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Neighborhood Involvement

Building inclusive, safe and livable neighborhoods and communities.

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Disability Leadership Academy participants pass halfway point of the program

Banner graphic with photos of academy

Participants in Disability Leadership Academy pictured in banner graphic

Participants pass the halfway point with six sessions of Disability Leadership Academy completed

Disability rights and justice movements, disability identity, and conflict resolution have been some of the topics that 14 people with disabilities have been engaged in, during the City’s 2017 Disability Leadership Academy. The Academy opened February 18 with the group beginning the first of 10 sessions that conclude with graduation on June 17th. 

The Disability Leadership Academy is providing interactive training and practical experience for people with disabilities who want to affect public policy and create social change within communities. Members are uncovering and using their personal and political power. 

This cross-disability group is multi-generational, multi-cultural, racially diverse and offers a wide range of systems change and personal experience to the City’s efforts to support leadership development within Portland’s disability communities. Academy members report that they have developed new understandings and greatly benefited from sharing experiences and perspectives.

In six sessions, they have learned about each other’s experiences and priorities, explored and implemented consensus-based processes, and agreed on a common goal. As a group, attendees have worked well together and seek out ways to more fully engage on their own time. Some have applied for and been appointed to the Portland Commission on Disability, others have taken part in legislative day at the State Capitol in Salem, and still others have connected on disability advocacy issues beyond the group’s issue and are working together to make progress. 

Academy members shared that they enjoy getting to know each other and other groups, sharing a spirit of inclusion, and learning about the disability rights movement. They also appreciate the practical advocacy experience, opportunities to increase their communication repertoire, and the sense of community.

During the session that centered on the Disability Rights and Justice Movements, the class viewed the documentary, “Lives Worth Living.” Released in 2011, it chronicles the past four decades of the disability community’s fight for equality and access to all aspects of society. The film concludes with the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. In discussion following the video, a number of the participants said this was new learning for them. They shared how they were moved by the stories of legislative and direct action that resulted in the ADA and the ongoing shift in how society views people with disabilities.

Most of the Saturday meetings include both training sessions and work on the community engagement project. During training sessions, participants are learning disability history and culture, advocacy and organizing skills, and skills for working in teams. The work on the community engagement involves identifying and collaborating on a systems change project. More information about the project will be shared in a future article.

Johnson thanks the dedicated community members who are contributing to the training of DLA members and her fellow Office of Neighborhood Involvement staff who have supported the academy in a number of ways. Contributors who are providing their knowledge and expertise at the trainings include: Ian Jaquiss, Lavaun Heaster, Jan Campbell, Barbara Dirks, Kiel Moses, Todd Ray, Jeri Jimenez, Celeste Carey, Carlos Windham, and Rene Bove.

To learn more about the Disability Leadership Academy, visit the program website. There are other disability resources to be found there, including copies of the twice-monthly Disability NEWS.

Academy participants pictured in banner graphic

Participants in Disability Leadership Academy pictured in banner graphic