If you had thirty minutes to talk to the Governor, what would you say? From February 7th through the 9th, 2016, this was a very real question for Brooklyn self-advocates Chad DeRoche and Danielle Levine as they headed up to Albany for the NYSACRA-NYSRA Legislative Policy Forum. After weeks of practice – and years of self-advocacy – they were ready to speak to members of the State Senate, Assembly, and the Governor’s office. They found an audience in the offices of nine legislators, at a press conference, and with officials in the Department of Health, Human Services, and OPWDD.

Chad DeRoche with his Petition to Increase pay rates for DSPs and Petition

Chad DeRoche with his Petition to Increase pay rates for DSPs and Petition

For Chad, the choice of what to say was easy: he has been advocating for increasing state funding for DSP salaries since 2014, when he presented a petition to Gary Lind, Executive Director, AHRC New York City, with over 200 signatures. Not only do they deserve it, he feels, but it directly affects the quality of his services.

“The [AHRC NYC] staff has really helped me with my art and I’m thankful to them, [but] some of my favorite staff left for better paying jobs,” said Chad. “New staff is constantly being brought in and not many stay because of the low pay.” He added,”I hope the pay is increased because the staff works very hard.”

Chad’s message resonated with his audien