Sarah Carmany, an amazing self advocate in Kalamazoo and a board member at The Arc Community Advocates, has been honored with a prestigious award from the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD). The award is entitled The Betty Williams Champion for Equal Opportunity (CEO), and recognizes Sarah’s dedication to self advocacy and Inclusion of People with Disabilities.
The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) is the national association for the 56 Councils on Developmental Disabilities (DD Councils) across the United States and its territories. The DD Councils receive federal funding to support programs that promote self-determination, integration, and inclusion for all people in the United States with developmental disabilities.
Sarah was nominated by The Michigan Developmental Disability Council(DD Council) for this prestigious award because she openly shares and promotes NACDD’s values of self-determination, independence, productivity and inclusion.Hi, my name is Sarah Carmany and I am from Kalamazoo Michigan. I am a strong self-advocate with Asperger’s syndrome, which is currently recognized as a type of Autism. I started self-advocating at the state level in 2012 and have beenself-advocating ever-since.
When I started self-advocating, Michigan's self-advocacy network consisted
of Regional Interagency Community Coalitions (RICC) which later was changed
to Regional Inclusion Community Coalition (RICC) which were local advocacy
groups all around the state of Michigan. I became a part of my Kalamazoo RICC
in 2012 and was a member up until the Developmental Disabilities Council
stopped funding the RICCs in 2016. When the Developmental Disabilities Council
stopped funding the RICCs, they started a new statewide self-advocacy network
called the Self-Advocates of Michigan (SAM) which has a board that I currently
Back when I started self-advocating, I did not know that I could advocate as
well as I do now. I was quite naive and never really had any experience with
advocacy work before. The first experience I had was when I did a petition on
change.org to my federal lawmakers telling them to keep the funding for public
transportation as it was being threatened to be cut. When I went to the
Developmental Disabilities Council's legislative day in Lansing Michigan, I
created a draft what I was going to talk to my lawmakers about; however it
became much more than that. It ended up becoming my testimony that I gave in
front of the transportation committee of the house of representative at the state
level. Then a little while later I saw where the funding for public transportation
was going to stay as is and it was a bill that was signed into law at the state level.
Then there were other times that I submitted testimony with different state
legislative committees on different issues like autism insurance bills, and
Medicaid freedom to work, and the bills for these issues all became law. Our
RICC also did a petition for Medicaid freedom to work which also became law.
Then we did a petition for Shred the Hate campaign (an anti-bullying, anti- hateful
speech campaign) and later a bill was signed into law to prohibit the use of the R
word in state statutes.
I currently sit on Integrated Services of Kalamazoo formerly known as
Kalamazoo Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (KCMHSAS) and I'm a
member of the Women's League of Voters Kalamazoo area as well.
Circling back to me in my spare time I like to listen to music from the 50s,
60s, 70s, and some 80s and 90s soft rock & oldies. I also like to ride my bike
during the warm weather. My parents who raised me and my brother are both
deceased. I have one brother and my Uncle. My brother and my uncle are not my
guardians. I am my own guardian even my parents were not my guardians. I never
remember my parents going to court for guardianship. I also have my own
housekeeping business with two clients. One is a commercial building, and the
other is a residential house that I clean and do yard work.
At The Arc Community Advocates, we believe that every person deserves the right to a good and equitable life and to live in a community where everyone belongs. Equity, Inclusion and Diversity are at the core of the work that Community Advocates practices every day.
As advocates for those who experience intellectual and developmental disabilities, we stand together with our fellow marginalized communities that face bias and discrimination, including the LGBTQ+ community as well as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and those for whom these experiences intersect. Although the basis for the bias and discrimination against each of our communities is different, we share in its outcomes – seemingly inescapable cycles of poverty, a lack of access to adequate education and health care, the increased risk of police violence, and a lack of inclusion and equity in society.
While the values of equity, inclusion, and diversity have always been shared among our board and staff, we recognize that there are additional, proactive steps we can take to better stand with other marginalized communities. We will more actively recruit vendors, volunteers, staff, and board members from these communities, with the goal of amplifying the voices of those who experience the intersectionality of disability and other marginalization and supporting one another. We will also take steps to better engage and listen to the experiences of these community members in a genuine way so that we can serve their needs as they express them.
Our work toward improving our diversity and inclusion of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other
communities at The Arc Community Advocates will not be accomplished rapidly. We will not be perfect and will likely make missteps along the way, but these are steps that we must take if we are to stand together for a just and equitable world for all.