC NYC conference attendees are graduates of SANYS University classes, and they presented a strong knowledge of self-advocacy, history, and many of the current issues facing the field of disability services. Kristen Thatcher from the travel training program was able to make a powerful speech about transportation issues that the crowd was thrilled to receive. Other attendees met with self-advocates from across the state, providing tips for starting up more self-advocacy groups and receiving more independent services.

The conference also included a number of attendees from OPWDD (including the current and past commissioners,) as well as state legislators and officials. Organizers of the conference were pleased to witness such a strong presence of people from AHRC NYC, and also to provide people with intellectual and developmental disabilities with the experience of advocating on a critical level.  Their voices will continue to be heard by people who implement change in our system.