The Bronx Community Self Advocacy Group Is Selected as the New York State Self Advocacy Group of the Year

September 29, 2011

Bronx SA Group Accepts award
Bronx SA Group Accepts award

On Thursday, September 8, 2011, at the 2011 state-wide meeting of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS), it was announced that the Bronx Community Self Advocacy Group was selected as the New York State Self Advocacy Group of the Year! The group, which is supported and sponsored by the Rose F. Kennedy UCEDD Center and is advised by the UCEDD's Director of Community Affairs, Joanne Florio Siegel, is the oldest group of its kind in New York State. This year, it is celebrating the 35th anniversary of its founding. This amazing award recognizes the decades of hard work these dedicated people have done to make the Bronx and New York City a better place to live for persons with disabilities.

A Closer Look at the Bronx Comunity Self-Advocacy Group
The Bronx Community Self-Advocacy Group began in 1976 when two social workers met with about 30 people with developmental disabilities who were living in the Bronx. The meeting was used as a way of explaining and encouraging people with disabilities to take charge of their own lives, and make decisions for themselves. Like all beginning groups, some people were interested in this empowerment focus and others were not. Over time the group members have changed, and now there is a core group of six members who meet every week to discuss and work on issues that are important to them and affect their lives. Three years ago the Lourdes Garcia Adult Spina Bifida Group merged with the Bronx Community Self-Advocacy Group, and joint meetings are held every second Saturday of the month with approximately members.
Right now the officers of the group are: Zefa Dedic, President and representative to SANYS; Kathy Rezek, First Vice President; Edith Janofsky, Second Vice President; and Luz Cantres, Secretary and Self-advocate Leader . Members decide on what issues they want to work on, and all members are interested in making sure that people with disabilities are treated just like everyone else.
Over the years, the issues have changed as members of the group have changed and as the members have become older. Members range in age from 30 to 80 years of age. Two members have been part of the group since it began. The members have helped each other with problems around housing, employment and job responsibilities, medical and health care services, home-attendants, and general problems around aging.
Some of the specific problems and issues that members have worked on are getting a traffic light in their community. This required getting over 800 signatures and about five years of hard work. Members have been involved in making public presentations at NYC Charter Commission hearings, NYC demonstrations to restore money for programs for persons with Developmental Disabilities, and NYS Legislative Hearings on Medicaid Durable Medical Equipment (DME). Members have participated in demonstrations in New York City, Albany and Washington D.C. to fight for the rights of persons with disabilities. Members have met with Social Security on the marriage penalty problem and with staff at the NYC Para-transit Authority about problems with Access-A- Ride services. In fact a member participates on the CCC Board. Group members have spoken before medical professionals, lawyers, parents and other consumers about their lives and their work in order to break social down barriers and prejudices.
The group members are very committed to remaining in the group. Kathy Rezek finds the group helping her to "speak up for my rights and to talk with doctors about what I need." For Zefa Dedic, he has found the group helpful for people with disabilities, and he likes "to speak to people and make them aware of what is out there in the community like programs, services and benefits." Edith Janofsky believes the group "has helped me to speak up for other people, like my friends in the nursing home and give them information about patient rights and getting out of the nursing home." For Shirley Janofsky, the group "has helped me get better home attendants. Sometimes the attendants were good, but some were bad, and you need to learn how to get them to respect you and help you." Finally for Luz Cantres, the group has "helped me accept myself and my abilities and disabilities, and feel comfortable in my own skin. The group has helped me get out into the community and meet many new people and go to new places that I would never have dreamed of."
The Bronx Community Self-advocacy Group/Lourdes Garcia Adult Spina Bifida Group is supported through the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Rose F. Kennedy Center, and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It was established in 1976, and is one of the first self-advocacy groups in New York State and is now the longest running self-advocacy group in New York State and is celebrating its 35th year anniversary. For more information contact Joanne Florio Siegel, Facilitator, (718) 430-8518.