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Guest blog post: Makings of an Advocate by Lucia Rios

Lucia Rios is a Community Access Specialist at Disability Network Lakeshore. The following is an excerpt of an article she wrote for the blog AbleBodies on June 25, 2014.

The Makings Of An Advocate … Part 2

Lucia Rios

When I first arrived on the scene at my local Center for Independent Living (CIL), I was hired to be a part-time Access Leader. I worked my way into a full-time Accessibility Specialist within two years. It’s a role I never envisioned having, and until I met with the Executive Director a month before I graduated college, I didn’t know it existed. 

She read the article circulating around West Michigan, and asked if I was interested in applying for a job. I was interested – not having much of a plan after my graduation date – and we set up a time to meet in person. Just to be clear I was not guaranteed a job, but had to go through the interview process like everyone else.

So, what was I hired to do? 

I was in charge of recruiting and training volunteers on the Americans with Disabilities Act, specifically Titles II and III. Those volunteers would assist me in providing facility checks to government and public buildings. If there were complaints about inaccessible places in our community I would get the calls and then approach business owners. 

I had a big learning curve because I was not as comfortable on technical standards, diagrams, measurements and providing solutions. Let me back up here and explain that while on campus I wrote about barriers with access, but my hands-on experience with the requirements was limited. My position at the non-profit required me to know these standards inside and out. Luckily, I caught on quick, studied, asked questions and received training. Having a writing background helped because I had to write reports explaining the barriers, what the law said and how that specific business could begin to make their place accessible. 

Honestly, that first year at the non-profit included LOTS of learning. I was surrounded by disability issues all day and worked with a staff that was equally as passionate. It also opened my eyes up to a whole new view of disability. I’ve met so many different types of people, learned so many new stories and views toward disability. It is an experience I would not change one bit.

This past March I celebrated 11 years at the CIL. I am now a Community Access Specialist, which encompasses a variety of responsibilities. I present weekly to our youth and community. I give trainings on disability etiquette, access, employment, and our mission. I’ve been able to share my own journey of the disability experience and hear about many others. This past year I’ve taken the role of coordinating our marketing efforts.

I’ve seen change happen because of the disability perspective…

For the rest of the blog post:


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Lucia Rios has been a lifelong resident of West Michigan. Born with spina bifida, she has used crutches and a wheelchair since childhood. Lucia has never seen her disability as something that limits what she can do, but it has given her many opportunities she wouldn’t have had otherwise. She feels having a disability is not the barrier, but it’s the attitudes and physical structures around her that create a disabling environment.

For the past 11 years she has worked for a non-profit disability organization.  She educates the community about disability etiquette, accessibility and employment barriers, as well as provides training to youth with disabilities. She is an active freelance writer for a local publication and coordinates social media efforts for a small business.

Lucia encourages everyone to look past the exterior of someone and truly get to know the person for who he or she is. She encourages you not to let assumptions or fear prevent you from meeting some awesome individuals.

Follow Lucia on Twitter: @luckylucia






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