Its Been a While and Man Have We Been Busy

I just realized that my last blog post was on January 23 and I feel like it’s time that I update everyone on what we’ve been up to.  Let me take you back to the end of January where I participated with one of my volunteer organizations at an event put on for animal organizations in the area.   I was there on behalf of Pawsibble.   We are an organization that provides resources such as trainers and education to individuals about service dogs.   At this event we had a table for people to learn about our organization and we were able to present in front of everyone a brief synopsis of what we are trying to do with the group.   We made many great connections and they have helped us with future events and accomplishing some of our goals.

 

 PHOTO: Matthew sitting behind the Pawsibble table at a recent fair.

PHOTO: Matthew sitting behind the Pawsibble table at a recent fair.

 

On February 9 I had the privilege of giving a presentation on disability sensitivity at an event titled: An Evening of Acceptance.   This was an event sponsored by Friendship Circle of Virginia.  The goal of the event was to bring many people together within the community to discuss how inclusion of everyone, including those with disabilities, can bring about positive outcomes for your community.   The event was attended by about 70 people including vendors.   Participants heard a variety of stories and about activities that are in our community that encourage inclusion.   I was honored to be able to participate in this event.  

In addition to the work I am doing with Friendship Circle of Virginia I have also begun to work with the Ruderman Chabad Inclusion Initiative to develop webinars around disability inclusion.   Our first webinar is currently being edited and is about physical access to all aspects of the Jewish faith for people with all types of different disabilities.  When it is completed I will be sure to share it on my social media.   We plan on covering more topics in the future.

 PHOTO: Matthew with disability advocate Judy Heumann and her assistant Tailor D'Ortona in Washington, DC At the 25 Anniversary celebration of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation.

PHOTO: Matthew with disability advocate Judy Heumann and her assistant Tailor D'Ortona in Washington, DC At the 25 Anniversary celebration of the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation.

On February 25 we traveled up to Washington DC to take part in the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation’s 25th Anniversary celebration.   The goal of the foundation is to provide opportunities to young people with disabilities.   In the past I have been chosen to participate in two of the foundations granted programs.   I was an APPD intern in the summer of 2011 and I participated in the USBLN’s Career Link Mentoring Program last year.   Being able to get back up to DC and network with so many great people was a tremendous opportunity.   I had the chance to reconnect with Judy Heumann who is a pioneer and well-respected disability advocate who works for the State Department and fights for disability rights worldwide.   On the second day of this two-day event, a summit was held to discuss the future plans for the foundation in the hopes of creating a plan for the next five years. 

 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the duration of the second day because I had to travel to South Carolina.  On February 26 and 27th I was asked to present on behalf of the I’m Determined Project at a transition conference in South Carolina.   The first day was for rehabilitation counselors and teachers.   On this day I sat on a panel with young people from South Carolina to talk about what it means to be self-determined as a young person.  The second day of the conference was for families and students, and I served as the keynote speaker to help kick off the day with a bang.  I presented together with an I’m Determined adult leader and our presentation addressed how opportunities, both in and out of school, can help lead to a person becoming self-determined.  I also got to interact with parents and students closely.  I gain a great deal of gratitude in helping families anyway I can.

 PHOTO: Matthew in his wheelchair presenting his keynote in South Carolina.

PHOTO: Matthew in his wheelchair presenting his keynote in South Carolina.

 PHOTO: Matthew in South Carolina presenting his keynote in front of a screen.

PHOTO: Matthew in South Carolina presenting his keynote in front of a screen.

 PHOTO: Matthew presenting with youth from ABLE South Carolina about what it means to be self-determined.

PHOTO: Matthew presenting with youth from ABLE South Carolina about what it means to be self-determined.

In addition to all of my travels I also began shadowing down at the Virginia General Assembly with the hope of getting a more permanent opportunity there in the next couple of years.   To be involved in the political process is something that excites me and I look forward to potentially being more involved during more legislative sessions.  

Another future opportunity that I’m working on right now, but don’t want to talk about in great detail because we’re still in the working stages, will hopefully be getting me public speaking engagements nationwide. More on this as details become more crystallized.

             As always feel free to stay in the loop with us on our social media pages.   We have more great opportunities coming up and we will be sure to share those with you once they happen. Thanks and stay tuned.