Matt Hofele, who resides in a group home, has a goal. He wants to share his story of being misunderstood, silenced and ignored – to empower more people with developmental disabilities to voice their opinions and have confidence, especially to say no.
“People think they’ll be punished. I want people with disabilities to be able to express themselves without fear,” said Hofele, who in his young life experienced institutional abuse and neglect. “I want everyone to be treated with equity and equality. It’s my new self-direction goal to reach more people with this message.”
Hofele feels supported to achieve this goal through the person-centered support he receives from both AHRC Nassau and Citizens Options Unlimited. “Person-centered” means the person receiving agency services has a voice in decisions, policies and procedures, as well as overall quality management and improvement initiatives. AHRC Nassau and Citizens takes this one step further, people not only have a voice but have a seat at the table in steering and directing services and supports.
A meeting with agency staff, including the self-direction and communications departments, has already been scheduled to plan how Hofele can share his message with more people within and outside the disability community. His participation in this article is also a step toward this goal.
“Matt’s story of empowerment is emblematic of how our agencies seek to partner with the people we support to not only lead the lives they choose, but feel supported to pursue their dreams,” said Stanfort Perry, executive director of AHRC Nassau and Citizens Options Unlimited. “It’s a profound honor to provide support services for self-advocates toward their creating more inclusion at all levels of society.”
With missions firmly planted in person-centered supports, both AHRC Nassau and Citizens Options Unlimited recently passed the validation process from New York State’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities to renew the Compass designation. This distinction of excellence is held by only four agencies in New York State.
At both agencies, person-centered supports and services were not only maintained, but evolved in response to Covid-19.
“The impact of Covid-19 cannot be under-estimated in its disruption of our services and supports,” shared Perry. “The pandemic required re-thinking operations at all levels. We came through this unprecedented period with an exceptional mix of virtual and in-person services – and ideas for how to better support our community.”
The change is evident for Michelle Rudoff, a self-advocate and AHRC Quality Improvement Trainer, who has been with the agency for 18 years.
“More people are advocating for themselves,” said Rudoff. “More folks are on Zoom and people are getting technology. It’s helping people advocate for themselves about their life and what they want.”