The role of a consumer/self-advocate

By LINDA D. SMITH, Public Relations Director

Self-Advocate John Hannah, also a full-time consumer advocate by vocation, has been on staff with CRSI since 1995. His work not only touches the lives of over 750 individuals served by CRSI, it also reaches out across county and state borders in his various advocacy roles.

Currently serving as president of The Arc of Ohio, Hannah was invited to the White House in 2012 as part of a “community leaders briefing” to advocate for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities in a national forum with the President and top federal officials to discuss issues such as community living, education and Medicaid.

At the time, when asked what it was like to meet The President of the United States, Hannah replied, “Pretty exciting. I’ve seen other presidents but this was the closest I got and the first time I shook hands with one.”

Hannah has always been a trailblazer when it comes to community living. His own distinguished community accomplishments include being a participant in the first Special Olympics held in Chicago in 1968 and in the International Special Olympic Games in 1983 as an avid basketball player.

He also is not shy when it comes to speaking up for the needs and issues of people with disabilities and he encourages everyone to participate and have a voice. According to a press release from the Ohio Legal Rights Service following a Legislative Advocacy Day assembly in 2011, Hannah “inspired the audience with amusing anecdotes about his life and stressed the need for all self-advocates to speak with a unified voice.”

When asked to give some perspective on his advocacy work, Hannah’s first words are “I love it.”

“Technology has helped me and consumers understand reports”, says Hannah. “When I meet with individuals, they like to watch me update their reports; then JAWS reads it back to both of us; then DRAGON types it out,” he says of the assistive technology he is provided to help him in his work. “It assists me in helping them.”

He adds, “I like to help consumers get to People First meetings and state conferences to learn more about it (self-advocacy). I also help them plan ahead with their budgets so they will have some spending money when they go. At a People First meeting, we had Mayor Bean come so we could talk to him about what we’d like to see in our neighborhood. Everyone wanted a Bob Evans and a Long John Silvers and the mayor said he’d like that too.”

“I like helping people get out and go to surrounding areas. Once we (Hannah and two other consumers) were in Christiansburg (Ohio) for a festival and we discovered that the sidewalks were crooked and not accessible. We took it to the council and the sidewalks were eventually fixed after they got their grants. Some stuff can’t always be fixed right away but we keep working on it anyway”, says Hannah.

Click Here (PDF)